Instinct: A study in social psychology

Chapter 17: Some Further Misconceptions Concerning the Nature of Instinct

Luther Lee Bernard

Table of Contents | Next | Previous

There are certain additional difficulties in the way of regarding many of the activity and value complexes as instincts which do not appear to have been adequately considered and met by the instinctivists. Some of these would appear to be fatal to a theory of instincts, such as that set forth by McDougall or Veblen, which includes the learned activity content, and even the generalized meaning or value content, in the so-called instinct itself. It seems desirable at this point to review some of these underlying assumptions of the instinctivists and point out the errors they contain.

One of the most common assumptions is that distinctively harmful, even primarily destructive, dispositions, could survive in the race heredity as instincts. This popular view has been generally disputed by the biologists and other trained scientists who have examined the question. The writer once heard a learned professor of geology make the statement in a Sigma Xi address that there were no feeble-minded people in primitive groups because the conditions of natural selection would immediately eliminate them in the struggle for existence before they reached the breeding age.[1] He continued by saying that our unwise artificial selection through charity is allowing those possessed of the inherited feeble-minded taint to

(417) perpetuate their kind and to multiply at the expense of the normal breeds. A similar view is expressed by Geddes and Thompson: [2] "In wild nature there is very little disease, unless we include parasitism. Unhealthy and defective creatures are speedily eliminated, and there is no hereditary accumulation of weakness or vice. In mankind this socially merciful selection is in great part evaded by society itself, and in many ways, from philanthropic to legal, all of which we are now beginning seriously to criticise, morbid tendencies accumulate." If we take literally these statements as to the eliminating effect exercised through natural selection upon feeble-mindedness and disease under natural conditions, it is difficult to see how there could be left any of these defective strains at all in the race at present. If half a million years (assuming man to have been on the earth at least that long to say nothing of the period in which his pre-human ancestry lived before him) has not been a sufficient period in which to eliminate these traits, how can the eugenics people expect to abolish them in a few generations through the agency of intelligence tests merely, concerning the efficiency of which there is much controversy even among themselves? In view of the fact that some authorities estimate (probably with some exaggeration) that one to three per cent of the present population show feeble-mindedness,[3] and that seven to ten per cent carry it as a recessive trait,[4] it would seem remarkable at least that the natural selection process among primitive peoples was not more effective, if indeed it has such a power of elimination.

It is difficult also to understand how such traits as criminality, alcoholism, "instinctive lying," and the like, could have survived in the heredity if we assume that they were unfavorable to survival an a natural selection basis. Of course, it

(418) may be denied that such traits were unfavorable to survival. It may be contended with Lombroso [1] that primitive society differed so markedly from our society that what is abnormal among us was normal among our distant ancestors. Thus he explained criminality as, in part, an atavistic or primitive survival trait in heredity, bringing the organism into conflict with a changed environment.[2] Holding that the criminal is born insane and epileptic, he speaks of him as a born criminal.[3] But it is difficult to conceive of any surviving social organization among primitive peoples in which epilepsy and insanity, murder and theft, could have been normal, especially if these latter traits were permitted to be exercised upon members of their own group. And how would such an instinct, as instinct (as distinguished from a reasoned or acquired trait), be able to distinguish between friends or kindred? If we assume a special instinct which prompts to the murder of a person with another language or with other customs, we overstep even the generous limitations to instinct prescribed by the uncritical biologists, because we include in its structure obviously learned traits. Finally, is not the assumption of a primitive environment which makes these traits normal among early peoples, and of another environment which renders them abnormal among us, gratuitous from the standpoint of the instinctivist? Does not a thoroughgoing theory of the instinctive origin of character assume that man creates his environment after the pattern of his instincts, rather than that the environment enforces its own code of morality upon man because of its survival value? The latter view is nothing short of environmental determina-

(419) -tion. Lombroso's theory must be repugnant to the instinctivist, because it mikes no provision for an internal explanation of the changes in environment.

Since admittedly, in modern society, we have these unfavorable traits, such as criminality, drug addiction, lying, dishonesty, organized on an acquired basis, and since primitive people probably also possessed them on the same basis, it may be asked, Why, therefore, could they not have existed and still continue to exist on an instinctive or inherited basis quite as well? Why, in other words, is it not as easy for an adverse instinct to survive as for an adverse habit or custom (the social analogue of instinct) to be handed down from generation to generation? Each should have an identical effect upon survival— upon the survival of the individual, as well as upon the survival of the group. The difference in the chances of survival of the acquired and of the inherited dispositions rests upon the differences in methods of transmission, once it is granted that either may survive without extirpating the group or the race. The instinct is limited in its spread by the Mendelian ratio, while the learned disposition is limited only by the chances of contact. Herein is a great difference with respect to transmissibility. The hereditary content in the case of an instinct which is hurtful either directly to the individual, or indirectly to the individual because of its adverse effect upon the group, tends constantly to be depleted through the total destruction of defective germ plasm when the bearer is eliminated. If it is sufficiently hurtful it should in the end approximate entire elimination, because of the multiplication of those who possess the normal inheritance at the expense of those who puffer from the abnormal inheritance. But there is no such marked repression of acquired traits. If they are pleasant to the individual, or if they are overwhelmingly present in his environment (as is sometimes the case with disease

( 420) germs), he tends to acquire them regardless of the limitations of the inheritance ratio. All he requires is a model for imitation, or a source of contact and infection on the biological side. While the carrier of the unfavorable acquired trait tends also to be eliminated in the same direct ways as the carrier of the unfavorable instinctive trait, his chances of spreading the habit or the infection are vastly multiplied, because he is not limited by breeding age nor by the necessity of going through a complicated and time-consuming biological process in its transmission, in which only a definite proportion of the offspring bear the trait, and in which generations rather than frequency of contacts set the time limits upon transmission. The only requirement is that the trait acquired be not so destructive that it causes the elimination of the group as a whole, or so repugnant to the individual that he avoids it entirely, where he can exercise a choice. The difference in ease of transmission can be illustrated by the fact that an environmentally propagated idea may take possession of the world in a few years, or in less time, if it makes a sufficiently strong appeal, while an inherited trait could be generalized to the world as a whole only after numerous generations of carefully controlled breeding. Indirectly the chances of elimination are not as great for the acquired trait, because, since the trait is more likely to be widespread or universal when acquired, its possessor is not discriminated against in the survival and breeding processes to the extent relatively to which he would be if only a few or a fraction of individuals possessed it through inheritance. Even a germ disease might conceivably, in the absence of sanitary precautions, spread throughout the world in one generation. But it would require an almost measureless length of time for the whole world to become the possessor of a mutation through hereditary selection, at least under the traditional limitations upon breeding contacts which now obtain.

In the early history of man, before he had developed scien-

( 421) -tific or experience tests by means of which to recognize and weed out unfavorable practices which spread as habits, the whole social fabric might easily become infected with vices and abnormalities of a character clearly preventable under a scientific régime. We are just now coming to recognize the evil effects of many vices, such as drug addiction, and to suppress them at a rate which could not be approached with the present degree of completeness on the basis of blind survival selection, if they were inherited, and by no means equaled, if they were combated on the basis of controlled breeding or conscious negative eugenics— a method which it would not have been possible to use in primitive society. But primitive man had no scientific tests, and consequently did not suppress the learned or acquired evils on that basis. Such evils were eliminated only in so far as nature tended to suppress those traits which destroyed the possessor, and even with this method there was constant danger lest the ease with which they were environmentally transmitted would win out against the slow method which nature had at her disposal in eliminating them. If the whole group were eliminated as a result of the moral or germinal infection of its members, nature won a larger victory. But even here she ran a risk of defeat due to the fact that the competitive group (where such a group was the immediate means of the elimination) might become infected by contact. On the other hand, whether the unfavorable instinct would be perpetuated would also depend upon the comparative rates of natural increase (Mendelian) and elimination (mass rates, where the whole group was eliminated through social struggle), but the advantage would obviously be with nature, either indirectly or directly, because she would have the Mendel-Han ratio for her as well as against her. We may conclude, therefore, that the chances of survival of an inherited trait which was harmful directly to the individual, or indirectly to the individual through its injury to the group,

(422) would be small, at least over long periods of time, such as are involved in the history of the human race, because of the disadvantage under which it would place the individuals possessing it, in competition for breeding and survival to breed. On the other hand, the chances of a total elimination of acquired dispositions would be much less, owing to the method of their transmission through social mutation or lateral mass contacts, by means of which all members of the group would tend to acquire the trait.

But there is also a great body of dispositions and habits which may easily be learned from original experience, such as drug addiction or war, head hunting, etc., or acquired from catastrophic contact, without depending on transmission ,through social mutation or serial infection (as is often the case with germ disease). The chances of eradication of these traits, however unfavorable to the individual or the race— provided only they do not destroy the group— is negligible before the society reaches such a stage of development that it is able to exercise a successful social control based on a scientific demonstration of the relation of technique to the consequences for the suppression of such practices.

In the light of these facts it would seem that, other things being equal, the weight of presumption would be with the hypothesis that a trait harmful to society or the individual, coming down through long reaches of time, was acquired— either through imitation or serial infection on the one hand or original experience or contact on the other— rather than inherited. This assumption should stand until the technique of inheritance of the trait or traits in question has been worked out in any particular case under discussion and until there is evidence that the Mendelian ratio is fulfilled in the transmission. There are now no well tested instances in which any of these complex or general "instincts" have been shown to fulfill definitely the Mendelian ratio. Nor, as has been shown in

( 423) the preceding chapters, has any possible technique of inheritance been found for them. Even in the case of the supposed inheritance of feeble-mindness the Mendelian ratio is only approximated.[8] In the case of most of the supposed instincts listed in earlier chapters there has been no attempt to test their genuineness by the Mendelian ratio, while in other cases, especially in certain types of diseases, some feeble attempts have been made.[9] Nothing perhaps could constitute stronger evidence of the limited extent to which the Mendelian hypothesis has really entered into the critical revision of the biological thinking of our time than this failure to make the most obvious of all technical tests of the genuineness of reputed instincts, by examining the ratios of their occurrence and finding an explanation for their technique of transmission.

Others, who perhaps would not maintain that destructive instincts could survive continuously over a long period of racial history, might still seek to maintain the instinctive character of complex attitudes or dispositions on the ground that they represent recent mutations which have not yet been eliminated by the selective process or which tend constantly — to recur, or finally, which are particularly fostered by our paternalistic society with its charity systems and sympathy for the weak. It is, of course, well known that mutations do occur in biological traits, and this hypothesis may appear to some to be quite a plausible explanation of the origin of instincts, good and bad. Of course, those instincts which are favorable to the individual and at the same time useful to the race can be explained on the ground of selective survival. The methods of testing their genuineness have already been discussed in the chapters immediately preceding. Here, how-

( 424) - ever, we may confine ourselves to a brief examination of the probability of unfavorable instincts arising by a process of mutation. Those mutations which are known to have occurred are, so far as we have definite record, relatively simple biological structures or mere compounds or duplications of other complex structures which already exist and are, therefore, after all very simple structural or chemical modifications. Wherever we have entirely new social, moral, and intellectual attitudes appearing as mutations, their biological character is purely a matter of assumption, not something which has been verified. In addition to this negative evidence against the instinctive nature of complex social traits which are new, we may bring forward other facts which will serve to throw some light, at least, upon the question of the probability of social traits being biological mutations. One of these is the fact that radical changes in structure and functions occur with greatly diminished frequency as the type grows in complexity.

Marked mutations apparently occur with some considerable ease among lower forms where the structure is simple and easily modified. Here also functionings of great significance may more easily be transformed without incurring the danger of destroying the organism by the creation of some fatal internal maladjustment. As long as the structures and functions are relatively simple the problem of a successfully coördinated readjustment of all the constituent parts and of their coadjustment as a unit to the environment is not so very great, and it may occur with relative frequency. But as the factors requiring coördinated readjustment multiply, the chances of a successful combination by mutation which will square with the environmental demands decrease by a radical mathematical ratio. The result is that such a complicated mutation rarely, if ever, happens. In an animal so complex as man the chances of its occurring, even in his physical structure, are almost or quite negligible, as judged from purely temporal

( 425) standards. The likelihood of such highly organized mutations occurring biologically in the neural structures correlated with the highly complex and variable abstract mental, moral and social traits and qualities, which are not merely chemical and physical and therefore not directly modifiable in chemical and physical ways, is even smaller. Yet, if we use this mutation theory as a basis for the explanation of the origin of instincts, the assumption would be that such mutational instincts are constantly coming into existence.

It may be argued, however, that there would be no such marked difficulties in the way of correlating neural processes successfully in the inheritance of a biological mutation, since presumably marked changes can go on in the neural structure without affecting the essential correlation of the vital or vegetative processes of the organism. In fact, through learning we do produce just such modifications of structure and functions as result in habits which are mistaken for instincts. Both these facts may be admitted without affecting our contention of the improbability of complex instincts arising by mutation. We do produce such modifications on the basis of habit and they occur without harm to the organism as a whole, except in so far as the character of the adjustments implied in the organization of the activity or value complex is injurious. The real difficulty in explaining the organization of complex instincts on the basis of "spontaneous" or "accidental" mutational variations is one of accounting for so complex and, at the same time, so definitely adapted a series of activities or values purely on the basis of chance. It is scarcely within the limits of probability to suppose that it could occur, at least with any considerable degree of frequency. The acquisition of such a neural complex through spontaneous mutation, by a large number of people, would involve a combination of traits, the uniqueness of which can best be illustrated by the statistical occurrence of, say, a certain combination of dice

( 426) several hundreds or thousands of times in succession. An instinct to murder, or to tell the truth or to be proficient in chemistry, if it is really what it purports to be, instead of being some simple basic neural or anatomical structure or physiological condition which facilitates the acquisition of these dispositions as habits, would have in it several thousand, possibly in some cases several millions, of neural dispositions. All of these would have to be connected in the right order and proportion, otherwise the complex would not function effectively; it would be a mental aberration rather than a compact system of logical adjustments. It is the problem of linking all these neural processes together in the correct system which is as difficult and as exceptional as that of throwing the seven or eleven tens of thousands of times in succession. Perhaps a better analogy would be found in the assumption of having ten thousand or one hundred thousand sets of dice thrown at once and having the same number come up in each set. It is such a miracle as this which would have to be performed if a very complex social valuation or disposition appeared as an instinct through chance mutation. It might conceivably occur, but it would be so remarkable that we would not be justified in assuming its occurrence very frequently. Its improbability should also cause us to look sharply for hereditary connection between those who possess the trait before we assumed its inheritance. But if it should occur occasionally, certainly we should not expect it to appear simultaneously in a vast number of people.

On the other hand, the chance element is eliminated from the process of organization of the activity complex on the basis of learning. Here the dice are loaded. The adjustment complex 15 not accidental, but is the result of a long series of definite responses to definitely organized stimuli, mainly on the basis of previous experience. Many of these habits re quire years for their building and they are based on a vast

( 427) number of previously acquired habits which predispose in this new direction. They bear an orderly and causal development in response to a complexly organized environmental situation, of which they are the functional counterpart, rather than being derived from chance or accidental variations. The whole social and physical environment— its institutions, its myriad forms of communicative technique, such as language, ideas, systems of thought, science itself, tradition, custom, convention, even the structure of the physical world which surrounds us and largely molds us— is definitely organized so as effectively to impress upon the consciousness or the subconscious neural dispositions the particular valuational or habitual set which constitutes the acquired set. There is no chance for accidental occurrence. The cause is organized and it corresponds, at least symbolically, to the traits produced in the neural organization. In this respect the environmental production of complex traits has a tremendous advantage over their production through inheritance. In the latter case they must occur through changes in the germ plasm, and, as has been shown in a previous chapter,[10] the environmental cause of a biological mutation through inheritance bears no discernible similarity to either the chromosomal or the somatic result. That is why such variations and mutations seem accidental from the standpoint of their functions— the standpoint from which we most easily view them. They are selected for perpetuation through inheritance on the basis of their value as aids to the survival or breeding of the possessors. The relationship between the cause and the character of the trait is not superficially discernible, nor is the survival in any way directly related to the cause. But in the case of directly induced environmentally caused traits not only do cause and effect bear a visible relationship through similarity, but the generating cause of the trait is also the selective cause of sur-

(428) -vival, for both causes are one and the same, the environment acting as an organized whole.

Some writers insist that the number of instincts increases with the development of complexity of the type. This contention is, of course, based on an assumption, whether consciously held or otherwise, that new instincts are constantly arising by mutation to meet the increased needs of the organism, and are then fixed in the type by adaptive selection.[11] The method of reasoning employed by those who make this contention for the multiplication of instincts according to the complexity of adjustments required of the organism is good up to a certain point. Apparently it is based solely upon the observed fact that the higher types of organisms, structurally and functionally considered, have a larger number of automatisms and near-automatisms. This we should expect, whatever the origin— instinctive or habitual— of these automatisms. The larger the number of adjustments to be made the greater the volume of adjustment technique which will be demanded. But such automatisms are not necessarily instinctive. In fact, experience teaches us that usually they are learned. The only basis which the instinctivist ordinarily has for regarding them as inherited is the fact that they act relatively so unerringly and with so little demand upon consciousness and often that they are so nearly universal in the population. We have already pointed out that formerly it was naïvely assumed that automatisms, especially those common to both parents and children, were inherited. It is still a common practice for those unfamiliar with the phenomena of inheritance, especially litterateurs and publicists in general, to speak undiscriminatingly of all automatisms as instincts.

( 429)

It requires but a slight amount of reflection and experience to convince one's self of the frequency with which automatisms are built up on the basis of habit. Detectives and other close students of human nature learn to classify people occupationally and in other relations of life by observing the habits they necessarily form in those relationships and which crop out unconsciously in their everyday activities. If the source of such automatisms were inheritance, instead of environmental pressures, we should scarcely expect to find each trade, profession, hobby and the like, so definitely characterized by automatisms peculiar to those who follow it. Of course the extreme instinctivist may maintain that the inherited structures and functions— techniques or automatisms— determine the trade or profession rather than that the adjustment demands of the latter. determine the former. This contention, however, cannot be taken seriously by one who understands how trades and professions grow up and especially how their technic processes are continually being transformed with the appearance of new inventions and how the operative personnel shifts almost from day to day, and not according to inheritance lines. How absurd it would be to contend, for instance, that the reason why we have people following the trade of weaving is because these people were born with weaving instincts. On the basis of the same method of arguing we should have to suppose that we have more weavers to-day than formerly because the survival value of weaving has caused the natural selection for survival of those who have the weaving instinct. Likewise we should be compelled, if we were logical, to attribute the change from hand looms to power looms, not to the industrial revolution, but to a marked mutation in the form of the weaving instinct, which made it impossible m satisfy this instinct without changing the type of the loom. But this is not the limit of absurdity to which a logical adherence to the instinct theory in this connection would lead us. It would

(430) force us to assume a form of mutation which not even the more sanguine biologists would sanction. The normal method by which mutations become generalized is for one, or at most a few, mutants to propagate the trait on the basis of competitive selection through inheritance. But here we have almost the whole weaving population coming into possession of the mutation at once, without the chance for competitive selection through inheritance. Thus the absurdity of supposing that occupational or other complex social adjustments develop in response to instinctive rather than environmental demands is sufficiently manifest. By way of corollary it also becomes apparent that the major source of the higher adjustment automatisms is that of environmental pressure rather than instinct or inheritance.

What is in effect a contention very similar to this— that many new and especially adapted instincts are constantly appearing by mutation in the higher and more complex forms of animal life— is the widespread belief in the inheritance of special abilities. The Whethams make what would appear to be unusually extreme claims for such inheritance. "We have seen reason to believe that the evolutionary meaning of the class divisions, which appear among all civilized and semicivilized nations, is to be sought in the greater efficiency those divisions give in the performance of the many and varied functions of a civilized state. In a blind, rudimentary and imperfect way, successful nations have bred different qualities into different sections of their people, just as they have, to a clearer extent, into the different species of their domestic animals; and, since children tend inevitably on the average to inherit their parents' aptitudes, since sons frequently follow their fathers' professions and avail themselves of the advantages of the family environment, this segregation of qualities makes for efficiency, by adjusting the inborn characters of each man

( 431) to the work which will lie ready to his hand. Once the process has started either in man or beast, we are in a fair way to build up the class distinctions which seem to some people, where man is concerned, the height of stupidity, prejudice and injustice, and, in the animal world, a triumph of foresight and human intelligence. Thus the laboring classes gradually appropriate a large share of physical strength and endurance, and the instinctive skill in manual work which so often excites our admiration. Thus the clerk inherits assiduity and accuracy, and the honesty without which other clerkly qualities are as nought. Thus the manufacturer's son is born with the power of managing the complicated system of his mill, and of foreseeing the combinations and other factors which control the markets for his goods. Thus the soldier possesses the instinct of self-sacrifice, the power of commanding men, with that quick insight and decision in a dark situation which are necessary for success in the `fog of war.' Thus the old governing classes of England, as of other similar nations, incorporate an instinctive sense of public duty and acquire a large share of the national aptitude for administration." [12] They add: "The arts of the demagogue, who possesses the power of influencing the masses, are also highly specialized qualities, and will be inherited directly from father to son. In America, where there are no classes, no differences of rank and all men are born equal— hypothetically at least— the `boss' is already a well-recognized variety, with special characteristics of his own. These characteristics are said to consist of enormous powers of physical endurance, vast supplies of nervous energy, great organizing capacity and a phenomenal `jaw' development. The power of passing examinations, which has been humorously described as a low form of cunning, has also been shown to descend from father to son." [13]


According to the above description the American "boss" must indeed possess a combination of traits which render him a veritable superman— a potential soldier, statesman, thinking genius and ideal popular leader— for he possesses the ground traits of all these. But alas ! how unlike the real American "boss" this glowing picture is. It describes him only in organizing ability. In other respects there is no general rule for the American "boss." It will be observed that most of the special abilities mentioned above are highly complex combinations of traits, the patterns of which are to be found only in recent times. It is difficult to understand how they could be passed down from father to son, except on the hypothesis either of the inheritance of acquired characters or of the wholesale mutation of complex characters by inheritance in one specific direction. The unlikelihood, if not the impossibility, of the latter assumption being correct has already been made clear. Is it not the more reasonable assumption that these combinations of traits are found in line of descent more often than otherwise, but not exclusively, because favorable environments also run in the same channels, rather than through biological heredity?

Most writers do not go as far as the Whethams, although the uncritical popular view is at least as conventional and extreme on this point. The illustrations of the inheritance of special abilities which are probably most frequently cited for purposes of argumentation are those of music and mathematics. Here we find a number of rather remarkable instances of great ability in both parents and children. For example, it is said that there were seventeen musicians and composers of note in the Bach family. Curiously enough the appearance of mathematical prodigies is attributed to heredity, although evidence has not been adduced to show that such prodigies usually make their appearance by families. Many who have had highly developed special abilities have lacked a high degree of

(433) general intelligence. S. J. Holmes says, "Blind Tom who possessed a phenomenal aptitude for playing any piece of music he may have heard was practically an imbecile. Often these `idiots savants' possess remarkable memory, as in the case of the boy described by Langdon Down, who could repeat verbatim pages from a book that he had once read. Some of the mathematical prodigies are otherwise mentally defective. Heron reports a boy, nearly an idiot, who when given a man's age could calculate quickly the number of minutes he had lived. Another boy could multiply any three figures with any three others almost as rapidly as they were written, although he was of a very low grade of mentality."[14] It might be argued that with such low grades of intelligence such special abilities could not be acquired. But where memory is the basis of the performance such a conclusion by no means necessarily follows from the facts, when all of these are known. Apparently all details which the senses will record remain in the neural organization subject to recall and those who are accustomed to deal with hystericals, or even with normal people through hypnotism, find it possible to reproduce events or observations in the minutest detail.[15]

Woodworth says that there are tests for some of the special aptitudes, such as color sense and color matching, musical ability, ability in drawing and the like, but that we have no satisfactory lists of these special aptitudes. "They come to light when we compare one individual with another, or one species with another."[16] Thus "man is far superior in dealing with numbers and also with tools and mechanical things. He is superior in speech, in sense of rhythm, in sense of humor, in sense of pathos. " but other animals are superior in other ways.[17] Individuals differ in these respects with each other.

( 434) But are these differences in special aptitudes inherited? What light does the question of localization of these abilities in the brain or the rest of the organism throw upon the question of their inheritance, or non-inheritance? We have seen in a previous chapter that instincts have not yet been localized in the brain. Herrick says that special abilities cannot be localized either: "Neurologists have been prone, even up to the present time, to fall into the error of attempting to find specific centers for particular mental functions or faculties. But the evidence at present available gives small promise of success in the search for such centers.[18] . . . No cortical area can properly be described as the exclusive center of a particular function. Such `centers' are merely nodal points in an exceedingly complex system of neurons which must act as a whole in order to perform any function whatsoever." [19] For localization he substitutes correlation as the method of organizing special abilities.

Others, however, do not agree with Herrick in denying the localization of special abilities. Woodworth says, "There is some likelihood that the special aptitudes are related to special parts of the cortex, though it must be admitted that few aptitudes have as yet been localized."[20] Paton, however, is more enthusiastic. He says, "The study of special functions in relation to structure informs us of many recorded cases in which great activity along certain lines has been undoubtedly accompanied by very marked development of the frontal lobes. The brains of Gauss and Oliver, both distinguished mathematicians, revealed these characteristics in a high degree. The unusual command of language so preëminently characteristic of great orators (Gambetta) is accompanied by a prominence and complexity of both convolutions and fissures in the pars operculum and in a part of the third left frontal convolution, an area within which many of the mnemic repre-

( 435) -sentations connected with speech movements are associated. Other parts of the brain, particularly those in the neighborhood of the interparietal fissure and the angular gyrus, have been found to indicate unusual complexity of structure in the cerebra of those endowed with great intellectual activity. In the brains of great artists, either musicians or painters, evidences of special development of certain cortical areas have been noted more often than among other types of genius. Bach's skull, for instance, showed unusual prominence of the portions of the brain about the supra-marginal convolution, and very possibly we should have found in the case of Beethoven and Von Bülow an uncommon degree of development of the acoustic centers in the temporal region. This same area is doubtless unusually differentiated in all great musicians. In the case of painters the visual center and the contiguous portion of the brain become of greater importance, comparatively speaking, than the auditory area; thus Raphael's skull is said by Mingazzini to have shown that those parts of the cortex in which the optic memories are stored were more prominent than ordinarily." [21]

However, this evidence from Paton, even if it be generally accepted, is not conclusive as to the inheritance of special abilities. We may grant that the brain structures connected with the abilities, as well as such external body structures as hands and vocal cords and eyes, are inherited, but these may be only the ground work upon which the abilities are developed. And it is also barely possible that the greater development of certain parts of the brain is due to the growth and extension of neurons in these regions because associations have become multiplied in these regions of the cortex through use especially in the earlier years of development.[22]

( 436)

Three very strong arguments, negative and positive, can be brought against the theory of the inheritance of complex special abilities as organized activity or expression units. The more economical and reasonable explanation would seem to be that these abilities, when found together in parents and offspring, are the result of association and imitation. It may also happen that they arise out of the same environmental conditions through learning without being copied from others, but it is to be expected that only the less complex activities would arise in this original way. When one stops to think that nothing could be more favorable to the acquisition of a characteristic than to live with a model constantly before the imitator and with all one's associates highly valuing that activity, it should not seem to be necessary to bring in inheritance as a substitute explanation. The inheritance explanation belongs to the days before the nature of environmental pressures and their relations to the learning process, including all the phenomena of suggestion imitation, were understood. It is often pointed out by the instinctivists that there is no regularity of dependence upon the transmission of the special ability, that it frequently does not show up in the offspring, assuming that if environmental pressures were the source it would invariably repeat itself in the children. They neglect two facts of importance in this connection. One is that on the assumption of transmission by inheritance the trait should appear in a certain definite ratio, which it does not. The other neglected fact is that environmental pressures are not necessarily uniform. It should also be noted that special abilities most frequently repeat themselves in families when those abilities are most outstanding or obvious to the senses and make a strong appeal to the emotional life. This is particularly true of music, which constantly obtrudes itself upon the attention and creates about itself an artistic and fashionable, or emotional, cult with values of an exceedingly dogmatic sort. On the other

(437) hand the work of the scientist is relatively unobtrusive and makes but slight environmental appeal or pressure of an obvious sort. The environmental concommitants of these two abilities are therefore very different, just as the record of occurrence by families is different.

There is another negative difficulty in the way of the assumption of the inheritance of these special abilities, the principle of which has already been discussed in earlier pages. All of these abilities correspond, on their objective sides, to technic processes of performance which are distinctly modern. Art, literature, music, amusement activities, of the more complicated kinds, are all historic inventions. Furthermore, each particular class of these technic processes came into existence rather suddenly, as compared with previous and subsequent history in the same fields. The first generations of those skilled in the new arts must have received their skill as biological mutations or else have acquired it. The difficulty of making this assumption of wholesale or multiple mutation has already been indicated. If the possessors acquired it in the first instance it would not have been possible for their descendants to inherit it unless the inheritance of acquired characters is assumed to be possible. Furthermore, if we must assume the acquisition of the trait previous to inheritance, what gain in economy of thought is there in bringing in inheritance as a subsequent and supplementary method?

Yet it should not be denied that there is an inherited element in special abilities, as in every other type of complex activity. In the case of the ability to play the piano there are, for instance, certain underlying biological traits which greatly facilitate the acquisition of this highly complex ability. Some of these are to be found in the possession of long fingers, flex ible wrists and hands and a keen power of pitch discrimination. These are absolute prerequisites to great achievement as a pianist and they are inherited. Yet one might easily possess

( 438) all these traits and never play the piano at all. These are but preliminaries which make easier the acquisition of the art, but the art itself must be learned after all, and it is learned primarily through imitation. Hence the tendency for musicians to multiply by families and by local and ethnic groups. Thus it is not necessary to assume that the human superiority in technic skills with tools, numbers and speech, referred to in the quotation from Woodworth presented above, is inherited as such. Men's skill with tools undoubtedly has depended in part upon the possession of hands and human brains with tendencies to random and reflex movements. Without these inherited aids he could not have developed such skills, but the development of these skills is directly in proportion to the accumulation of culture, which enables previous experience to be utilized and imitated in their development in the individual. Also one inherits vocal cords and a brain capable of making many combinations and some tendencies to random and simple reflex articulation. Out of this develops language, if the environment is properly organized and has a sufficient cultural content to serve as models for imitation. But language does not appear as the result of inheritance alone. All the evidence we have at the present time for the inheritance of special abilities as organized units, as instincts, is the fact that such abilities appear so suddenlyat least they appear to do so to the scientific investigator, who knows little or nothing of the history of the individual previous to the time he observed him— that it seems difficult or impossible to account for them on the basis of learning. Their appearance, however, does not correlate with the Mendelian ratio. Nor is enough known about prenatal organic environment, the effect of endocrine stimulation and the part flayed by suggestion and deception, especially with hystericals, to eliminate effectively the environmental factors as causative agents.


Another misconception which the instinctivists almost invariably entertain is that environment is a relatively simple and rigid thing. They underestimate the extreme complexity of any environmental situation which affords formative pressures. The simplicity of the inheritance factor may by comparison have had something to do with their view in this connection. A more probable explanation of the tendency to attribute too great simplicity to the environment is to be found in their lack of familiarity with the methods of environmental organization. The scientific study of the social environment is very recent. The sociologists and social workers began it in the nineteenth century, the educationists and economists took it up, and now the psychologists and even the biologists are entering into the prosecution of it.

To understand the complexity of environment it is only necessary to reflect upon the vast economic and intellectual interdependence of modern life.[23] There is scarcely a person left in the world who is not either directly or indirectly connected with the great channels of commerce and industry. Although one may not be conscious of it, the Peruvian Indian or the south sea islander, as well as the German artisan or the British trader, has had an appreciable influence upon the ordering of each one's life throughout the world. It may be, even, that he exerted at some critical moment, however indirectly and unconsciously, that determinative pressure which gave direction to a great interest or activity in the life of many individuals. A very small environmental factor, such as a chance word or a disconnected experience, may give direction to long trains of activity, but it is the relatively constant or sustained factors in the environment which thereafter hold the train of vents in that course or channel. Determinative choices are

(440) often made on what seem, and perhaps are, largely incidental circumstances. But the fundamental conditions of environment or life mold us into what we are in performance and adaptation. If we learn to perceive the complexity and volume of the ever fluid, but never wholly unconnected and unorganized, environmental pressures we shall be better able to understand how they mold character and we shall be less prone to attribute all traits to inheritance.

A closely kindred misconception concerning instinct is to the effect that environments of the same time and place are identical. This assumption that a general time and place identity makes for an identity of environmental pressures is also due to the failure to realize the complexity and multiplicity of environmental factors operating upon people. Students and others often ask why brothers or sisters, having the same environment, should differ so in complex characteristics, if the differences are not matters of inheritance. The fact that two people have the same parents and have lived in the same home seems to these questioners complete proof of the identity of their environments. Such an uncritical view is, however, very misleading. Even a year's difference in age may have meant very different contacts with parents and especially with brothers and sisters and playmates, who after all are among the most important sources of early education. The first children are brought up by their parents while the subsequent ones are directed and trained by their parents and elder brothers and sisters. In this same year or in a number of intervening years the residence and community environments may have been changed, the health of the family impaired or improved, the economic conditions bettered or rendered worse, and other profound changes may have taken place, One child may have contracted a contagious disease which left it more delicate than the other for a period of years and even in the midst of the same environment as a whole a largely differ-

( 441) -ent set of factors would be selected to operate upon it. Perhaps even more important as a factor causing variation of environmental pressures is the child's own agency in selection. The child develops preferences, perhaps as a result of some factor in the environment standing out rather prominently for it, which, through a slight difference in circumstances, failed to affect the other children at all. Thereafter its development becomes, in a measure at least, teleogical and along different lines and with different objectives from those of the other children. Thus, because of this difference in the selective element, the future environmental pressures for the two become increasingly divergent. The environment never operates as a whole upon any one. Its weight would be stupendous, crushing. It would suppress, instead of develop. People always of necessity react selectively to their environments. One of the selective factors is, of course, heredity, but we have already shown that this element is not necessarily, and in social matters is not likely to be, dominant. The selective factor is more likely to be one of environmental conformity, and this conformity may be to a chance stimulus or suggestion, or it may be to an organization of social pressures which makes the survival value of the activity response called forth transcendent.

This tendency toward excessive simplification of the concept of environment which we have described is relative to the failure of many eugenists to conceive of the possibility of social evolution solely on an environmental basis.[24] Many biologists who have followed carefully the evolution of phylloxera or seaweeds, or paleobotanists who know every type of fern which has entered into the making of the coal measures, know next to nothing of the evolution of the vast store of acquired mental technique. Biologists have neglected the study of man, and this neglect of the human animal has been most marked per-

( 442) -haps on his psychical side. Indeed, this is why the sciences of psychology and sociology have arisen to compensate for this inattention. This neglect has continued largely because of the standardization of biological technique around the microscope and a highly simplified and elementary method of observation. Latterly the methods of complex observation through schedules and the utilization of statistics as a basis of generalization have been introduced into biology by the eugenists in response to stimuli from the social sciences.

Most, or all, of the eugenists have evolved by the way of biology, or at least they have seldom been social scientists. Therefore they are unable to give due emphasis to the environmental factors. Knowing little or nothing about the methods of operation of the higher mental technic processes developed through a process of environmental evolution,[25] they have fallen back to their knowledge of organic processes in the lower animal forms for the data upon which to build their methods. It is at this point that their highly simplified and elementary methods have failed them. It has been the boast of the biologist that his method is truly scientific, that because of it he is free from the gross exaggerations in generalization of which the social scientists are guilty.[26] Yet perhaps no more stupendous error in all modern science has been committed than that which the biologists must sooner or later acknowledge themselves guilty of in applying to man their theory of instincts worked out for lower forms. They have leaped the chasm between the lower forms, largely those in the order of insects or below, to the highest of the mammals on the wings of an analogy. Because man has shown himself to possess automatisms which superficially resemble those of the lower forms which are obviously instincts the biologist has,

(443) without adequate investigation of the applicability of his principles to man, uncritically assumed that man's automatisms are also instincts. An extensive reading of the biological literature dealing with man has nowhere revealed a single biological analysis of man's activity as the basis for attributing instinct to him. All investigations of the inheritance of moral and social traits have been mere countings of coincidences of traits in parent and child or other near relatives. The evidence that these traits thus statistically tabulated are instincts does not anywhere go beyond the mere assumption that they are inherited. This is the biologist's peculiar and signal error in dealing with the inheritance factor in man. Knowing little else than instincts and tropisms from his study of the lower life forms, he imputes what he knows definitely of these lower forms also to man, the laws of whose mental life he does not know because he does not comprehend the nature of the psycho-social milieu in which man lives, acts and thinks.

To be sure there are some signs in the recent literature [27] that the biologists are waking up to their colossal error. Their scorn of the methods of the social scientists has at last produced a back flow of reflection which threatens to be enlightening to the biologists themselves. It is the fashion now for the biologists to write about man, since a strong popular demand has grown up for more knowledge regarding the dominant member of the animal kingdom, and we may hope that the biologists will begin to study and interpret him directly instead of by analogy, and in all his relations, including the social, as well as in his merely biological functions; and with statistics as well as with a microscope.[28]

( 444)

The development of the higher mental technic processes, which we have discussed in earlier chapters, as a means to an efficient adjustment to an increasingly complex environment, has made possible and imperative a new type of evolution. The earliest evolution was possible only in so far as new instincts could be produced to meet the adjustment demands of new environmental pressures. With the development of non-instinctive organic and mental technic processes or mechanisms, adjustments began to be made on an environmental basis to supplement those based on instinct. Man, especially the most highly civilized or cultivated man, now makes his most important adjustments on this learned or environmentally controlled basis. He probably retains as many instincts as the lower animals possess, at least in rudimentary forms.[29] There is, however, no good evidence that he possesses a larger number of instincts than the lower animals or instincts as completely integrated as they. His life has so far outgrown his instincts that it has become necessary for his activities to be organized externally or environmentally instead of internally and instinctively. In this external and environmental organization the most diverse inherited traits are combined into new relationships to serve social or environmental demands. In this way an ever-expanding environment calls forth an organization of serial responses, analogous, but superior, to those made on the basis of instinct. This is evolution on the basis of environmental pressures, that is, on the basis of social selection. It is social evolution as distinguished from biological evolution. [30]


One further group of misconceptions of the instinctivists may be examined briefly. The first of this group has its source in the distortion of biological thinking about man, due to the fact that the biologists have applied their conclusions, drawn from the study of lower forms, to man by means of analogy. This misconception might be called the atomic theory of human conduct. The instinctivists have too often given cause to suspect that they think of man's activities as combinations of inherited units— instincts and reflexes— which are bundled together by some mysterious teleological force, the concept of the end, or possibly even by an adaptation or striving for the end inherent within the instinctive processes themselves. It is beginning to be clear to us, however, that the organism acts largely as a whole, and not as a more or less loosely assembled bundle of separate activity units. The early or atomic theory of instinct dominance has held that the instincts appeared separately and largely independently of the larger unity of the organism and then organized the activity of the organism to conform to their separate and individual ends or conations, making compromises of jurisdiction where conflicts arose. There may be some justification for this view when applied to the lower animals, especially the insects and the worms and many of the sea animals, which are still in the dominantly segmented stage of development.[31] Such animals develop and function more nearly on the basis of the "federal principle," to borrow an apt expression from the social sciences. In a sense we may even suspect that instinct is very closely correlated with segmental functioning. We find it operative especially among the insects and the worms and the multitude of segmented sea animals, where each segment lives a life more or less self-sufficient and yields to the community interest only under a certain degree of compulsion, and perhaps haltingly.

(446) Since there is no intelligent centralized control, it is of the greatest importance to the segmented animal that each segment should have an automatic mechanism adequate to its adjustment needs and which can be made to yield to the demands of the other segments when their conflicting needs for adjustment are even more insistent or crucial than its own.

But man, and in some measure the animals nearest to him, have developed elaborate central coördinating mechanisms in order that the organism as a whole may the more readily coöperate in the adjustment of all its parts to the environment. This correlating mechanism, the cerebral cortex, is in man the seat of a high degree of intelligence. The segmental character of the organism has been largely lost or overshadowed in the higher animals by the dominance of this central mechanism, but the vestiges of the early segmental arrangement clearly survive.[32] And with them also survive the vestiges of the instincts, the action-patterns or neural mechanisms for the autonomous control of the segments. But the closer union or merging of the segments into the more closely knit and more unified higher organism is also paralleled by the subjection of the rebel and individualistic instincts to the rile of the central mechanism or cortex, which in man is the seat of conscious control. This human cortex is essentially a clearing house for environmental pressures which impinge upon the unified organism in a larger number and in a greater variety of conflicting tendencies than can be cared for by the vestigial or fragmentary instincts, many of which have been selected out of their traditional or hereditary alignment and are therefore no longer able to mediate effective adjustments for the organism. Of course, some of the old segmental instincts still remain practically intact and are centered in the autonomic nervous system. The visceral instincts especially do not require cortical regulation, at least not in so great a

( 447) degree as do those which serve in the newer functions of organic adjustment. However, they may and often do require that the environment shall not interfere with their automatic functioning, as in eating or breathing; or, on the other hand, the environment may demand that their functioning may be made to conform to social canons of propriety, as in eating and reproduction. In such cases, it becomes the business of the central thought or cortical mechanisms to superintend these adjustments or compromises with environment, not alone in the interests of the individual organism as a whole, but also in the interests of the social whole— a new entity of which the central coördinating thinking mechanism has become aware and which it has in large measure created.

It is largely because of this central conscious control mechanism that the organism does not act in parts, but adjusts to its environment as a whole. The higher animal organisms are much more closely tied together neurally than are the lower organisms, because the segments and the segmental neural organizations are more closely correlated and merged under the general supervisory direction of the great associatively functioning cortical ganglion. But the unity of the organism's functioning arises largely, and even primarily in man, because the environment early gets hold of the organization of the cerebral cortex and thus dominates the organization of the organism as a whole. Such domination by the environmentespecially the psycho-social environment of institutions and programs— is rendered possible and is brought about through the superior functioning of man's brain through his senses, which enables him from the earliest years to form perceptions, and even concepts, of environmental objects and of his relationship to them. Very early in his life he has a Picture of his environment and he generalizes about it. It takes hold of him, masters him, and molds him. This it does by seizing upon his random movements, definite reflexes and habits, and also

(448) his vestigial and disintegrated instincts, organizing them into the action patterns and complexes and values which represent and correspond to the existing environmental organization. Thus man's internal neural complexes are organized as correlates of the environment, under the pressure of the environment, and consequently they reproduce and perpetuate this environment, subject to such modification as arises from the process of transference from environment to subjective neuropsychic complex and back again to environmental organization.

In the human animal in many cases the environment makes its demands upon the organism even before the segmental impulses or instincts and reflexes appear in full maturity. Thus from the beginning these reflexes and instincts grow into a form or organization of action patterns imposed from without. A great many of them, when they appear, find the organism already functioning as a unit and they are organized into this unit organization. Thus it may be said that the instincts and reflexes never function as entirely independent units, not even in the lower animals. And much less is this possible in man, who so early falls under the dominance of the cortical correlations, through which the environment is working and imposing its unity upon the organism, weaving each new instinctive action process into the environmentally dominated whole as it appears.

It is true that the newly born child does tend to be dominated by the anarchic segmental reflexes and instincts, at least at first. It does not readily correlate its organism as a whole. It has been said that the child is practically brainless at birth.[33] That is, the cortex has not yet begun its work of correlation and direction. The stimulus of the environment seems to be dune necessary before this wonderful cerebral correlating mechanism can work effectively, as when certain delayed inherited connections have to be made in the brain. But very

(449) quickly the environment selects the responses and the complexes which constitute the cortical set, or sets, which correspond to the external environmental unity of organization. The result is that random tendencies and more or less separate and independent segmental processes lose their separateness and are fused into one great whole. Where this fusion is complete the organism adjusts as a whole, relatively without waste of time or energy, to the environmental demands. This result is the ideal end aimed at in education; also in a well controlled political and social life. But the unity comes essentially from the unity of the environment, rather than from any internal unity. Internal unity of structure does exist, especially under the dominance of the higher vertebrate brain, but in the very young child the instinctive impulses arise largely without the wider organic functional correlation, that is, as more or less disintegrated and vestigial segmental reflexes, which must be tied together and harmonized through the supervisory function of the cortex, which is so responsive to the environment because of its power of making perceptions and conceptions with reference to this environment.

Thus it becomes apparent that the fact that the organism acts as a whole, rather than through its separate or partial segmental instinctive action processes, turns the argument against the instinctivists. More recently they have advanced the same proposition in an endeavor to show that the instincts are not such minute and isolated action patterns as the early psychologists supposed, but that they involve and dominate the whole organism. The argument becomes a part of the inevitable tendency to expand the scope and generalize the content of the instincts. As it became apparent to the psychologists that man does not possess such definite inherited action patterns as the old atomic theory of the instincts held him to possess, they— with characteristic error— did not give

(450) up the concept of instinct as the dominant factor in human action and the control of conduct, but retained the concept and expanded it to cover the facts of acquired complexes or habits. The environmentalist accepts the now obvious fact of the unity of the human organism and its responses, but maintains that such unity does not arise from very general and complex variable instincts— which we have shown to be misconceptions and impossibilities— but from habit complexes organized under the dominance of the environment and working through its great inner organ, the conscious mechanism of the cerebral cortex.

This more recent misconception, that the instincts are generalized activity tendencies involving the whole organism instead of merely a part or a segment of it, is closely related to the view that the instincts do not function perfectly when they appear, but that they have to be perfected through learning. The confusion here arises from the fact that the investigators failed to find the instinctive patterns functioning with mechanical exactness, as they had anticipated. Being unwilling to accept the obvious conclusion that the instincts are largely vestigial and disintegrated in the higher animals, especially in man, they modified instead their definition of instinct until it became a contradiction in its own terms of definition. They made it a habit in fact but still called it an instinct, which is an inherited mechanism. One writer says instincts are not perfect without learning, that no instincts (at least complex ones) function without training.[34] This line of definition and explanation of the nature and function of instinct is on the wrong tack. If instincts do not function without training they either are not instincts in the first place, or they appear only after the environment his already organised the responses of

( 451) the organism into a unity which conflicts with them and modifies them. Perhaps the hypothetical instincts which have to be trained into perfection never were instincts, but are merely anthropomorphic creations imputed to inheritance; or they may be the fragments of disintegrated instincts, or original reflexes and random action tendencies, which are organized into sequential processes or chains and complexes by the environment. In any case, it is clear that the environment, and not instinct, is the dominant factor in giving unity and definition to the activity processes which are trained.

Finally, it must be clear that the concept of instinct as a teleological striving, as action toward an inherent end, is also a misconception.[35] Obviously this is merely a metaphysical statement of phenomena of adjustment viewed from an anthropocentric standpoint. It is of a kind with the theory of the élan vital of Bergson, which assumes that there is a life force which accounts for the adaptation of the organism to its environment, or with the theory of the inevitableness of progress which posits a mystical or metaphysical principle of progress as inherent in world relationships and social evolution. Instincts cannot be defined in terms of the "end" or functional value of the adjustment they mediate. As before said, they are concrete structural and biological facts. To define them in terms of their adjustment ends may give an illuminating anthropocentric statement of the social or individual value of the activity process, but it affords no basis on which to distinguish an inherited from an acquired activity process. Instincts and habits do not differ from each other either in the form of their structures or in their adjustment functions or Values. They differ in one respect only, and that is their

( 452) origin. But the question of origin comes to be of very great significance when we are considering the utilization of action content for the control of character formation.

Furthermore, the instinct cannot, as the metaphysicians of conduct would seem to imply, carry within itself either the consciousness or the determination of its end.[36] Instinct arises from, and is most characteristic of, the adjustment needs of the lowest animals. Here consciousness, in any organized perceptual or conceptual sense, does not exist. Instinct, as was shown in an earlier chapter, comes before reflective consciousness, perhaps before any but the very lowest forms of consciousness which consist of some elementary sensory and feeling elements. The biological selection of instincts for survival has been a purely blind process, so far as the conscious control of the individual selecting them is concerned. Such selection, depending as it does upon the value of the instincts for the promotion of the individual's survival, is a biological, not a social, process. Only social selection has been conscious, so far as the initiative of the individual directly affected, is concerned, and for the most part even social selection has been unconscious and blind. Biological selection through inheritance can be conscious and purposive only from the standpoint of the outsider who directs the breeding process or takes part in it, never from the standpoint of the one in whom the inheritance is consummated. The instinct itself, as has been shown, is a blind unconscious mechanism and comes into consciousness, either of itself or of its end, only when it is being modified into habit and is ceasing to be instinct.

Obviously, therefore, the conception of the end, in so far as an instinct is concerned, is one read into the adjustment process from the outside. It exists only in the consciousness of

(453) the onlooker or of the evaluator. It is an afterthought of the human mind, perceived by the philosopher, social or cosmic, who reads his anthropocentric or pancentric outlook into the phenomena he perceives and measures. Conscious orientation and control is possible only where there has already been synthesis in thought, that is, where unity and meaning have been read into the situation where adjustment is taking place. Instinct makes the adjustment without conscious direction, but when conscious control of adjustment becomes possible because of the development of evaluative and purposive thinking, instinct is evaluated along with other factors in the adjustment process and is assigned an adjustment significance or an objective and end. But that end is not inherent in the instinct, in the sense that it can exist apart from the consciousness of the outside thinker and evaluator. The concept of the end is an anthropomorphic and anthropocentric device for thinking. To define the instinct in terms of this imputed end is, therefore, to describe and evaluate a social situation or individual adjustment, but it does not describe or define a biological datum or distinguish it from a psycho— social fact.


  1. This statement was made in support of the contention that the pithecanthropus erectus was a true serial or evolutionary type, not merely a contemporary idiot whose bones had been preserved, as had been suggested by some writers seeking to discredit the "missing link" theory.
  2. Sex, 146.
  3. One prominent sociologist is said to place the proportion at 25 per cent, as an argument against the possibility of democracy.
  4. East and Guyer are among those responsible for this estimate.
  5. Crime, Its Cause and Repression, 107.
  6. It must be remembered that Lombroso knew only the older theories of heredity which were dune vague in regard to hypotheses covering the mechanics of inheritance. His death occurred before the Mendelian theory became generally known and his theories were published before Weismann had brought out his data controverting the Lamarckian and Darwinian views on hereditary transmission.
  7. Lombroso, op. cit., 144.
  8. See, for instance, the family charts in H. H. Goddard, The Kallikak Family and Feeble-Mindeeiness.
  9. See C. B. Davenport, Heredity and Relation to Eugenics and H. H. Goddard, Feeble-Mindedness.
  10. Chap. XI.
  11. Apropos of the discussion earlier in this chapter, it would appear that the assumed power of the survival value of an instinct to select itself into the organism would also argue for the assumption that instincts unfavorable to survival would be eliminated by an analogous process of selection.
  12. W. C. D. and C. D. Whetham, Heredity and Society, 146-7.
  13. Ibid., 149.
  14. The Trend of the Race, 29.
  15. A. A. Brill, Fundamental Conceptions of Psychoanalysis, 20, 181 ff.
  16. Psychology, 288.
  17. Ibid., 289.
  18. Introduction to Neurology, 2d ed., 324.
  19. Ibid., 332.
  20. Op. cit., 293.
  21. Human Behavior, 88-9.
  22. See C. J. Herrick, op. cit., ch. 3, on the nature of the growth and extension of neurons; also E. L. Thorndike, Original Nature of Man, ch. 14; R. M. Woodworth, op. cit., chs. 2 and 3.
  23. A good elementary and general description of the aspects of this economic interdependence is to be found in certain chapters of Louis B. Post's Social Service.
  24. See the Whethams, for example.
  25. See Chapters V and VI; also "Neuro-Psychic Technique" in Psy. Rev., NOV., r923.
  26. See Bernard, "The Function of Generalization," The Monist, Oct., 1920.
  27. For example, Professor W. C. Curtis, in his admirable volume entitled Science and Human Affairs, does not once make use of the term instinct, although he uses biological illustrations almost exclusively. The biologist H. W. Conn also perceived the inadequacy of the inheritance explanation. See his Social Heredity and Social Evolution.
  28. S. J. Holmes has made such a beginning in The Trend of the Race.
  29. We have already suggested the possibility that man has been selected in his heredity away from his earlier instinctive adjustments to meet new environmentally imposed survival values, with the result that some of his instincts have been disintegrated or destroyed. This is especially to be observed in connection with the prolongation of infancy.
  30. See Conn, op. cit., ch. ix; also a somewhat more speculative work by C. A. Herter entitled Biological Aspects of Human Problems.
  31. J. Loeb, Comparative Physiology of the Brain and Comparative Psychology, especially chs. 6-9.
  32. Ibid., ch. 9 ff.
  33. S. Paton, Human Behavior, 133.
  34. See Jas. L. Mursell, "The Ontogenetic Significance of Instinct, Habit, and Intelligence," Psy. Rev., 29,66; see also C. A. Ellwood, Sociology and Its Psychological Aspects, 204; J. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, 107.
  35. T. B. Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship, 3-4, has stated this view forcibly. The passage in question is quoted in a footnote to Chap. XIV of this volume. W. B. Pillsbury, The Fundamentals of Psychology, 423 ff., takes a similar view of the teleological nature of instinct.
  36. It is interesting to note that Loeb characterizes instinct as a metaphysical concept. See Dynamics of Living Matter, 5. Dewey (op. cit.) takes much the same view of the matter.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2