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Instinct- the mechanism

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Instinct- the mechanism

Postby MichaelXY » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:31 am

Let’s face it, who has really pondered what instinct really is? I mean, think about it really. If you ask someone, “Why does this so and so lizard protect her eggs”? The most likely answer will be instinct. And most assuredly you will agree, and the discussion will be over. But if you question deeper, what is this driving force called instinct, and what mechanism controls it, I feel confident that you will see a lot of blank stares. As I try to ponder such things, I must admit, I too bring forth a blank look—of course that may be my instinct—but I do try to put some sense to it. To be honest, this concept perplexes me.
What is instinct? In my own narrow thinking I attempt to liken instinct in a realm I can comprehend like computers. So is instinct like boot code of an operating system? Is there some watchdog timer circuit that produces discomfort if an instinctive task is not carried out?
To date, I do not believe this quandary has been solved, but I wonder what others think? :?
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:51 am

I have also likened instinct to computer programming; an organism behaves a certain way without thinking because it is programmed to do so, just like a computer performing a task without actually "thinking" because the computer is programmed to behave that way. The interesting question is is instinct set in stone or can it be altered?

An interesting anecdote from work today. A coworker of mine who has been sexually harassing me made the mistake of approaching me from behind and "touching" me. This is a bad idea for two reasons. 1) I'm not gay. 2) My military background has left me with an "instinct," if you will, to react defensively to being approached from behind. The end result was this coworker getting layed out on the floor; lucky for me that analysis of the security footage backed up my self-defense claim. But I digress. My reaction was almost certainly not ingrained from birth, but it did follow the "instinct" pattern of acting before I had time to think about it. Could this be considered instinct or simply very good training?
Generally speaking, the more people talk about "being saved," the further away they actually are from true salvation.

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Postby MichaelXY » Mon Feb 18, 2008 6:12 am

In your case, I would not classify that as instinct, as I think instinct is inate. Rather I would say this is a conditioning reflex. Then again, one could argue a fight or flight response. So maybe that is instinct, but again, one must not let instinctive impulses dictate response, as that is a power we as humans have. Otherwise male humans may still be using clubs to subdue their potential mates (Sure would be less complicated though). :)
Glad you did not get in trouble, but you may want to work on that as it may in the future :)
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:09 am

Yes I am thinking about having to de-condition myself, although in this case the guy had been harassing me for quite some time, and I warned him not to approach me from behind and not to touch me at all, and I also told him to quit touching me or I'll file a sexual harassment complaint against him, so you can't say he wasn't warned. And to be honest, it would've almost been worth getting fired (though thank God I didn't) to have the opportunity to lay that bastard out like that. :twisted:

But getting back the point, I think you're right, it was more of a conditioned response than a true instinct. I would like to point out, though, that the line between the two can be murky, and when investigating this one should be careful to distinquish between what is genetically programmed and what is conditioned. One could very easily overpower or change the other. It's the old nature vs. nurture debate all over again.
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Re: Instinct- the mechanism

Postby Morgyn » Fri May 02, 2008 11:47 am

This question keeps me up at night. The most frustrating thing is that I don't have enough science to even come up with a proper theory. With my woefully inadequate biology the most I've been able to do is blame it on hormones or enzymes (making you feel good for doing something right, bad if it's wrong etc.), but I would love to know if anyone has researched it enough to really explain it. How do instincts get passed down? How can conditioning (don't eat that orange frog, it made me sick) become an instinct that is passed on? And how do the basic eating and breathing and all the necessary instincts come about in the first place? Sorry MichaelXY I haven't been useful at all and have hi-jacked your question, but I just couldn't help it, this has been bugging me for ages!
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Postby alextemplet » Fri May 02, 2008 4:45 pm

The real question to study is whether or not instinct is genetically programmed or if it is conditioned due to circumstances. Nature vs. nurture. I personally think it falls somewhere between the two.
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Re: Instinct- the mechanism

Postby MichaelXY » Fri May 02, 2008 5:36 pm

Walking down a dark lit alley at night would surely illicit feelings of dread and fear, and I would think this to be nurture, but like Morgyn's orange frog example: other would be frog predators some how just know orange is bad. I don't think this is the sort of thing that was learned or taught. Many animals are left on their own at birth yet instinctivly know to avoid the orange frog. This could not be nurture.
Perhaps the bright orange colors trigger a receptor to release a hormone which induces fear.
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Postby alextemplet » Fri May 02, 2008 8:05 pm

You may be right for some species, although for humans I think nurture plays as big of a role as anything else.
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Re: Instinct- the mechanism

Postby MichaelXY » Fri May 02, 2008 10:34 pm

What about a newborn baby that cries? Sleeping??? And of course :D :( :oops:
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Postby alextemplet » Sat May 03, 2008 5:13 am

Those would obviously not be nurtured, but other things (such as what features to find attractive in the opposite sex) can be just as much a product of cultural conditioning as DNA programming.
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Re: Instinct- the mechanism

Postby MichaelXY » Sat May 03, 2008 6:16 am

(such as what features to find attractive in the opposite sex)


Perhaps that most basic instinct. Pheromones, symmetry, signs of virility, signs of mother hood etc...

Yes I agree that attraction is based on preconceived ideas, however; the need to mate is instinct. I am sure last man, and last woman on planet would find a mutual attraction... :oops:
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Re: Instinct- the mechanism

Postby canalon » Sun May 04, 2008 1:36 am

MichaelXY wrote:[
Perhaps that most basic instinct. Pheromones, symmetry, signs of virility, signs of mother hood etc...

Yes I agree that attraction is based on preconceived ideas, however; the need to mate is instinct. I am sure last man, and last woman on planet would find a mutual attraction... :oops:


Well it seems that not even all those are necessary:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7379554.stm :shock:
Patrick

Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without
any proof. (Ashley Montague)
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