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Author Topic: Do emotions equate to instinct?  (Read 52550 times)

Greg

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« on: 24/12/2008 15:57:37 »
Greg asked the Naked Scientists:

For years, I have assumed that emotions were the instinctive reactions to various stimuli, but lately I've been listening to your podcasts (along with various other sciency ones) and I haven't heard any scientists equate emotion and instinct.  How wrong have I been all this time?

What do you think?


 

Offline Supercryptid

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #1 on: 24/12/2008 18:56:25 »
I don't think that emotion and instinct are synonyms, but emotions certainly are instictive. No one has to teach you to be happy when you taste pleasant food, nor does one have to teach you to cry when you are in pain.
 

Offline LeeE

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #2 on: 24/12/2008 23:16:45 »
I think that the main role of emotions is in motivation, but this only really applies to sentient creatures.  I would also say that emotions are more learned than instinctual, as illustrated in the difference between the way that children are viewed by society now when compared with how they were viewed, say one hundred years ago, when all they were really good for was cleaning out chimneys.
 

Offline Bikerman

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #3 on: 25/12/2008 03:01:45 »
It's a good question.
My own take is that instincts refer generally to something 'hard coded' in the brain. That is not to say that they are entirely genetically determined - clearly the brain undergoes wiring changes from before birth to the moment of death. It is, however, to distinguish instinct from emotion. My understanding of emotion is that it is a chemical/hormonal 'bath' which acts on the brain to produce various states. I suppose I'm saying that instinct is more intrinsic that emotion...
 

Offline erickejah

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #4 on: 25/12/2008 17:32:38 »
i think that the difference is that:
with emotions somebody had love
with instinct somebody had sex
 ;D it may really be the same effect called different. [8D]
 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #5 on: 28/12/2008 19:26:19 »
Hm... So let's roll this around a bit and see if something interesting comes out.

The stimulus is someone getting in your face and shouting (we'll call this a dominance display, shall we?)
The reaction is anger (we'll call that an emotion, agreed?)

Now, if we assume this is happening to dogs or to apes, we're probably happy to say that instincts are there, but no emotion?
And if this happens to humans, we're assuming there's emotion, but no instinct?

The Jerk in the Bar is shouting in your face and the dog snarling and holding his head over the head of another dog- are these both dominance displays?  The reaction of the other bar patron and the other dog- are these both instinctive responses?

Of course, the concept of Love makes things difficult. For us.  We think and write and make a lot of Love. There's a lot of baggage tied to our ideas of Love (I know it's ungrammatical to capitalize it, but it's such an important ideal for so many people, indulge me for a minute)  Letting go of the baggage is difficult.  Accepting evolution as a reality has been a long process of letting go of baggage. 

So, could Love be a response to a chemical/hormonal 'bath' that occurs when the proper stimuli are present?  Can Hate be the same thing?  It's probably easier to say that Lust is an instinctive response, but Love is not.  We don't seem to mind identifying 'bad' emotions with instinct (fear, envy, jealousy) but we don't allow the 'good' emotions to have the same origins (Love, happiness, etc.)

Can 'good' emotions be the upside to our responses fitting the stimuli in a way that has been selected for by evolution, in the same way that euphoria is the upside to successfully procreating (thus making our instincts feel we are continuing the species)


 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #6 on: 28/12/2008 23:13:18 »

The stimulus is someone getting in your face and shouting (we'll call this a dominance display, shall we?) The reaction is anger (we'll call that an emotion, agreed?)
Is that the reaction (anger) from the person being shouted at or the person who is shouting?

Now, if we assume this is happening to dogs or to apes, we're probably happy to say that instincts are there, but no emotion? And if this happens to humans, we're assuming there's emotion, but no instinct?

Not too sure what you're trying to say here...

The Jerk in the Bar is shouting in your face and the dog snarling and holding his head over the head of another dog- are these both dominance displays?  The reaction of the other bar patron and the other dog- are these both instinctive responses?
I think the reaction from the dog will be instinct because its more a matter of life or death. Not too sure about the other patrons, they might not do anything...

Of course, the concept of Love makes things difficult. For us.  We think and write and make a lot of Love. There's a lot of baggage tied to our ideas of Love (I know it's ungrammatical to capitalize it, but it's such an important ideal for so many people, indulge me for a minute)  Letting go of the baggage is difficult.  Accepting evolution as a reality has been a long process of letting go of baggage. 

So, could Love be a response to a chemical/hormonal 'bath' that occurs when the proper stimuli are present?  Can Hate be the same thing?  It's probably easier to say that Lust is an instinctive response, but Love is not.  We don't seem to mind identifying 'bad' emotions with instinct (fear, envy, jealousy) but we don't allow the 'good' emotions to have the same origins (Love, happiness, etc.)

Can 'good' emotions be the upside to our responses fitting the stimuli in a way that has been selected for by evolution, in the same way that euphoria is the upside to successfully procreating (thus making our instincts feel we are continuing the species)
Good points, I might get back to you on that one.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #7 on: 28/12/2008 23:25:01 »
So, could Love be a response to a chemical/hormonal 'bath' that occurs when the proper stimuli are present?  Can Hate be the same thing?  It's probably easier to say that Lust is an instinctive response, but Love is not.  We don't seem to mind identifying 'bad' emotions with instinct (fear, envy, jealousy) but we don't allow the 'good' emotions to have the same origins (Love, happiness, etc.)Can 'good' emotions be the upside to our responses fitting the stimuli in a way that has been selected for by evolution, in the same way that euphoria is the upside to successfully procreating (thus making our instincts feel we are continuing the species)
Agree with lust is an instinctive response and love is not. You can't just love someone instantly, it could take years to build. I think fear is definitely an instinct, some of those people with phobias are a good example. Humans of old were designed for fight or flight so the obvious 'instincts' that were required are probably not as clear cut anymore because frankly nowadays hardly anyone needs them. 




« Last Edit: 28/12/2008 23:26:33 by Chemistry4me »
 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #8 on: 29/12/2008 01:34:24 »
Hmm.  Well, that begs another interesting question.

Have we shed a lot of supposedly vestigial instincts?  Or are they just hindered, masked and complicated by what's going on higher in our brains?  Are we quantitatively different from earlier humans and their instincts?  If so, what stages have these changes taken, and over what length of time?

My original point is to question whether we are still acting and reacting by instinct that we, using our higher brain functions, call emotions.  The addition of higher brain activity- or 'reason' if you want to keep it separated from 'instinct'- is what prevents us from calling any single behavior 'instinctive' in the same way that we call animal behavior 'instinctive'.  In short- we overthink it, simply because we can.

Or maybe I've taken the point to it's absurd farthest length.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #9 on: 29/12/2008 02:29:06 »
You have very interesting vocabulary... but there might be an element of overthinking, preventing us from calling any single behaviour 'instinctive'
 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #10 on: 29/12/2008 15:38:23 »
I'm tickled.  'Interesting vocabulary'- maybe comes from the fact that I'm from the Southern United States, and maybe from the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about.  Hopefully, it's only that I'm trying to offer up a short form of an idea that's been knocking around in my head for a long time, and I'm jumping into the middle of it without laying any groundwork.  Either way, this is a lot of fun.  I don't do a lot on chat forums.  I should probably edit for poor grammar at least, but I'm too lazy.

 

Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #11 on: 30/12/2008 01:09:05 »
Were not the instincts just three:
Reproduction
Species conservation
Survival
???
There are many emotions, on the other hand....
(and many more on both hands)
 ;D
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #12 on: 30/12/2008 05:07:21 »
A good point you make, I've never thought about it like that
 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #13 on: 30/12/2008 13:20:36 »
I might not understand your point, are you saying that there are only three instincts?
Those sound like three catagories that instincts fall into. The instinct to nurse (I knew the name of this when we were getting ready for our first child.  I've forgotten it now.) for instance, might fall under 'survival', I suppose, or maybe under 'reproduction', depending on how you were breaking them all out.  'Fight or Flight' fits neatly under survival, but again- these are all terms to artificially separate items in a spectrum.  Any prompting from deep inside  oneself- that originates in the more primitive sections of our brains and prompts behavior that doesn't have a rational, higher-brain origin- are instinctive.  The drive to stay with ones family, the drive to leave at a certain age, the drive to establish and maintain dominance hierarchies, the need to be submissive when the alpha in any particular group begins asserting him- or herself... not every person has the same set of instinctive responses to given situations (or more precisely, sets of situations, as the stimuli will often be made up of many inputs- environment, and all it breaks down into and the others in the environment)  The instinctive responses are often ones that we don't even realize that we're making, but are more easily spotted in others.  Instinctive responses are often the ones that confuse and upset us (another instinctive response piled on) when they don't jibe with our rational desires, or when we are doing our best to deny the instinctive reactions as not being in our best interests.  Rationally deciding on a behavior with our higher cognitive skills doesn't placate the instinctive drives from our lower brain functions. 

So, there's no particular reason to say that there are only three instincts and certainly no reason to think that there is some ultrasimple set of emotions that correspond exactly to an ultrasimple set of clearly defined instincts. Instincts are multifarious and multiuseful, evolved to supply us with quick reactions to many, many stimuli.  Emotions are what we find loaded into our brains when our instincts prod us-  We feel happy when any of a number of instincts have been satisfied, we feel uneasy or crabby when fighting against a persistent instinctive prodding. We feel the need to go or to do or to protect or to eat or to love when stimuli both from within or without fire off any number of small instinctive reactions- emotions are the reactions both to the original prompts, the failure to obey the prompts or having satisfied the promptings.

Or not.  Like I said in the very first question- I've never heard anyone else propounding this theory, particularly.  And I've never tried to write it out  or explain it.  I'm not a biologist, or psychologist or any kind of an -ist.  And I've never done the sort of research necessary to educate myself in the field.  Outside of reading some books by Timothy Ferris and Stephen Gould and the like, I'm sort of lost here.
 

Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #14 on: 30/12/2008 14:00:18 »
Iím lost too... I always thought we humans only had those basic instincts because we were able to reason... In a sense, because weíre free.
Lost, lost, lost...

 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #15 on: 30/12/2008 14:28:04 »
Well, you may certainly be right.  I wouldn't be the first person to talk crazy and begin from the wrong suppositions.

I've always thought that instinct was a lower-brain thing we shared with other creatures and that reason (higher-brain function) was something extra, laid on top of the older instinct that gave us more ways to react and respond to stimuli.  I don't know how 'free' would enter into it one way or the other. I'm happy to listen, though, if you'd care to explain.
 

Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #16 on: 30/12/2008 15:02:46 »

I think Iím getting in way over my head here... (Iím just a lawyer who is interested in science). What I once read was that if you push a little kitten close to the edge of a table, the animal will react by retreating, as a result of pure instinct; however, if you bring a baby close to the edge of a table, he wonít react at all, he will fall...

Still lost, lost-er (at least itís fun)
Regards

 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #17 on: 30/12/2008 15:17:02 »
Ah!  excellent point.
Who did that experiment?  Expensive in babies, I'd guess.
I'm in waaay over my head, too, but like you say, this is awfully fun. I'm a cartoonist, by the way.  I don't know neurology, but I'm all for fun...

So, I'd ascribe the kitten's better function to the fact that they're born relatively more developed than humans are- in other words, a kitten wouldn't equate to a newborn baby in any particular way.  Human babies must be born more dependent on their parents because to wait any longer in the womb would mean that their heads wouldn't fit through the birth canal- clearly that's not adapted to survival.  Of course, being born more or less helpless doesn't sound like it's adapted to survival either, so maybe I'm talking through my hat again.  Such a thing would, however, point to a human survival instinct to live in cooperative groups- those without the instinct to group wouldn't survive as well in a harsher environment.  Cats seem to have an instinct for a more solitary existence once they're weaned, harsher environment or not. 


 

Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #18 on: 30/12/2008 17:25:43 »
Where are all the scientists when we neeeeeeed them?????  ;D :o
They better show up soon, or we are going to rewrite everything.....
 ;)
 

Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #19 on: 30/12/2008 17:54:14 »
Yeah!  We need some of the earlier respondents to come back in, too.  When I first posed the question, they said it was in line to be used in an upcoming podcast, but there's still lots to discuss 'til that happens.

I have another thought about how much trouble there'll be when raccoons discover fire, but it's not so much a science theory as a humorous premise...
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #20 on: 31/12/2008 02:29:35 »

I think I’m getting in way over my head here... (I’m just a lawyer who is interested in science). What I once read was that if you push a little kitten close to the edge of a table, the animal will react by retreating, as a result of pure instinct; however, if you bring a baby close to the edge of a table, he won’t react at all, he will fall...
When you put a baby into water, it'll hold its breath, thats instinctive. Will cats do that? I don't know, but someone would have tried it.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #21 on: 31/12/2008 02:31:41 »
But I think I'm sidetracking, basically does instinct = emotion or instinct ≠ emotion?
 

Offline yor_on

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #22 on: 31/12/2008 09:46:36 »
Do you think other animals have emotions?
We think they have instincts, don't we.

In Spain they used to say that dogs didn't have any soul an (?) therefore couldn't feel any pain.
Like when I grew up.

Instincts is a way of surviving, emotions tells us about what and how we feel while doing so.
Sometimes they take the 'overhand' and make us do things not related to surviving.
Do emotions do the same to other animals?
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #23 on: 31/12/2008 10:08:49 »
Do you think other animals have emotions?
Yes, just why I think that, I'm not sure at the moment because I do not have valid reasoning to back it up. But what do you mean by animals? All animals? Like ants and worms and bugs all included?
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #24 on: 31/12/2008 10:17:55 »
It will be very interesting if we could 'hear' what a male dog is thinking when he sees a female dog. Does he have emotions? Or does his instincts tell him 'me want my b****' :o in the crudest of voices? :-\
 

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
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