Do emotions equate to instinct?

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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?

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Offline Kryptid

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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.
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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.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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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...

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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]

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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)



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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.

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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 »

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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.

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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'

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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.


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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]

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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

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Offline GregBucket

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« 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.

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Offline Emilio Romero

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


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Offline GregBucket

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« 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.

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Offline Emilio Romero

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

I think Im getting in way over my head here... (Im 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 wont react at all, he will fall...

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


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Offline GregBucket

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« 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. 



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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.....
 [;)]

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Offline GregBucket

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« 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...

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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.

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Offline Chemistry4me

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

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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?
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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?

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Offline Chemistry4me

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« 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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Offline Mr. Scientist

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #25 on: 31/12/2008 11:50:29 »
I don't think emotions may necesserily equate to instinct. Though they may have very close relationships, studies of brain activity will show there is more to emotions than there is, dorment, mind-less ponderings of instinctive natures.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZGcNx8nV8U

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Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #26 on: 31/12/2008 12:03:14 »
Our instincts are falling behind the animals because of all this technology that we live in today...

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Offline Mr. Scientist

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« Reply #27 on: 31/12/2008 12:12:18 »
Well, if animals don't experience emotions like we do, then they must have more powerful instincts. In fact, their entire daily drive [may] be straight down to pure instinct.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZGcNx8nV8U

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Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #28 on: 31/12/2008 12:21:07 »
Backing up a bit, let's see... I think we're examining whether emotion is a part of the instinctive structure.  Whether, let's say, emotions are the various ways that various instincts presents themselves to us.

I don't know what feeling pain has to do with having a soul, but my dog feels pain.  He caught himself in the fence yesterday trying to get out.  He was trying to get through the fence to be with my sons.  Whether he 'wanted' to do that because his instincts told him to stay with his pack, or whether his emotions told him that he would not be happy unless he could get to the boys, I don't know.  In fact, that's the point here. What I'm really asking is if those two things are one and the same; the emotional carrot-on-a-stick is simply the way that the instinct presents itself.

Ants and worms?  Why include them in 'animals'?  Let's simplify for the moment and stick to mammals that we're familiar with, unless someone has a comment about something else.  Like birds, maybe.  Wait and see.

As for crude voices, why the adjective?  And why assume that the dog, or we humans, are really 'thinking' when lust is the issue?  The instinct to procreate is one of the most basic, and comes on dogs and us frequently.  The emotional upshot of the instinct is something we call 'lust' in ourselves when we're being crude, or 'amorous' when we're feeling more delicate.  We, or our dogs, might feel 'frisky' or 'lonely' or any of many other degrees that all lie along a spectrum of 'lustful'.   I use the word 'feel' very specifically there- it's an emotional state that manifests because the instinct to procreate is brought on by a stimulus.  In the case of Chemistry4Me's dog, the stimulus might be that he has seen, or more likely smelled, a female- possibly one in heat.  (Being in heat is a physical state of being ready to procreate, and the male's reaction to the scent would have evolved as an instinctive reaction, I guess.)  In the case of a human, the stimulus might be that a woman is wearing an attractive outfit, or has made eye contact or any of many signals to attract others.  Or, it might be that the male lives in the U.S. and is deluged by sexy images all day every day, and his libido is constantly firing off instinctive signals that equate to 'Me want my b****."

Hm... Mr. Scientist makes a very interesting point- Are instincts dormant or mindless?  That sounds like a fruitful line of thought.  I would have guessed that instincts are not only not dormant, but are real to us every day, as emotions.  I would have also guessed that instincts are intrinsic to 'mind', an inseparable part of what allowed us to evolve and survive until our brains added their 'higher' levels, and not 'mindless' per se.

Of course, maybe this is the basic supposition that I've gotten wrong, and the reason the theory wouldn't hold up.
« Last Edit: 31/12/2008 12:29:10 by GregBucket »

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Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #29 on: 01/01/2009 03:28:56 »
I don't know [???], all this discussion is making me even more confused than when we started... [???] [:I] [:I]

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #30 on: 01/01/2009 16:07:37 »
You're invited to blame all confusion on me if you like.

Cartoonists write better inside little balloons. 

Big boxes throw us off.

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Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #31 on: 02/01/2009 01:59:07 »
Cartoonists write better inside little balloons. 
Whats going on here [???] [???] Are you a cartonist?

Big boxes throw us off.
And I thought the last sentence was crazy [;D] [???] [???]

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #32 on: 02/01/2009 23:58:24 »
Yep.  Cartoonist.

Yep.  Crazy.


« Last Edit: 04/01/2009 01:49:54 by GregBucket »

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #33 on: 04/01/2009 01:49:23 »
Okay, got a little sidetracked there.  Yes, I'm a cartoonist.  It's a fun job.

Now, to try to get us back on track and simplify things. 

The theory (and if I remember right, a good theory is supposed to have three things going for it.  Something to do with making a prediction that can be tested and such.  Maybe we don't have a theory here yet, maybe it's just a hypothesis) is that humans have a broad spectrum of instincts.  Emotions are the way that our instincts present themselves to our conscious minds.  Humans also have lots of brain (lots and lots) devoted to higher functions.  Instinct and Reason are not always in agreement.  Reason (higher brain function) might tell us to take a chance when instinct (extremely basic and powerful brain function) tells us not to, or vice versa.  That conflict is often sized up in literature as 'good vs. evil'- the little devil and angel sitting on our shoulder.  For example- If a particular subject is not of a monogamous turn of mind, it's because his or her instinct prompts him or her into pursuing sex with people other than his or her spouse.  Reason will tell him (or her, you get the idea...) that this is not a good idea.  Being human and having the choice that a rat or dog does not, he might decide in favor of reason, and instinct, unfulfilled, will nag at him.  If he were to give in to that instinct, his reason would then nag at him.  This is the downside to having a complex mind developed evolutionarily over great lengths of time.  The conflict- and the meaning of emotion- has been written about, studied, made the subject of poetry and philosophy, and has inspired great art in every realm- and so we instantly reject the idea that emotion has anything to do instinct.  Instinct being a word that we have traditionally used for 'lesser' animals and rejected for ourselves and our high romantic notions of our emotions.

I would like to point out that I'm not advocating giving in to any emotion (instinct) just to shut it up.  What's the point of having a more complex brain than a dog if one acts no better than a dog?

Oof.  That ought to upset enough people to get the conversation back up and running.
« Last Edit: 04/01/2009 01:58:23 by GregBucket »

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Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #34 on: 04/01/2009 02:22:31 »
So now the word 'reason' is introduced into the arguement
What's the point of having a more complex brain than a dog if one acts no better than a dog?
Exactly

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Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #35 on: 04/01/2009 08:20:49 »
Have you actually got an answer from the Naked Scientists yet? Is it going to be on one of the podcasts?

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #36 on: 05/01/2009 17:47:19 »
Yep.  Reason was mentioned back in the ninth post, and a few time since.  Was I not supposed to mention reason?  I think it's valid to say that reason comes from higher brain function and instinct from lower, or more basic, brain function.  I could be wrong.  Also, I have no earthly idea what the vocabulary about this stuff is supposed to be.  'Higher' and 'lower' and 'brain function' are probably antiquated terms, as used by scientists back when they wore powdered wigs.

As for the podcast, here's all I've heard so far:

Thank you for the question you sent to us.  We are e-mailing you to let you know that it has been added to our list for inclusion in a forthcoming edition of The Naked Scientists Podcast.

In the meantime we have also published the question, on your behalf, on our discussion forum.  So far, it has received 4 comments from other forum members.

To see what they're saying, follow this link:

If you want to join in the discussion, you can use our quick registration system to obtain your own username by following the link below

We hope you find the answers helpful.

Thanks for supporting the Naked Scientists.

  The Naked Scientists Team


I suppose that means there's a chance it'll crop up on the podcast someday if they can find someone with an interesting answer.  Till then, we get to speculate as only amateurs and enthusiasts can, I reckon.  'Reckon' means I reasoned it out, I think.  At least, I think I think it.


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Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #37 on: 06/01/2009 18:30:23 »
I think freely that reasonable emotions are instinctive, or the other way around on the contrary [;)] [;D]

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Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #38 on: 06/01/2009 21:55:39 »
Absotively, yes.
Well spoken.

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Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #39 on: 06/01/2009 21:59:20 »
What do you meam by reasonable emotions, I am very interested to find out. [:P]

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Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #40 on: 07/01/2009 16:26:24 »
I thought he was kidding around.

I'd like to hear about reasonable emotions, too.

You're up, Professor Romero!

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Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #41 on: 07/01/2009 18:07:13 »
 [???]
ooops.... eeeh... mmmmmm....
 [:I]
gulp....
Pun intended, sorry... I Hope I Didn't upset anybody....
Just kidding, truly sorry.

Emilio

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Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #42 on: 07/01/2009 18:08:42 »
Reasonably speaking, my emotion right now would be embarrassment...  [:I]

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #43 on: 07/01/2009 22:52:29 »
Well, see, that's a great point! 

What sort of instinctive prompting would cause embarrassment?  Is embarrassment an emotion?  Fascinating stuff.  Well done.

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Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #44 on: 08/01/2009 02:53:51 »
I saw this program on TV a while back and it was like a documentary, there were 20 people in a room (and they were all actors/actresses) and when they were shown the colour red (I can't quite remember the colours but it doesn't really matter) they were instructed to say that the colour was blue.
Then another person came into the room, this was not an actor and he presumed that the other people there were just random people. So everybody (the first 20) got shown the colour red and they all said blue, then it came to the new man, (they had some things attached to his head which lit up the parts of the brain that was being activated/working) and he also said that the colour was blue!
Which I thought was very interesting, surely his instinct immediately after seeing the red colour would tell him "red" but when he found all the other people saying that it was in fact blue, he reasoned with himself and changed his option. They tried this on many other subjects too and they found that some remained stubborn (or correct) and said red while others went with the majority and stayed with blue. But what they did find in all of their subjects was that the part of the brain responsible for (the emotion) fear was activated, and they presumed that the subjects felt fear because they wanted to fell like part of a group, even if it meant choosing the obviously wrong option.
 

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Offline alansm

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #45 on: 08/01/2009 09:33:26 »
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?


I personally think that your initial supposition is fairly accurate.
Instincts are action tendencies based on feelings or emotions given a stimuli.
eg: A perceived threat is likely to gives rise to an emotion (fear or anxiety) This will trigger an 'instinctive' response to the threat with the brain preparing the body to run of fight. Adrenalin increased heart rate blood supply increased to the muscles, reduced where it isn't required,etc. This holds true whether the stimuli are real or imagined. Hence the thriving therapeutic industry that exists today. [:(!]

For a more detailed explanation on the development of instinct you might look at newbielink:http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=16535.msg0;boardseen#new [nonactive]
« Last Edit: 08/01/2009 09:51:00 by alansm »

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Offline GregBucket

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #46 on: 08/01/2009 14:01:09 »
Thanks for jumping in,, Alansm!  I was worried that no one else would post with us.

Chemistry4me's story reminds me of another one, which is apocryphal, but interesting nonetheless.

Say you have six chimpanzees in a room.  The room is outfitted with several boxes, and has a large bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling.  The chimps will, in time, stack the boxes or themselves high enough to get to the bananas.  When they do, you turn a fire hose on them. (that's the part that makes me sure this story is apocryphal) and you repeat the punishment every time the chimps get close to the bananas.  Eventually, they quit trying to get the bananas.  Then you swap out one of the chimps for a new one.

The new one will, after a time, try to stack boxes to get to the bananas, whereupon the other chimps will set upon him and beat him up, lest the fire hose is turned on the group.  Soon, the new chimp shies away from the bananas.  Now, one by one, you trade out all the chimps, allowing intervals long enough for the new chimps to acclimate to the idea that the bananas are NOT to be messed with.

Eventually, you have six chimpanzees who have never had a fire hose turned on them, but will nonetheless attack any new ape that tries to get the bananas.

In the business world, this is the 'We've always done it this way' method of management.

It could no doubt apply to behaviors in other areas of life, too- social, political, familial, religious, scientific, anywhere there is an organized group, I suppose.

And it's off the subject.

Back to the emotions!

Alansm, I wonder if we're talking backward points.  It may be that- instead of a perceived threat setting off an emotion that sets off an instinctive response- a perceived threat (stimulus) sets off an instinctive response (fight or flight) which we sense as an emotion (fear, anxiety, distress) that will result in our fighting or fleeing.  The adrenaline increased heart rate, blood supply etc. is the physiological aspect of the reaction, the emotion is the neurological reaction and both are inextricable parts of the same reaction to stimulus.  And I don't like using the term stimulus, because I'll bet there's rarely ever just one stimulus, I bet when you examine responses, it's hard to isolate anything like that.  In other words you'd always want to use the plural stimuli, since there's always a lot of input involved, and therefore a lot of reaction involved.  Especially in the real world, the stimuli and their responses pile up.

I guess I should add that I'm not arguing that instinct/emotion is the only thing going on in a stimulus/reaction.  I've said before that we've got a lot of higher brain functions that go on, also.  So while your instinct might tell you to flee or fight, you're human, and you may reason that there's another way around the problem, and if you suppress your instinct, you can use that other way.  Of course, this sets your instinct to nagging at you, which sets up a lot more reactions, but that's another discussion thread entirely, isn't it?
« Last Edit: 08/01/2009 14:07:36 by GregBucket »

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Offline Chemistry4me

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #47 on: 08/01/2009 22:47:24 »
Are insticts pro-active and emotions are reactive?

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Offline GregBucket

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« Reply #48 on: 09/01/2009 14:17:47 »
Wow!  Nice question! 

What do you think?  This sounds like a rich vein to explore.  I hope you'll speculate with it a little.  I'll start:

My kneejerk reaction is that, what with the constant stimuli piling on, we'd have both active and reactive sets of instincts that set off lots of subtle variations along a spectrum of emotional responses.

Or, to be less wordy, "I guess 'Yes'."

I tried to come up with an example to illustrate with, but it turned into a lot of speculation.  See what you can do with it:  You're at home and utterly relaxed (instinct tells you you're free to do whatever you like), you're suddenly shocked to have a load of people jump out and yell surprise, (which sets off a fight-or-flight instinct) and then you realize that these are your friends and well-wishers (which sets off another instinct saying you're safe).  Your emotional state would go from baseline to alarmed to relieved to happy- I guess the instinctive states are reactive in this scenario, and the emotional states are, too.  The pro-active instincts might come in when you're faced with behaviors that you initiate- taking control of everyone's attention because you are instinctively an alpha character, or thanking everyone individually- you'd choose whom to speak to based on that group's pecking order (not consciously, maybe, you'd just 'feel' that it was most important to go search out someone special to you)

Whew.  All this is wild speculation on my part.

I sure do like your question though. 

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Offline Emilio Romero

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Do emotions equate to instinct?
« Reply #49 on: 09/01/2009 23:37:43 »
And... where do relfexes enter this discussion???