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date: 22 September 2023

Instinct and the Origins of Mind and Behaviorlocked

Instinct and the Origins of Mind and Behaviorlocked

  • Diane M. RodgersDiane M. RodgersDepartment of Sociology, Northern Illinois University


Instinct has been one of the more contentious concepts throughout the history of psychology and social psychology. Broadly defined, instinct is considered innate, patterned behavior for living organisms that does not require learning or experience. Almost all early psychologists engaged in the study of instincts, and many attempted to classify them. One of the debates that emerged was whether there is a simple dichotomy between instinct and reason, with animals endowed with instinct for survival but only humans with the ability to rely on reason. With more influence from Darwin’s evolutionary theory, however, the idea that instincts were modifiable and a common trait for humans and animals became accepted. This also led to the idea that human instincts could be understood by examining the instincts of animals and the mental development of children. With the arrival of behaviorism, the concept of instinct began to fall out of favor altogether, and all behaviors were attributed to learning or conditioning. More recently, evolutionary psychologists have reclaimed the notion of instinct, although the understanding of this concept still varies and has an uncertain fate in the discipline.


  • History and Systems of Psychology

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