THE GENESIS AND RETENTION OF EXPLICIT BODILY HABITS
Introduction. --In the preceding two chapters we have dealt with the hereditary assets of man--his untutored ways of acting. It was clear from our study that if man were forced to make adjustments with only his inborn equipment his behavior would be lacking in that complexity and variety which we know exists in the adult. In habit we come to a higher and more varied level of functioning. For some reason a misconception has grown up in regard to habit. Many regard the term in a somewhat sinister way--as implying something that is inevitable, invariable and indeed somewhat fatal. To them it means the drug habit or alcoholism or some other pathological manifestation of activity. It is best to clear away such misconceptions since habits in our sense represent the bulwark of human organization.
A Conditioned Reflex Level of Functioning. --Between the purely instinct-reflex level of activity seen at birth and the level represented by definite habits of the type we are about to consider there is a stage of activity of the habit kind deserving more consideration than it has hitherto received. Not until the child begins to handle and generally manipulate objects, to build with blocks or clay, to crawl or walk from spot to spot and to put on language habits is it a going human concern. But it is unthinkable that a mass of individual acquisitions is not put on before this level is reached. We have discussed this phase of activity in several places--in the attachment and detachment of reactions to emotional stimuli and in connection with the positive and negative reactions which develop at a very early age. It remains to call special attention to it in connection with habit. The pattern of the activity is not complex and for this reason it is often spoken of as being the putting on of new instinctive
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Publication information: Book title: Psychology:From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist. Contributors: John B. Watson - Author. Publisher: J. B. Lippincott. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1919. Page number: 269.