Instinct in Man

Instinct in Man

Instinct in Man

Instinct in Man

Excerpt

The task which we here propose is the re-investigation of the concept of 'Instinct', and the consideration of the extent to which this concept is of use in the study of human experience and behaviour.

Perhaps no concept in Psychology has raised such a long and detailed controversy as has that of Instinct, and, for many, the whole question is a closed book. In American psychological literature in particular the word instinct has been carefully avoided, and terms such as 'need' and 'drive' have superseded it. In view of this widespread tendency to regard instinct as a dead and useless concept, it is necessary to give some preliminary indications as to why it is thought that the concept merits reconsideration, and--as we shall insist--re-instatement in the study of motivation.

1. The Universe of Discourse of Psychology

In the first place it must be emphasised that Psychology as a science is concerned not only with the study of human beings. The universe of discourse with which it is concerned is 'the positive study of experience and behaviour', and it involves therefore a study not of man alone but of the experience and behaviour (in so far as this is possible) of all living creatures. In a word, Psychology involves the comparative study of all animal species. It would be considered extremely inadequate if Biology (to mention another, closely related, science) were to concentrate simply upon the study of the human species, and it is clear that the extent of its established knowledge, even with regard to man alone, would be severely restricted if it did so. Yet there is a tendency in psychology, especially in America, to concentrate upon the study of man and the higher mammals which are closely related to him. That the narrowness of this concentration, and its attendant dangers, are beginning to be recognised in America may be seen in an article by A. R. Lindesmith and A. L. Strauss entitled 'Comparative Psychologyand Social Psychology'

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