Psychology: From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist

By John B. Watson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
HEREDITARY MODES OF RESPONSE: EMOTIONS

Introduction. --In the last three chapters we have been concerned with the details of sensory-motor adjustment. We turn next to man as a reacting organism, and specifically to some of the reactions which belong to his hereditary equipment. Human action as a whole can be divided into hereditary modes of response (emotional and instinctive), and acquired modes of response (habit). Each of these two broad divisions is capable of many subdivisions. It is obvious both from the standpoint of common-sense and of laboratory experimentation that the hereditary and acquired forms of activity begin to overlap early in life. Emotional reactions become wholly separated from the stimuli that originally called them out (transfer, page 211), and the instinctive positive reaction tendencies displayed by the child soon become overlaid with the organized habits of the adult. This process of masking or dovetailing of activities is a part of the general process of organization. The separation between hereditary reaction modes and acquired reaction modes can thus never be made absolute. Fortunately in most connections psychology is not called upon to draw a sharp distinction between hereditary and acquired reactions. In making laboratory studies, however, it is sometimes necessary for us to study the details of hereditary response. We find it simpler in such cases to over- emphasize for the time the definiteness of the separation. This is unquestionably a legitimate mode of procedure in science. Few biological problems permit of any other treatment. In order to accomplish this at all we have to adopt a genetic method. We have to start with the baby's advent (we would start before if it were not for possible injury to mother and child) and follow his development step by step, noting the first appearance of the hereditary forms of reaction, their course and effect upon the moulding of the child's whole personality; and the early beginnings of acquired modes of response. Undoubtedly learning

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