Eli5 – What is instinct?

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Can a hardware and software metaphor explain it?

What is physically happening in our brain and body?

In: 21

22 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Instinct is innate and automatic like a computer’s background applications. A computer will update itself, its antivirus will detect threats, and it can run scheduled tasks like alarms. These are a computer’s “instincts”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

An instinct is the ability and inclination for living organisms to engage in certain behaviors or to perform certain actions without necessarily ever having learned those actions or behaviors. For example, newborn infants instinctively know how to attach and suckle and their mother’s nipple and they know that they need to do that even though they never learned it. It can also be a reaction to a stimulus, like when a female of some species emits mating pheromones and in response, the male engages in mating behavior despite never having seen that behavior before.

Computer metaphors don’t really make sense here because brains and behaviors aren’t really like computers, and computers just execute instructions that we tell them to, which is not how living organisms work.

Anonymous 0 Comments

An instinct is a natural reaction for certain stimuli.
Usually already built in the genetic code of a creature.
An example of that would be the fight or flight response, or when you instantly move your hand when you touch something hot, dogs shaking themselves after getting wet, or sea turtles moving towards the moonlight after they hatch.

In a software I’d say an instinct would be any response to a specific action, like opening a window after double clicking or typing whatever letter you pressed on your keyboard.

I don’t know if the hardware and software analogy was the best but that’s what I had in mind basically.

Anonymous 0 Comments

According to the APA, you humans do not have instincts, only animals do.

Hardware and software are not self-aware, or close to sentient as some animals appear to be, and therefore could never possess instincts. Only algorithms to find the best solution to a problem.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Instinct is innate and automatic like a computer’s background applications. A computer will update itself, its antivirus will detect threats, and it can run scheduled tasks like alarms. These are a computer’s “instincts”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

An instinct is a natural reaction for certain stimuli.
Usually already built in the genetic code of a creature.
An example of that would be the fight or flight response, or when you instantly move your hand when you touch something hot, dogs shaking themselves after getting wet, or sea turtles moving towards the moonlight after they hatch.

In a software I’d say an instinct would be any response to a specific action, like opening a window after double clicking or typing whatever letter you pressed on your keyboard.

I don’t know if the hardware and software analogy was the best but that’s what I had in mind basically.

Anonymous 0 Comments

According to the APA, you humans do not have instincts, only animals do.

Hardware and software are not self-aware, or close to sentient as some animals appear to be, and therefore could never possess instincts. Only algorithms to find the best solution to a problem.

Anonymous 0 Comments

An instinct is the ability and inclination for living organisms to engage in certain behaviors or to perform certain actions without necessarily ever having learned those actions or behaviors. For example, newborn infants instinctively know how to attach and suckle and their mother’s nipple and they know that they need to do that even though they never learned it. It can also be a reaction to a stimulus, like when a female of some species emits mating pheromones and in response, the male engages in mating behavior despite never having seen that behavior before.

Computer metaphors don’t really make sense here because brains and behaviors aren’t really like computers, and computers just execute instructions that we tell them to, which is not how living organisms work.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Instinct, as I understand it, is how your unconscious nervous system (sympathetic nervous system) is wired via genetics and via learned behavior.

You have an entire system inside of you that has triggers. These triggers can be temperature, pressure, sound, visual, and even abstractly in the sense of mental trauma. Biologically speaking, your skin reacts to temperatures and there’s a range the sensory organs operate under. Within a certain threshold, warmth is pleasant. After a threshold, either another set of sensory systems activates, or the overload of temperature triggers pain and all of that activates your sympathetic nervous system which causes your heart to beat faster, adrenaline to be produced, muscles to contract and so forth.

To have an untaught instinct that fire bad is a biological thing that is inherent to all of us. It does not need to be taught. Our biology responds to it.

We can, however, overrule this instinct through conscious effort and positive association. If we wire ourselves to derive pleasure from fire and getting burned, then our sympathetic nervous system stops reacting in a flight or fight way.

We can override fear of heights, fear of food, fear of the dark and a myriad of other things.

We can also learn new ways to fear things. Trauma happens to us in ways not genitally predefined but become akin to fire and the like. Someone yelling at us will trigger a lot of the same reactions that a bear growling over us might and so instinct will think there’s a bear there and react accordingly.

Other animals have different biology with different sensors. They have different fears and different things they find pleasurable. Their instincts are different.

One might think, how does one know how to mate? To eat? To swim? How do animals know that? The word instinct gets thrown around a lot, but another system acts here called the parasympathetic system.

Same as your body reacts to pain, or temperature, or moisture, there’s responses to pleasure from aromas, visuals, textures and so on. When near a mate, an animal may feel pleasure from the pheramones it’s sensing, maybe that she bear looks real nice in that stream visually. One thing leads to another all because we’re going from one thing that “feels” right to another. All animals do this which usually leads to genitals rubbing on one another.

Why do bees pollinate plants? They gotta eat. The plant smells good or looks good, instinct kicks in because their nervous system responded in a positive way to these stimuli. Bee lands on plant. The plant itself survived through natural selection. The ones that look the way they do only look that way because the bees reacted to them more than other color configurations. The plant didn’t choose this, it’s just the genetic strain that got passed on the most.

Why do bees protect a hive? Probably feels right to them. There’s probably pleasure in swarming, maybe the noise, maybe the warmth, maybe the visuals of other bees, maybe the overload of chemicals they emit to one another, maybe their stingers itch in a good way, idk. They certainly don’t know why, it’s in their biology.

We function the same way. We’re animals too, but people like to pretend we’re not and they like to elevate humanity into its own category seperate from the rest of the planet.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Instinct, as I understand it, is how your unconscious nervous system (sympathetic nervous system) is wired via genetics and via learned behavior.

You have an entire system inside of you that has triggers. These triggers can be temperature, pressure, sound, visual, and even abstractly in the sense of mental trauma. Biologically speaking, your skin reacts to temperatures and there’s a range the sensory organs operate under. Within a certain threshold, warmth is pleasant. After a threshold, either another set of sensory systems activates, or the overload of temperature triggers pain and all of that activates your sympathetic nervous system which causes your heart to beat faster, adrenaline to be produced, muscles to contract and so forth.

To have an untaught instinct that fire bad is a biological thing that is inherent to all of us. It does not need to be taught. Our biology responds to it.

We can, however, overrule this instinct through conscious effort and positive association. If we wire ourselves to derive pleasure from fire and getting burned, then our sympathetic nervous system stops reacting in a flight or fight way.

We can override fear of heights, fear of food, fear of the dark and a myriad of other things.

We can also learn new ways to fear things. Trauma happens to us in ways not genitally predefined but become akin to fire and the like. Someone yelling at us will trigger a lot of the same reactions that a bear growling over us might and so instinct will think there’s a bear there and react accordingly.

Other animals have different biology with different sensors. They have different fears and different things they find pleasurable. Their instincts are different.

One might think, how does one know how to mate? To eat? To swim? How do animals know that? The word instinct gets thrown around a lot, but another system acts here called the parasympathetic system.

Same as your body reacts to pain, or temperature, or moisture, there’s responses to pleasure from aromas, visuals, textures and so on. When near a mate, an animal may feel pleasure from the pheramones it’s sensing, maybe that she bear looks real nice in that stream visually. One thing leads to another all because we’re going from one thing that “feels” right to another. All animals do this which usually leads to genitals rubbing on one another.

Why do bees pollinate plants? They gotta eat. The plant smells good or looks good, instinct kicks in because their nervous system responded in a positive way to these stimuli. Bee lands on plant. The plant itself survived through natural selection. The ones that look the way they do only look that way because the bees reacted to them more than other color configurations. The plant didn’t choose this, it’s just the genetic strain that got passed on the most.

Why do bees protect a hive? Probably feels right to them. There’s probably pleasure in swarming, maybe the noise, maybe the warmth, maybe the visuals of other bees, maybe the overload of chemicals they emit to one another, maybe their stingers itch in a good way, idk. They certainly don’t know why, it’s in their biology.

We function the same way. We’re animals too, but people like to pretend we’re not and they like to elevate humanity into its own category seperate from the rest of the planet.