An Introduction to Social Psychology

Supplementary Chapter 8: A Rectification, A Difficulty and An Addition

William McDougall

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IN the foregoing seven supplementary chapters of this book, I have endeavoured to keep it abreast with the progress of psychology in general and of my own thinking. This chapter, which seems likely to be my last attempt in this direction, concisely reports a modification of my treatment of instinct and one novelty, namely, a discussion of a topic entirely overlooked in the body of the book, but one which is intimately related with the main theme, namely, the individually acquired tastes. Of the importance of the theory of tastes, as supplementing the theory of the sentiments, I become increasingly convinced.

In my more recent discussions of instinct I have recognised that the treatment of that fundamental topic in the body of this book may be improved in one respect. The improvement is of minor importance, involving no radical change of view ; but it diminishes some of the difficulties of the hormic theory felt by some readers and, more especially, by its opponents.

I have become convinced that, in describing a typical instinctive disposition as consisting of three distinguishable parts (as on p. 28) I was in error in one respect, namely, in drawing the line of separation between the second and third parts. As I now see, there is no sufficient ground for regarding a conative part as distinguishable from the emotional or affective part. In so far as a motor or efferent part may validly be recognised (and in the most typical forms of instinctive action involving complex nicely co-ordinated movements common to all members of the species, such a motor part

( 496) can be inferred with certainty) this motor part may properly be regarded as a purely neural apparatus, or motor mechanism, through which the instinctive excitement discharges itself. Now such a system of well-organised pathways of innervation, of motor discharge of the instinctive excitement, such an innate motor mechanism, is, as I say, validly inferred in many of the most typically instinctive actions ; namely, wherever all the members of a species. execute an instinctive action independently of prior learning in some one highly stereotyped fashion. Nevertheless, the process of motor innervation in such cases is posterior to, and consequential upon, the truly instinctive mental process, with its cognitive, conative, and affective aspects.

On what grounds do I make this assertion ? On the ground that, when an animal which possesses such innate motor mechanism for the service of an instinct is prevented (as, for example, by some bodily injury or by some experimentally designed conditions of the environment) from attaining the natural goal of the instinct in the usual manner common to the species, it will, (apparently in all cases) to a degree proportional to its position in the scale of intelligence, find other ways, other movements, by means of which to work towards its goal. In the lower insects this power of adapting instinctive movement to special circumstances is very slight : that is the mark of their low position in the scale of intelligence ; and it is because many insects and some other lower animals, such as the spiders, exhibit highly complex stereotyped instinctive movements and very little power of adapting those movements to unusual circumstances, that they have been so widely regarded as manifesting instinct in its pure form, and indeed, by some authors, as the sole exponents of instinctive activity.[1] Yet there is good ground for believing that some adaptability is always potentially present ; even though we may fail to observe the evidence of it in

( 497) particular cases, and may not be sufficiently ingenious to evoke such evidence by experimental interference. And when we turn to the higher insects, such evidence is abundant and may be multiplied indefinitely by judicious and patient experiment.[2]

At the higher level of the birds, the instinctive nature of most of their activities is still obvious ; for, although in the attaining of any one natural goal, such as the completed nest, a pair of birds may use almost every form of co-ordinated movement of which they are capable, and in the most varied combinations and sequences, no observer, other than the psychologist brought up in the atmosphere of the mechanistic dogma, can fail to recognise that such activities are instinctively inspired ; that is, that they are sustained by some native impulse, some propensity common to all members of the species which determines the goal and the goal-seeking. And, when we turn to the higher mammals, the variety of movement and the influence of individual experience in shaping the modes of activity, and still more in determining what objects and situations shall evoke the creature's activities ; and also in determining what means it will employ in striving towards its goals ; this variety and this influence become so large that it is difficult to discern and distinguish the instinctive sources.

Just such complications become so abundant and so pronounced in human activities that the layman and nearly half the psychologists are still unable to understand that, here also, the same principles of action, the hormic principles, are manifested ; and even so enlightened a biologist as the late Sir Arthur Thomson can deny that the human mother is moved by a maternal instinct.
I mention the case of Sir Arthur Thomson, because some seven years ago he publicly reproached me with misleading the public in asserting the reality of a maternal instinct in the human species And it was then I decided

( 498) to try to develop a terminology which would not en-counter the resistance which the application of the term " instinct " in human psychology seems inevitably to meet with, even in a biologist so enlightened as Sir Arthur Thomson.

It seems clear that this resistance is founded in the traditional but erroneous view of instinct ; the view, namely, which took form in the days when it was said and commonly accepted that man is governed and activated by reason, while the animals are moved by instinct ; a view which was shaped by a too exclusive attention to the more striking and wonderful examples of instinctive action provided by the lower animals, the insects and spiders and crustaceans more especially. For, under the influence of such one-sided partial and external (i.e. non-psychological) interest in instinctive actions (the kind of interest taken by the naturalist and the layman), the most striking and therefore the most distinctive feature of instinctive action appears to be the stereotyped unvarying repetition of trains of complex and commonly advantageous movements whenever the creatures of a given species encounter particular things or circumstances.[3]

Now it cannot be too much insisted upon that this acceptance of the stereotypic quality of action as the essential mark of instinct is, though so widely accepted,

( 499) even by naturalists as famous as Sir Arthur Thomson, an error. The stereotypic quality is the mark, not of the instinctive nature of an action, but rather of the lack of intelligence of the actor. And by "lack of intelligence," I mean, not total, but relative, lack, a low level of intelligence, either natively prescribed or due to special circumstances. Thus the averagely intelligent human being, when half-asleep from fatigue, or under the influence of drugs (such as alcohol) that partially paralyse his " intelligence," and in certain states of disease, falls back in the scale of intelligence and tends to manifest the stereotypic quality of action.

The true outward mark of the instinctive nature of any activity (a mark which cannot always be observed by a single glance nor even by a careful inspection of a single instance, but, in some cases, only by careful comparative study of many instances) is that, independently of prior experience that might conduce to such activity, under particular circumstances the animal strives towards a goal common to its species and in ways more or less common to the species.

Now, as we review the scale of increasing intelligence from insect to man, we see activities inspired and sustained by instinct become less and less stereotyped and more and more varied in adaptation to special circumstances. There is no point in this scale at which we can say that the activities of that level can no longer be said to be instinctive in some sense and degree. We can only say that the share of inborn disposition or of racial constitution and tendency in shaping action becomes more and more overlaid and obscured by intelligent adaptation in the light of individual experience. And, in the case of the average adult human being, this overlaying and obscuring goes so far that we cannot appropriately describe the bulk of his actions as instinctive.

The hormic psychology does not assert, and I have never asserted (at least, to the best of my recollection) that all human actions are instinctive. Rather I have asserted that in all human activities there is a dynamic factor, a sustaining or driving energy, which derives

( 500) from the instinctive basis common to the human species and, further, that this instinct-derived urge or goal-directed energy is an essential factor without which no such activity would occur. Again, taking any particular kind of outward behaviour, I do not assert that such behaviour is, in all instances, the expression of some one instinct or of the same co-operating instincts. Different motives or impulsions may prompt and sustain outwardly similar behaviours.

Let us examine the matter more concretely by going back to the question of a maternal instinct in the human species. This is of very special interest ; because the maternal instinct of the human species is not only denied by Sir Arthur Thomson (and on similar grounds doubted, I suppose, by a multitude of laymen), but is ignored and (by implication) denied by the psycho-analysts who for a third of a century have been trying to construct their psychology on the hormic basis, that is to say, on the postulate of human instincts as the dynamic basis of all human activity. It is denied also by many "behaviorists"; not merely by the more obtuse of them who deny even the sex instinct of our species, but also by the more intelligent, like Dr. J. B. Watson ; he, the Arch-behaviourist, mocks at the notion of a maternal instinct in the human species, and refutes it by pointing out that many human mothers require to learn how to bathe their babies (and, I add, do not even know without instruction what is the best kind of soap to use for this purpose). Could any demonstration be more complete or more silly !

I, on the other hand, against all this formidable opposition, continue to maintain the view of the maternal instinct put forward in the first edition of this book, at a time when, as I supposed, there stood in its way nothing more serious than the pompous, confused, and didactic pronouncements of Alexander Bain ; that is to say, I ascribe to it a role in human life of the utmost importance. Let me try once more to make clear my view of the role of this one instinct, as illustrative of the role of human instincts in general. I do not mean that every mother

( 501) executes upon or about her child some stereotyped series of movements, precisely alike on all occasions and in all human mothers ; nor do I mean that the normal mother, when she cherishes her child in normal fashion, acts without the least comprehension of what she is doing, without consciously aiming at relieving the needs or the distress of the child or at contributing to its well-being.

I do mean that the vast majority of women are naturally moved to respond to any young child's cry of distress with some effort to relieve that distress ; and that such active response is accompanied by the experience of what can most properly be called tender emotion, a quality of experience that cannot be adequately described in words that would make clear the nature of that quality to any one who has never been the subject of it ; yet an experience, the outward signs of which are familiar enough to every observant person and which have been depicted in words, in stone, and in paint by ten thousand artists of all ages.

Further, I mean that the vast majority of women, in thus responding, attain a satisfaction that rises to the level of delight in so far as their efforts are successful ; and that they experience distress, or anxiety or some unpleasant feeling, in so far as their efforts are unsuccessful. I mean also that the tendency to such activity and such experience is rooted in a disposition (at once conative and affective) which is a part or feature of the native constitution, which matures as naturally and spontaneously as, say, the liver or the spleen or any other organ of the organism ; though its full development may be promoted, and perhaps hastened, by appropriate exercise evoked by appropriate objects and situations ; as by a little girl's play with her doll. I mean that, if this particular psycho-physical disposition were completely absent from the constitution of any woman, that woman would never be moved in this fashion by the child's cry of distress ; she would never experience the impulse to aid and relieve such distress, nor the tender emotion that normally accompanies it ; and no other object or situation could evoke in her this impulse or this emotion at any time in her life.

( 502) I do not mean that such a woman could never execute actions consciously directed to relieve the distress of a child. She might, under the influence of quite other motives (perhaps the desire to earn praise or her daily bread) achieve a fairly good imitation of maternal behaviour. She might even become a professional children's nurse, though that would be very improbable ; and if she did adopt that calling, she would in all probability never achieve any high degree of success and never find much satisfaction in it. Further, if by some strange sport of nature, this particular native disposition were suddenly omitted from the constitution of all members of some branch of the human race, one which had entered upon our contraceptive stage of civilisation, then, even though the sexual instinct remained unaffected, that branch of the race would very quickly become extinct ; and the decline in numbers would be far more rapid than it is among our actual contraceptive communities, which, if they shall continue to propagate themselves and to survive, will owe that survival, neither to reason nor to the sexual instinct, but predominantly to the maternal instinct, the main ground of the delight which women find in their children and of their desire for the possession of children of their own.

Now let us return to the constitution of the instinctive disposition. In the light of the foregoing discussion it seems clear that we should regard the second or central part of it as both affective and conative in function, as responsible both for the emotional or feeling quality of the instinctive response (with the corresponding system of visceral and other innervations which determine what we call the expressions of the emotion) and for the conative experience, with the setting of the goal, with the continued direction of the striving towards that goal, no matter what forms of bodily movement may be used in the course of such striving

It is this central part of the instinct, both affective and conative in function, which we need to distinguish and define as clearly as possible ; and since we can properly and very advantageously regard it as a functional

( 503) unit of structure, we need for it some special designation. I have, therefore, proposed to speak of this central part of the innate disposition which is an instinct as a propensity, making use of a good English word used by many of the older authors in almost this sense.

Under this terminology we recognise in any instinct of the typical and fully developed kind, a central core, the propensity (more technically to be called the conative-affective disposition or, more shortly, the affective disposition, or affective core of the instinct), as well as, on the motor side, some motor mechanism (or complex system of motor mechanisms in the highly complex chain-instincts, such as that of the famous Yucca moth [4] ) through which the conative tendency most readily expresses itself ; and, on the afferent or receptive side, someone or more cognitive dispositions by means of which the animal is able to perceive the objects that evoke and guide its instinctive striving. The cognitive disposition like the motor mechanism, is in some cases very simple, and in others very complex and multiple. And it is of the first importance, for the understanding of the formation of the sentiments and of all the organisation of our affective life, that the propensity (the central affective-conative core of each instinct) seems capable of functioning in relative independence of both the cognitive and the motor parts of the total instinctive disposition ; readily acquiring functional relations with other cognitive dispositions and with other motor mechanisms than those with which it is innately and directly linked in the racial constitution.

And this central core or propensity, having once attained its full development by a process of spontaneous maturation, seems to maintain its native properties and functions relatively unchanged throughout the life of the creature ; while the cognitive disposition may undergo very great elaboration and differentiation ; and the motor mechanisms may (in man to an unlimited extent, but in

( 504) the animals to a very small extent only) undergo that kind of development which we call the acquisition of skills.

The Objection that Emotion results only from Arrest of Tendency

The view here elaborated and rendered more definite, namely, that both the affective and the conative functions of an instinct are functions of one central disposition which functions as one whole (even though we may and do legitimately distinguish in abstraction between the affective and the conative aspects of that functioning) has been widely criticised and opposed by some of the authorities who agree in other respects with the general theory of instinct and its rôle in human life set forth in this book (who, in short, accept the hormic principle of human activity). The ground and the principal ground of such opposition is that the objectors seem to find reason for asserting that the emotions proper (or the primary emotions, regarded as peculiar qualities of experience) are not evoked on every occasion on which the instincts come into operation ; that, rather, the typical instinctive activity, so long as it runs its course smoothly and attains its goal without difficulty or serious obstruction, is not accompanied by emotion ; and that emotion is evoked when, and only when, activity is in some degree obstructed. To the best of my knowledge the first author to put forward this general proposition was F. Paulhan in his The Laws of Feeling.[5]


Paulhan asserts that : " In hunger, in thirst, in all organic needs which are manifested to consciousness by affective phenomena, we find arrested tendencies." And : " If we ascend in the hierarchy of human needs and deal with desires of a higher order, we still find that they only give rise to affective phenomena when the tendency awakened undergoes inhibition." It seems that, in his view,. his law applies equally to all forms of pleasant and unpleasant feeling : " The phenomenon of arrest is especially well illustrated by painful emotions, but we have reason to believe that agreeable impressions are also due to the arrest of motor impulses."

Nowhere does Paulhan adduce a convincing concrete instance to illustrate his general law. He seems to have arrived at this most general law of feeling, not by empirical generalisation, but rather by deduction from a vague highly general speculation to the effect that conscious activity is always in some sense the making of an adjustment and, thus, the overcoming of some lack of adjustment, some difficulty in the way of action ; that, in short, if any organism were so perfectly adapted to its environment that its every physiological need were satisfied by perfectly automatic reflex actions carried out by reflex mechanisms innately given in its nervous constitution, such an organism would never execute any conscious activities, would never become conscious.

Now this speculative assumption has considerable plausibility.[6] But, if Paulhan's general law of emotion means nothing more than the application of this speculative proposition concerning all consciousness to the special

( 506) case of emotion, it has no significance as an objection to my theory that the primary emotional qualities are aspects of instinctive activities.

Other authors who make similar objection to my view of the relation of emotion to instinct and who claim to found it empirically would seem to mean that activities sustained by innate or instinctive impulses involve cognitive consciousness, but no affective consciousness whatsoever, unless obstructed ; that, if not obstructed, mental activity is purely intellectual. Others again seem to mean that activity, though it may be pleasantly or unpleasantly toned, is not accompanied by the specific qualities of emotion such as fear or disgust, unless obstructed or inhibited in some degree.

The answer to the objection in both these forms is, I think, that our introspective powers are very inadequate to the task of analysing all our experiences, and especially they are inadequate to the task of introspectively recognising the subtler and feebler shades of affective consciousness. Further, that a general proposition of this kind, asserting a general correlation (in this case, the correlation between emotional experience and instinctive activity) cannot be refuted by pointing to instances in which it is difficult to establish the coincidence of both factors alleged to be correlated, instances that remain disputable for lack of clear evidence of their nature. While, on the other hand, the contrary generalisation (to the effect that no emotional quality accompanies instinctive activity unless the activity be obstructed) is refuted, if we can point to a single indisputable instance in which the emotional quality accompanies the unobstructed activity. And I submit and assert that in my own experience and (according to the statements of many men) in the experience of others also, such in-stances abound. The quality of affective experience we call " fear " seems to afford the clearest possible evidence of this kind. I allege that on many occasions I have experienced instantaneous and unmistakable fear on starting back, recoiling in perfectly unimpeded fashion, from some sudden alarming impression, in many in-

( 507) -stances an impression of a very trivial kind. Further, many soldiers have related to me how, at the explosion of a shell, or the fall beside them of a shell which failed to explode, they have instantaneously fled away from the spot under an .uncontrollable impulse, experiencing as they fled the horrible soul-shaking emotion we call fear.

To cite in support of the opposite view and in refutation of mine (as Rivers did and as Professor Koffka has again recently done) the unquestionable fact that some men have extricated themselves from dangerous situations, coolly and calmly, without experiencing fear, is entirely illogical and ineffective. There are many possible motives, besides fear, for the avoidance of injury or annihilation.

In parallel fashion, there are other motives than the impulse of disgust for refusing to swallow poisonous substances ; but that fact does not prove that the impulse of disgust to spew out an evil-tasting substance can be evoked and can operate without any tinge of the emotional quality of disgust. Similarly, there are many motives that may prompt a man to careful inspection of an unfamiliar object ; but that fact does not prove that the impulse of curiosity can work without any faintest tinge of the emotional quality proper and peculiar to it. Again, one may administer physical punishment in cold blood, from a " stern sense of duty," or with reluctance and shrinking from the act ; or may overcome stupid opposition with tolerant good humour or cool ridicule : but such instances do not prove that the aggressive destructive anger-impulse can work without any faintest accompaniment of angry feeling. Unless psychologists are prepared to observe the more elementary laws of logic, I cannot see that these difficult questions can be profitably discussed.

My difficulty in rebutting this doctrine of " arrest of tendency," as the one essential condition of all emotion, is that, although so many authors have maintained it, and have put it forward as a reason for refuting my view, no one of them has offered any substantial argu-

(508) -ment in its support ; and to attack it is, therefore, like trying to cut a smoke wreathe with a sword.

Acquired Tastes and Distastes

The word " taste " is used in common speech in several senses : we speak of the sense of taste ; of a man as showing " good taste " ; of another as having " ex-pensive tastes," or " simple tastes." It is in this last sense that the word is used in this paragraph I propose to discuss very briefly the nature and acquisition and rôle of the tastes for this and that and the other form of activity which every man normally acquires.

The most familiar, simple, and transparent instances of tastes are the tastes for various games and sports or other forms of active recreation, such as horseback-riding or sailing. There are few men who have no tastes in this sense of the word ; and some tastes, such as a taste for gardening or farming, become very complex and intimately bound up with sentiments of various kinds ; as, for example, a taste for gardening with a sentiment for a particular garden, one's own home and garden. What is commonly called a " hobby " is perhaps in all cases a taste for some particular form of activity working in the service of some sentiment. But, in principle, a taste is something distinct from a sentiment. In the great majority of people, tastes play a rôle, though a subordinate rôle, in determining the modes of activity which they display ; and it may seem, at first sight, that tastes are in themselves sources of motives that prompt and sustain activities.

Consider such a taste as that for figure-skating A youth begins to skate, moved, perhaps, by the desire to emulate his companions He rapidly acquires skill in this art, practises it with increasing zest, and presently finds that he has a strong taste for it ; the taste is a new factor acquired in the course of acquiring skill, enduring, perhaps, for many years, and manifesting its existence by prompting him to prefer to spend his leisure in the exercise of this taste whenever opportunity offers.

( 509)

Considering such a simple instance, one might incline to say that a taste is a skill, and the acquisition of a skill is ipso facto the acquisition of a taste.

But a taste is more than an acquired skill ; as we see at once if we consider the not infrequent cases in which some form of skill is acquired under compulsion. In such cases the subject may, and in some cases does, acquire a taste for the exercise of that form of skill ; but in other cases, the subject, in spite of acquiring under compulsion a certain degree, even a very consider-able degree, of skill, acquires at the same time a very strong distaste for the exercise of it. Thousands of children have been compelled by parental pressure to acquire some skill in piano-playing, and at the same time have acquired a distaste, rather than a taste, for such activity. More common are the cases in which a skill is voluntarily acquired for some definite purpose, such as wage-earning ; and the subject remains without either positive taste or distaste for the exercise of that skill.

Distastes, then, are positive acquisitions, no less than tastes ; and both are enduring acquisitions over and above the skill which they may qualify. Consideration of the conditions of acquisition of taste and of distaste for any mode of activity reveals the essential conditions of both processes of acquisition.

Putting aside complicating factors which may favour or make against the acquirement of tastes and distastes (such as compulsion, external rewards and punishments, prizes, glory, reputation, disgrace, social success or failure), I submit that the conditions of formation of a taste or a distaste for any particular mode of activity, bodily or purely mental (such as mathematical activity), may be defined very simply. For any repeated activity in which we are consistently successful we acquire a taste ; and for any repeated activity in which we are more often unsuccessful than successful we acquire a distaste. And in both cases the effect seems to follow from the hedonic law, the law, namely, that success in any activity renders it pleasant, and the pleasure accruing

( 510) from the activity sustains and re-enforces that activity and accentuates the tendency to repeat it ; while failure or lack of success in any activity is unpleasant, and the displeasure accruing from the activity tends to discourage it, weaken it, and divert us from it, and to leave us disinclined to repeat it.

An additional factor, closely allied but distinguish-able, is that successful repetition commonly brings in-creasing facility or skill ; and the consciousness of this increasing facility or mastery is in itself pleasant, an additional source of pleasure which is founded in the sentiment of self-regard ; while failure to improve, or relative failure as compared with the improvement shown by other persons, is an additional ground of displeasure which assists the formation of a distaste.

There remains the question whether a taste, once acquired and strongly established, can properly be regarded as an independent source of motivation, as a disposition that may engender desire for the exercise of the taste. This is a very difficult and subtle question. I am inclined to answer it in the negative ; although at first sight it may seem obvious that a man does indulge a taste simply for its own sake, or for the sake of the pleasure he expects from such indulgence. Such cases seem to be the last stronghold of psychological hedonism.

Something must, I think, be conceded to the hedonic principle, namely, that tastes and distastes, once acquired, play a considerable rôle in determining our choice of the means, the modes of activity, through which we work towards our goals. But that the most pronounced taste ever engenders an independent motive, a desire for a goal, seems to me open to question ; and indeed I would provisionally reject that view and would say that tastes work always and only in the service of motives (desires) springing either from our sentiments or, in some cases, perhaps, directly from our propensities.

I found this verdict chiefly on consideration of cases which seem at first sight most favourable to the opposite view—the cases of pronounced tastes for games, sports, or other forms of recreation. The motives which prompt

( 551) us to take up such activities are many : obviously, it is not the taste itself that supplies the motive ; for the taste is acquired in the course of practising the particular activity. And the decisive fact seems to be that, when the original motive (such as the desire to make friends or acquaintances, or to establish oneself in a social set, or to benefit one's health, or to distinguish oneself, or to avoid boredom) falls away, the taste that has been acquired may lie latent indefinitely and, perhaps, fade gradually away. We see a similar state of affairs in the case of tastes acquired in the service of more serious motives, such as the tastes acquired in the course of exercising professional skill. The surgeon or the dentist or the professional player of games may acquire a positive taste for the exercise of this or that form of skill ; and yet, if and when he no longer is moved by the desire to earn his living, having perhaps inherited a fortune, he may be well content to take up some other mode of life and to cease to indulge that particular taste.

Finally, let us note that when strong tastes are developed in the service of a strong sentiment, the system of the sentiment becomes consolidated and of correspondingly increased power, efficiency, and stability. The mother who has a strong love for her children, but is inefficient and unsuccessful in her efforts to control and educate them, and generally to promote their welfare, will be apt to find all such activities a burden and even to acquire positive distaste for them It is such persons that bring sentiments into disrepute ; so that we speak of them disparagingly as mere creatures of sentiment. Whereas the mother who acquires tastes for these forms of activity will find her happiness in the exercise of them ; for they enable and promote the effective operation of the motives springing from her maternal sentiment. Similarly, the patriot who has found no ways in which he can serve his country and has acquired no tastes for such activities. remains a somewhat pathetic figure, even if not justly an object of derision. But, in the patriot who has found ways of effectively serving his country and has acquired strong tastes for such activities, the patriotic

(512) sentiment, incorporating such tastes, may well become the dominant factor of a life of public-spirited endeavour.

Our likings and dislikings are, then, founded both in our sentiments and in our tastes. Our sentiments deter-mine our likes and dislikes for objects, for persons, places, and things (including such abstract things as justice, generosity, cruelty, and dishonesty) ; our tastes and distastes determine our likes and dislikes for various modes of activity. Our sentiments determine our goals and purposes, and sustain our efforts in pursuit of such goals ;our tastes and distastes largely determine our choice of means, of the particular modes of activity to be used in the service of such efforts


  1. Professor Bergson's famous separation of instinct from intelligence is based upon the neglect of the adaptability of instinctive action, as presented in its minimum degree in these most purely instinctive actions.
  2. I refer the reader to the account of the experiments of my son, Kenneth, with the clay-building wasps (reported in my Energies of Men) and to G. W. R. Hingston's Problems of Instinct and Intelligence, for numerous illustrations of my point. Also cp. P. 413 et seg. of this volume.
  3. The acceptance of such stereotyped activity as the essential mark of instinct, which naturally resulted from such one-sided observation by the impartial layman, was further spread and confirmed by two groups of less naïve observers and writers, as I have pointed out elsewhere. First, there were those who, like the great French observer of insect-life, Henri Fabre, accepted the theological interpretation of instinct, seeing the finger of God at work directly guiding the animal in all its instinctive activities, and who, in the interests of enforcing this view, or under this bias, selected their cases and coloured their descriptions in such a way as to emphasise the stereotypic quality and to hide from sight the variable adaptive quality of instinctive actions. Secondly, the mechanists among the scientists, observing and describing under the influence of the opposite bias, the desire to exhibit all instinctive action as reflex and mechanical, emphasised and selected the same features and ignored the same features as their opponents, the theologians : a most unfortunate instance of two opposite false theories converging to determine the same errors of observation and description.
  4. Cp. the account of the very elaborate chain of processes by means of which this moth lays its eggs and provides for the nutrition of its grubs, in my Outline of Psychology.
  5. The first edition was published in 1884. Paulhan makes no reference to any earlier statement of the proposition and I can think of none. Using feeling and emotion as nearly synonymous terms, Paulhan's first chapter is devoted to stating " The General Law of the Production of Feeling." And the law proposed is that feeling is in every instance the consequence of the arrest or inhibition of some tendency. The term " tendency " is used in an extremely vague and general and abstract sense. The only attempt to define the term tendency is not very illuminating ; it runs : " We designate as a tendency the first part of the elements of one of these systems, those which, considered in relation to time, appear before the last and which consist in general of a certain activity of the nervous elements." And the word " systems " is illuminated only by the statement that " in man we have a systematisation or a juxtaposition of various small systems more or less bound together." However vague his terms, Paulhan is plentifully dogmatic in the assertion of his most general law. " Whatever affective phenomenon we take, we can observe the same fact : the arrest of a tendency. From the most ordinary emotions to the highest and most complex feelings, we can always verify this law." What is meant by arrest of a tendency is illuminated only by the statements that " the production of the affect is brought about by the arrest of a tendency, by an impediment to the systematisation of certain psychical or physical elements,"and that " by an arrested tendency I understand a more or less complicated reflex action which cannot terminate as it would if the organisation of the phenomena were complete, if there were full harmony between the organism or its parts and their conditions of existence."
  6. I have propounded it myself in my first published article. Mind, 1897.

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