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Thread: What is thought vs instinct?

  1. #1 What is thought vs instinct? 
    Forum Isotope (In)Sanity's Avatar
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    We often hear that animals act on instinct and that man is the only one that can think. I really have to challenge this idea.

    I think man acts on instinct many times a day, the instinct to eat, use the bathroom, avoid danger.

    I also think my dog thinks about some things, she will sulk after being yelled at. She will snatch something and chew it up if she's mad. She will not eat just any food if she feels there is a chance we'll give her something better. Sometimes at night she'll dart her head in and out of her dogie door waiting to see if I'll run her around the yard with the laser pointer. She'll also demand attention if she sees anyone else getting attention besides her. So many of these things and more have nothing to do with survival, I really question if instinct is the only driving force. If anything I would say the intelligence is just so low she is not capable of complex idea or tasks. I do however think they sometimes understand some of what we ask or tell them.

    It was funny the other day the dog brought something inside and into the living room, I was in the kitchen getting some lunch and had no clue what it was. I looked at her and asked her to go show me what you brought in, and she did exactly that without hesitation. It's little things like these that make me wonder just how much some animals comprehend. I do think they are pretty stupid, but not all together unintelligent.

    My dog is a full bred golden retriever. Great dogs.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor Pendragon's Avatar
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    interesting subject. Maybe my biology book can help out :wink:

    You can look at instincts as the ability to perform an action by following a sequence of reflexes. A reflex is for example, if you put your hand in a fire you don't have to sit down and think about what to do next: without asking your brain, a signal is sent to your arm to pull the hand out of the fire. This reflex is something you don't have to learn, even if you've never been in this situation before your body will know how to react. Now if every stimulus from the environment triggers such a reflex, you could live entirely on instincts.

    Here's an example of what living entirely on instincts would look like: There's this kind of wasp that's performing the action of providing food to it's larve. You can brake down this action into a number of [reflexes], *each with a stimulus*:

    [get food]
    *wasp sees food lying in front of the hole*
    [dig up hole, puts food inside the hole]
    *wasp sees food lying inside the hole*
    [close hole].

    Now evil scientists disrupted this sequence. They allowed a wasp to put food inside the hole and then left more food in front of the hole. so you get:

    *wasp sees food lying in front of the hole*
    [dig up hole]
    *wasp sees there's food lying inside the hole*
    [close hole]
    *wasp sees there's still food lying in front of the hole*
    [dig up hole]
    *wasp sees there's food lying inside the hole*
    [close hole]
    etc.

    The wasp would go on for ever if they wouldnt remove the food.

    So that's instinct. Does a dog live like that? Your examples suggest that this is impossible. The situation of: *human talks to you while you have object in your mouth* [dog puts object on the ground] is way to complex to understand from a simple stimulus-response model. Besides, interaction between humans and dogs is a relatively recent phenomenon, so I don't think evolution could have coded the apropriate instincts into the dog's dna so fast.

    I think animals live on instinct as long as they are in a completely stable, well-known environment. Once a change in the environment occurs, intelligence and creativity are necessary to cope with it. For humans to experience instincts is rare, because we live in such complicated environments. Every day we get ourselves into situations we've never been in before, there's no way instinct could keep up with that. Still there are the occasional 'hand-in-fire' or 'fight-or-flight' situation, in which even humans use their instincts.

    Wow this post is waaay to long


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  4. #3 Re: What is thought vs instinct? 
    Forum Ph.D.
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    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity

    I think man acts on instinct many times a day, the instinct to eat, use the bathroom, avoid danger.

    of course we do

    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    I also think my dog thinks about some things,.
    of course they do
    Stumble on through life.
    Feel free to correct any false information, which unknown to me, may be included in my posts. (also - let this be a disclaimer)
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  5. #4 Re: What is thought vs instinct? 
    Forum Professor Pendragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodgod3rd
    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity

    I think man acts on instinct many times a day, the instinct to eat, use the bathroom, avoid danger.

    of course we do
    I don't think using the bathroom is done on instinct. As defined in the post above instincts are actions entirely made up of reflexes. Is turning on the light when entering the bathroom a reflex? A response on the stimulus 'darkness'? I can't imagine it is.

    An instinct is something you don't have to learn, our body can perform it even if we've never encountered it before. Turning on the light of a bathroom is something we have to learn as a child. Someone who's not used to electricity will not instinctly know that turning the switch will turn on the light.

    Quote Originally Posted by goodgod3rd
    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    I also think my dog thinks about some things,.
    of course they do
    [/quote]

    Again, I wouldn't say offcourse. The wasp in my example lives entirely on instincts, so it is possible. The only question is, where's the line between animals who can 'think' and animals who don't? I honestly have no idea. Does a bird think? A rat, a fish?
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  6. #5  
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    i don't remember learning how to piss
    as far as i know .. i pissed from a lil baby(a cute one i might add)! with out learning,

    humans have instintcs, and we also have thought!!!
    animls have instinct, but they also think, i think..don't i
    Stumble on through life.
    Feel free to correct any false information, which unknown to me, may be included in my posts. (also - let this be a disclaimer)
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  7. #6  
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    I believe there are different levels of thought, and possibly instinct. There is simple thought process, which is reaction to new, and unexpected stimuli, midlevel thought, which is ability to predict and prepare for new stimuli, and philosophic thought, which deals on broad matters such as the reason for free will, and all that jazz. humans have access to all 3 levels of thoughts, while dogs have access to the first, and possibly second. My golden retriever, Sophie, was not accustomed to young children, but she was able to adapt and love my little sister. She was not born knowing that good behavior (according to human standards) results in rewards, but she learned, which begets thought. Of course, she's never going to voice her opinion on how the universe was created, or the existence of god, but she will learn, and act with thought.

    I base this all on observations I've made with my own dog. Instinct makes us recoil from the new, thought tells us to learn about it.

    Lolbrain.
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  8. #7 Re: What is thought vs instinct? 
    Forum Junior DrmDoc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    We often hear that animals act on instinct and that man is the only one that can think. I really have to challenge this idea.

    I think man acts on instinct many times a day, the instinct to eat, use the bathroom, avoid danger.

    I also think my dog thinks about some things, she will sulk after being yelled at. She will snatch something and chew it up if she's mad. She will not eat just any food if she feels there is a chance we'll give her something better. Sometimes at night she'll dart her head in and out of her dogie door waiting to see if I'll run her around the yard with the laser pointer. She'll also demand attention if she sees anyone else getting attention besides her. So many of these things and more have nothing to do with survival, I really question if instinct is the only driving force. If anything I would say the intelligence is just so low she is not capable of complex idea or tasks. I do however think they sometimes understand some of what we ask or tell them.

    It was funny the other day the dog brought something inside and into the living room, I was in the kitchen getting some lunch and had no clue what it was. I looked at her and asked her to go show me what you brought in, and she did exactly that without hesitation. It's little things like these that make me wonder just how much some animals comprehend. I do think they are pretty stupid, but not all together unintelligent.

    My dog is a full bred golden retriever. Great dogs.
    The distinction between thought and instinct became clear to me while gathering research for a book about the dreaming brain. Thought is a product of a brain that produces a mind and mind is the environment of cognitive activity within the brain that arises from brain function. A brain that produces a mind is quantified by a capacity to integrate divergent sensory data through a process that produces behaviors independent of instinct. Succintly, a mind is suggested by proactive rather than reactive behaviors. Therefore, the distinction between thought and instinct is that thought is suggestive of proactive processes while instinct suggests reactive processes. Instinct is reflexive in the sense that when evoked our behavioral responses are almost instantaneous, whereas with thought our behavioral responses result after some measurable degree of mental attenuation to achieve an optimum outcome--an outcome based on calculation and forethought. In further example, we are struck by instinct when confronted with hunger. Our instinctive urge is to eat when hungry; however, with thought, we are able to forestall our instinctual urge with a measured assessment of when, where, and what would be most appropriate to satisfy that urge. With thought, we are guided by the consequences of our behaviors. Thought is the assessment of consequence before reaction, whereas, instinctive behaviors without thought are merely reactions without consideration of consequence.
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