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By William McDougall

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How are we to interpret this change of instinctive behaviour brought about by experience? Shall we say that the birds observe on one occasion, or on several or many occasions, that on the approach of a man one of their number falls to the ground, uttering cries of pain; that they infer that the man has wounded it, and that he may wound and hurt them, and that he is therefore to be avoided in the future? No psychologist would now accept this anthropomorphic interpretation of the facts. If the behaviour we are considering were that of savage men, or even of a community of philosophers and logicians, such an account would err in ascribing the change of behaviour to a purely intellectual process.

We may suppose that, after repetition of the experience, the sight of a man directly excites the instinctive process in its affective and conative aspects only; or we may say, in physiological terms, that the visual disposition concerned in the elaboration of the retinal impression of the human form becomes directly connected or associated with the central and efferent parts of the instinctive disposition, which thus acquires, through the repetition of this experience, a new afferent inlet through which it may henceforth be excited independently of its innate afferent inlet.

These complications of instinctive processes are of four principal kinds, which we may distinguish as follows:— (1) The instinctive reactions become capable of being initiated, not only by the perception of objects of the kind which directly excite the innate disposition, the natural or native excitants of the instinct, but also by ideas of such objects, and by perceptions and by ideas of objects of 34/William McDougall other kinds: (2) the bodily movements in which the instinct finds expression may be modified and complicated to an indefinitely great degree: (3) owing to the complexity of the ideas which can bring the human instincts into play, it frequently happens that several instincts are simultaneously excited; when the several processes blend with various degrees of intimacy: (4) the instinctive tendencies become more or less systematically organised about certain objects or ideas.

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An introduction to social psychology, 14th edition by William McDougall

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