Instinctive Drift!

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Instinctive drift is the tendency to return to an evolutionary selected behavior following repeated reinforcement. This can be seen in many mammals form pigeons to chickens to raccoon, pigs and many other animals that can be trained with operant conditioning. The example the book gave was of a cute little story where animal trainers Marian and Keller Breland taught animals such as a raccoon to do tricks like dropping coins into a piggy bank. What they soon found was even after conditioning the raccoon would start to rub the coins together and dip them into the piggy bank but not drop them. He had reverted back to his instinct of washing seeds in a stream to clean before eating. Another example is a pig that was taught to bring wooden disks into a piggybank that after being conditioned would spontaneously drop the disks and push them with its nose in a rooting fashion. These odd occurrences were explained by instinctive drift. The raccoon reverted back to washing the "seeds" (coins) and the pig went back to rooting (dropping and nosing the disks). This shows that our instincts can be very strong and in situations similar to our instincts we can in a way "unlearn" what has been taught to us. Not necessarily unlearn but have our instincts take over us. Instinctive drift maybe some of the reasons why some people cheat. The institution of marriage or a relationship is a learnt process where our instinct is to compete and mate with the best to procreate and therefore pass our genes down as much as possible. Murder may fall into this case as many animals fight and kill each other over territory and mates. The real question is can we blame what is in our nature?raccoon_in_stream.20112019_std.jpg

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This makes idea makes a lot of sense, and with the questions you posed really brings forth the question of whether or not monogamy is part of our nature.

I'm wondering if this relates to why dogs bury things? Maybe that's a silly question...

That's not a silly question at all! According to this article it's because they are instinctively storing their food from scavengers just like wolves do. So maybe its not the best trick to teach your dog how to move a bone unless you want him to bury it.
http://www.wolfcenter.org/cache-behavior.html

I think this is a very interesting topic. There has been a lot of support for the view that humans or animals can be conditioned or trained to do almost anything, and I think instinctive drift serves as a nice contrast to this stance. I personally think that most evolutionary behaviors exist for reasons and probably shouldn't be tampered with. I also think that there needs to be a balance between what's in our nature and what may actually be the right thing or better thing to do.

It's definitely an interesting concept. I find that instinctive drift is one of the key elements to survival because things that have evolved not just over one's lifetime, but over multiple lifetimes imbedded within the genes we carry within ourselves. So I suppose it's like operant conditioning that gets passed down over generations that those species have learned to rely on to survive and this is deeply rooted in the back of our brains so that it's difficult or impossible to untrain.

I like the question you pose at the end of your blog. Humans have the survival of the fittest mentality in our DNA, so maybe people who are in gangs just don't have the ability to block the aggressive nature that humans had to do to survive for millions of years. Obviously we are more evolved that we should be able to mend off these behaviors but it is an interesting question

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This page contains a single entry by seube020 published on February 25, 2012 4:12 PM.

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