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Is implicit memory an "instinct"?

  1. Jul 8, 2016 #1
    Does it make sense to say that implicit memory processes such as imprinting, priming, conditioned reflex, emotional conditioning and procedural skills are instincts? We do perform them instinctually.

    And I don't mean the behaviors that are a result of doing these processes. I mean the processes themselves. Can "priming" even be classified as a "behavior" or a "fixed action pattern"? After all, it is a specific behavior to adapt to the environment's stimuli, whatever it may be. And it is consistent. And inherited.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
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  3. Jul 8, 2016 #2

    atyy

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    Don't worry too much about terminology, which is not very fixed. Just make sure people know what you are talking about.
     
  4. Jul 8, 2016 #3
    Cool, thanks :)
     
  5. Jul 8, 2016 #4
    You mean that if a person falls down because of hitting an unseen rock or something with their foot, then there is an instinctive response to put their arms out - since a broken arm is better than broken neck?
     
  6. Jul 8, 2016 #5
    I meant more, if that happens and they happen to be descending down a specific steep and wet path, then instinctively, that person will retain that "image" or "feeling" of a steep and wet path, and if ever they find themselves in a similar situation, the arms will be more steadily ready to go out. Or might "fire" out without there even being a rock. The process of learning that experience, the process of creating that "conflation", in a way, that "behavior", can be classified as instinct, right?
     
  7. Jul 8, 2016 #6

    jim mcnamara

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    A definition of instinct:
    an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli. Example: bees building honeycomb
    Definition of reflex:
    an action that is performed as a response to a stimulus and without conscious thought. Example: Jerking your hand back from a hot surface.

    So you are asking: can a reflex morph into a fixed pattern based on experiences?
    I'm not sure that is a good question - you can see why. I hope. Maybe you want to stipulate what your definitions are.
     
  8. Jul 8, 2016 #7
    Not morph as much conflate. The reflex is still there.
    So this example would fall into the category of "conditioned reflex" (def. an automatic response established by training to an ordinarily neutral stimulus.)
    Basically, my question is whether we can say that that process of conflation is an "instinct"?
    I guess where the question falls apart is that there is no specific "behavior", rather than a process happening in the brain that is not really a "behavior", but the process does directly involve the reflexive behavior (the hand jerk). And then there is the emotion involved in it too, which creates the conditioning.
    So the behavior of the hand jerk, the emotion of pain, stimulus of seeing a hot surface all conflate together thanks to this innate pattern. If it wasn't for that "instinct", the conflation wouldn't happen.
    Perhaps it wold be more fair to ask if conflation is an instinct. It is clearly an innate process, but would it make sense to call it an instinct?
    Hope that's clearer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2016
  9. Jul 9, 2016 #8
    I don't have a source, but I took a sociology class in college. Humans have no instincts. Instincts are defined by at least 3 criteria:

    1. They are present in every member of the species
    2. They are not learned, but present from birth
    3. They are unalterable
     
  10. Jul 9, 2016 #9

    jim mcnamara

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    I was hoping you would find something similar to what @Kevin McHugh presented.

    This is why I wanted you to look at what your primary definitions or rules were. But again, this area is fuzzy IMO, largely because instinct often is interpreted to mean other things in common parlance. But. Science works better here. Thank you @Kevin McHugh.

    If you use google scholar for 'sociology: instinct definition' you get something like Kevin produced. 'psychology: instinct definition' is a little different.

    IMO, what you appear to be trying to define may be classical conditioning: For six weeks - if you ring a bell, then put out dog food, your pet will associate the sound of the bell with dinnertime. At the start of the seventh week, try no food, only ringing the bell. The dog comes a-running anyway. Pavlov's dogs - a famous study.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning

    Anecdotal 'homey' examples: We fed our cat small tins of cat tuna. The cat would never come when called. I think she actually hid somewhere instead. However, every time I used the can opener no matter what I opened, I was tripping over the cat a few seconds later. Even if there was a tin of food on the floor. You can guess how I called the cat when I really need to get her inside.

    I used the same technique to get my trailer-shy horses to accept the horse trailer: Put hay and feed on the trailer ramp. After a while I moved it further into the trailer. The horses absolutely fell in love with the trailer.
     
  11. Jul 9, 2016 #10
    Perhaps "instinct" is the wrong word to describe where I am going with this because it has so many different definitions.
    The word "innate" might work better?
    And yes, I am referring to classical conditioning and also any other inherited ability to create "implicit memory".

    Kevin's 3 points go along with what I've been attempting to describe, for example:
    1. They are present in every member of the species - every dog/cat/horse/human can be classically conditioned.
    2. They are not learned, but present from birth - dogs/cats/horses/humans don't need to learn to perform classical conditioning, it is innate in them.
    3. They are unalterable - you cannot turn the process of classical conditioning in dogs/cats/horses/humans into something else, for example, turn it off, it will work every time.
     
  12. Jul 9, 2016 #11

    Pythagorean

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    Hmmm... not sure if I agree with this. It's not surprising that sociology dogma would say humans have absolutely no instinct.

    What about all the reflexes children are born with that allow them to nurse from birth, and eventually walk?

    http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-reflexes-90-P02630
     
  13. Jul 9, 2016 #12

    jim mcnamara

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    A reflex is an instinct? Or are more complex motions instinctual?

    Anyway, your point returns to my fuzz comment. @Pythagorean can you define reflex versus instinct?
     
  14. Jul 9, 2016 #13

    Pythagorean

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    I was using the given definition in the post I replied to. Which is somewhat consistent with the definitions I think of:

    Instinct is any behavior that is not learned but is either present at birth or arises out of morphologcal development.

    Reflexes are a specific type of instinct pertaining to muscle behavior, while instinct can refer also refer to more general behavisors love hunting or pouncing or social cues and mechanisms.
     
  15. Jul 9, 2016 #14

    jim mcnamara

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    Okay. So if we apply your definition then are reflexes learnable? I would say no. You are simply grouping reflexes under an umbrella of 'instinct'.
    By defining them as a subgroup of instinct. And you imply that instincts I guess are supersets of reflexes or derivatives hardwiring in the brain. So neuroplasticity changes everything. Instincts are the result of pre-wiring that gets rewritten. Example: becoming fluent in a new language.

    I have always believed instinct had the potential to be an awful, poorly defined word. I see a lot of reinforcement for that notion in this thread. Had hopes we could get that word un-fuzzed.

    I pass. Someone else can work through this one.
     
  16. Jul 9, 2016 #15

    atyy

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    But why restrict your argument to implicit memory? It is true that explicit memory is difficult to define for animals, but in terms of the brain areas involved eg. hippocampal-dependent memory (in humans, the hippocampus is needed for some forms of explicit memory), then plasticity processes in the hippocampus seem just as mechanical as those in the amygdala or cerebellum.
     
  17. Jul 10, 2016 #16
    Totally @atyy! Implicit memory was just on my mind, but explicit memory would automatically get the same treatment!
     
  18. Jul 10, 2016 #17
    A spider is the perfect example of instinct. Every species of spider spins a unique web. Nobody had to teach the spider to spin the web, it knew from birth. It cannot spin any other web. These points illustrate instinct very well. All else is learned (condtiioned) behavior.
     
  19. Jul 10, 2016 #18
    Right, and similarly, no body has to teach an animal to perform a conditioned reflex, it is innately done. And just like every species of spider spins a unique web, every species of animal learns a unique variation of a conditioned reflex, or procedural skill, etc.
    This thread, I am realizing is becoming more about calling the process of learning an instinct. Both implicit and explicit.
    After all, even spiders seem to have this instinct:
    http://www.livescience.com/34775-spiders-learn-snag-prey.html
     
  20. Jul 10, 2016 #19

    atyy

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    Of course, if we go very strictly by Kevin McHugh's definition, then long-term explicit memory is not an instinct, since it isn't present from birth (at least not for me, I don't seem to have any memories from when I was 3 or 4 years old)
     
  21. Jul 11, 2016 #20

    OCR

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    Lol...
    Shes got you well trained, too... exactly like the three males we have...:oldwink:
    Yes, I agree... and, from an old thread, but worth a repeat.
     
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