Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

From Wikipedia:

Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior.

The example that I find is the easiest to touch upon is the spider and how it knows how to spin it's web. What are the current theories about the origin of this knowledge without learning in the traditional sense? I understand that all knowledge is encoded somehow within neurons in the brain, but where does this encoding come from?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In my mind there are two main explanations of this kind of instinct behaviours.

  • The first one is rooted in evolution. There are many examples of human innate behaviours which we can't explain e.g. when we see a lace or tape on the street we automatically jump and feel scared. Although we live in big city our brain associates the lace with a snake. It is an effect of our "prememories", memories of our ancestors.

-> Buss D., Evolutionary Psychology: the New science of the Mind (1999)

  • The second explanation is more connected with your question as it refers to animals' innate instincts such as birds' travels (how do they know where to fly?) etc. There were conducted some interesting experiments on fenomenon called epigenetic inheritance. An example is teaching animals some reactions after specific stimulus (e.g.fear after specific smell etc.). Then we observe behaviours of these teached animals young. Offspring of teached animals show the same reaction , although nobody teached them to do that. There is an abstract of such experiment with mice:

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n1/full/nn.3594.html

And there you can read more about it in another article:

http://www.nature.com/news/fearful-memories-haunt-mouse-descendants-1.14272#/b1

-> Griffiths, Gelbart, Miller. Modern Genetic Analysis.(1999)

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the tip. Once I've read and critically examined those articles, I'll mark your answer as correct. If you would like to help me, I'll be looking for the link of how the epiginetic memory is expressed in the neurons. Namely, do we have a mapping from genes into neurons or is it more complicated? –  Seanny123 May 11 at 21:03
1  
@Seanny123 , I suggest you to write another question on CS on this topic. I'm not sure if I understand you well - what do you mean by "how the epigenetic memory is expressed in the neurons"? Do you mean how looks the way from gens into neurons and later into behaviour? ps. In the first link which I gave you in the answer is only abstract of article by experiment's authors. The second link leads to another article which refers to this experiment with mice but it is not written by exp's authors. –  Zuzanna Kowalska May 11 at 21:50
3  
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.