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  • Instinct

    I'm to speak in the coming months, Hamilton first, on the use of instinctive corrective ability and its expression. Such a thing requires a context, and the therapist has a lot to say and do about what that might be.

    But I've recently been asked what the difference is between instinct, habit and reflex. I've written about this and can draw upon it, but would love a discussion just now.
    Barrett L. Dorko

  • #2
    Someone said to me, "You're confusing instinct with habit."

    I had no way of continuing that conversation.

    Do you?
    Barrett L. Dorko


    • #3
      Let’s start with this from Claxton’s text: “The more self-conscious we are – the more fragile our identity – the more we shut down the undermind. As people feel increasingly vulnerable, so their access to, and reliance on, information that is faint or fleeting declines. They become not just physically but also mentally clumsy, losing access to the subtler ways of knowing. Conversely, the less self-conscious we are, the more ‘at home in our skins and minds’, the more it seems we are able to open ourselves to the undermind and to the mental modes through which it speaks.”

      I don’t know about you, but I think this is pretty good, and, of course, Claxton backs up what he says with excellent research. He uses the word “undermind” to refer to numerous unconscious processes of perceiving, learning, driving behavior and surviving.

      From post #1 of this thread
      Claxton understands that our instinct; that part of us that is not self-conscious, is more likely to make us less fragile.
      Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 15-04-2014, 03:17 AM.
      Barrett L. Dorko


      • #4
        [Warning, this is not any kind of official definition, just my personal thoughts.]

        All three involve movements, and fairly automatic. However they are clearly distinct from each other. A REFLEXIVE movement is a response to a stimulus, even if it is one of the more complex reflexes. A HABIT is something learned (that started out as a voluntary movement and became more automatic with practice). An INSTINCTIVE movement is not learned but emerges from the system given the right context.

        One of the characteristics of correction Barrett mentions related to instinctive movement is "surprise". Habit does not give you a surprise!


        • #5
          Habit will also be "familiar". The quality of ideomotion may be familiar, but the form (direction, amplitude, angles, body parts involved) will always be unique - every day, every time.
          We don't see things as they are, we see things as WE are - Anais Nin

          I suppose it's easier to believe something than it is to understand it.
          Cmdr. Chris Hadfield on rise of poor / pseudo science

          Pain is a conscious correlate of the implicit perception of threat to body tissue - Lorimer Moseley

          We don't need a body to feel a body. Ronald Melzack


          • #6
            This is fantastic- just ordered the Claxton book. This (and referred thread) are imbuing clarity where it was desperately needed.

            Would you say there's an aspect of curiosity and awe in ideomotion that's lacking in 'habitual' movement? The same kind of curiosity and awe that's accompanying a phenomenological exploration of the present within the body and movement-- leading to a new way to see something that was previously familiar (A sharp experiential contrast to something more or less executed in automaticity?)
            Last edited by BMilus; 15-04-2014, 05:42 AM.


            • #7
              Reflex = a hard wired response to a specific stimulus i.e tendon tap, visual occular reflex

              Instinct = a domain of behaviors that are related to some specific innate goal i.e. food, hunger, sex, social communication and social expression of pain

              Habit = a process of environmental conditioning that regulates the contextual cues that express the instinct i.e. the learned modulation of instincts. Habit also implies the automation between a stimuli that releases a behavior and the effector system (neuromusuclar if we are talking about movement) that carries out the behavior.

              Body is imbued with mind, and mind is embodied.


              • #8
                I am so glad to see the array of definitions, none of them dismissing the others, that have accompanied my question. It demonstrates the confusion I've felt when using the words.

                As usual, my memory turns to the screen:

                In Night and Day, Tom Cruise keeps blocking Cameron Dias' punches to his face, even though he'd like her to hit him. "I'm sorry," he says. "It's instinct."

                Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones says to his brother while describing the use of his left hand in relation to a sword: "I can hold it, but my instincts are all wrong." He is told to train, and he does. I think that this will probably work for him.

                In any case, the culture doesn't seem to mind much when it comes to calling something learned an instinct.

                ...heuristics help us survive, they mislead us, we use them to form opinions that are both accurate and wildly untrue and while their tendency to be formed is innate, the ways in which they drive our behavior is powerful and changeable. It is instinctive to have them, but how we use them is another matter.

                From Post #1 of this thread
                Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 15-04-2014, 04:12 PM.
                Barrett L. Dorko


                • #9
                  How about this:

                  We are instinctively driven to form habits that appear reflexive.

                  Simple? Simplistic?
                  Barrett L. Dorko


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Barrett Dorko View Post
                    instinctive corrective ability and its expression.
                    The UK judo physios were not supposed to reduce dislocations in the event of the doctor being otherwise engaged. He taught us to reassure the patient and support whatever was dislocated as comfortably as possible. On several occasions the patient reduced his dislocation in the few moments it took the doc to arrive and all he had to do was send them for a check X-ray.
                    Jo Bowyer
                    Chartered Physiotherapist Registered Osteopath.
                    "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,there is a field. I'll meet you there." Rumi


                    • #11

                      This is the sort of thing that might teach us something about the brain's innate ability to correct mechanical deformation beyond our tolerance.

                      It seems that we know quite a lot about healing, and until one (the former) is understood as a sensory event and the other as a stimulus event, and NOT considered the same, confusion will reign.

                      We have an instinct to correct (ideomotion) and we have an instinct to heal (homeostasis).

                      The culture is far more powerful than either.
                      Barrett L. Dorko


                      • #12
                        The day after our father had died, a fact of which she was acutely aware, my twin sister Leah called his phone # as she had for many weeks beforehand.
                        Barrett L. Dorko


                        • #13
                          Another scene from a movie:

                          Oliver Sacks (played by Robin Williams) in Awakenings, demonstrates to another physician how a post-encephalitic Parkinsonian patient is actually able to catch a thrown tennis ball.

                          The other physician is dismissive. "Reflex," he says.
                          Barrett L. Dorko


                          • #14
                            Instincts do indeed appear to be innate by that definition.

                            They seem to be able to be honed, like you with simple contact, a boxer, and ball players, to name a few.
                            Nicholas Marki, P.T.


                            • #15
                              Isn't an instinct by definition NOT a learned behavior?

                              In humans, can we really differentiate by observation instinctual vs. learned behavior?
                              -Evan. The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the views or policies of my employer or APTA.
                              The reason why an intellectual community is necessary is that it offers the only hope of grasping the whole. -Robert Maynard Hutchins.