• Question: are humans born with instinct?

    Asked by hollynsarah to Gioia, Iain, Jo, Leo, Mariam on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by fayeandcoral.
    • Photo: Mariam Orme

      Mariam Orme answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Yes, they are. Babies have some funny instincts. For example, if they’re falling they will stick out their arms and legs as if they’re trying to fly (I’m not sure that it does them any good!), and if you hold a newborn baby under its arms and touch its legs to a surface, it will lift it’s legs in a walking motion (even though it won’t be able to walk for many months). Another is called the Tonic Neck Reflex: if you turn a baby’s head to one side while it’s lying on its back, it should straighten the arm and leg on the side that he is looking toward, and flex the other arm and leg. Again, I’m not sure what good this does the baby!

      By the way, I don’t recommend trying these things out on babies, their parents won’t be very happy with you!

    • Photo: Joanna Watson

      Joanna Watson answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Hey hollynsarah.
      Yes, humans are born with instincts. That’s how babies know when they’re hungry or how to cry (and loads of other things too).

    • Photo: Leo Garcia

      Leo Garcia answered on 20 Jun 2010:

      Yes – for instance, the ability to recognise human faces, and to put things into their mouths, and the reflex to curl their toes. However, it is a topic which scientists don’t fully understand, primarily because telling the difference between things which are born into human behaviour and those things which develop because of how we are raised, and our environment, is hard to tell apart.

      There are plenty of universities which research this fascinating topic:


      And I also recommend the book “The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker, to read up on what scientists think is ‘built in’ to humans, and what we do and don’t have control over.

    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      Yes, humans are born with instincts. For instance, the instict to suckle.