General Question

dxs's avatar

Has intellect overcome instinct in humans?

Asked by dxs (14547points) August 9th, 2014

What are some examples of instincts that humans have? Have we been able to overcome some of them by intellect? I’ve heard that our evolution hasn’t kept up with our advances in technology—some say our bodies aren’t fit for modern society (ex: obesity). Others say that it’s instinctual for us to be attracted to the opposite sex so that we may multiply. My body tells me when I’m hungry and when I’m thirsty, etc., but did I always know that eating and drinking respectively would appease that feeling?
The reasons I do things seem to be justified by intellect, not instinct. So maybe I just don’t realize my instincts. Nothing I do seems to compare to how dogs know to pee on fire hydrants and jewel wasps know to use a cockroach to store larvae.
I’m not an expert in any of this, so please correct me if I’m way off.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

13 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Some of them, yes. Like, it’s an instinct to run when you think you’re in danger, but our intellect allows us to over come that if running would be even worse.

Darth_Algar's avatar

” I’ve heard that our evolution hasn’t kept up with our advances in technology—some say our bodies aren’t fit for modern society (ex: obesity).”

People who say this, frankly, probably don’t really have a good understanding of evolution. Evolution isn’t force that accommodates for choices made by people. What evolution is….. Say some new mutation arises in a segment of people. This mutation unfailingly renders those who carry it sterile. Those people will never produce offspring to carry on the mutation, thus it will die out. If the mutation cause a disease that will eventually kill the person but those people live long enough to have children then the mutation will carry on. That’s evolution. Doesn’t really have anything to do with obesity and there’s no reason for evolution to “keep up” with our technology because we have advanced technologically like we have because evolution has made us so adaptable.

Coloma's avatar

Welcome to the world of domestication. haha
Yep, we now have to really concentrate of what our instincts are telling us as we have been trained out of instinctual response in favor of civilized manners and egoic over ride.
I’m a terrible example of this, such a Pollyanna, my instinct might be to not open the door to a stranger and let them in, but being the good natured, trusting type I am, I probably would. Oops…too late, didn’t notice the axe and roll of duct tape. lol

ibstubro's avatar

The obesity epidemic in the civilized world is a good example of intellect not overcoming instinct. Overpopulation is another. Rampant pollution.

If intellect were dominant, we would take steps to stop killing ourselves and our host (the Earth). Instead our instincts tell us to eat, have sex, and waste our resources with abandon.

dxs's avatar

Thanks for the answers! But what are our instincts? I’ll admit I get some prejudices now and then, but that’s “learned” instinct if anything.

ibstubro's avatar

Survival is our basic instinct as animals. Band together for protection (urban), store fat against the lean times and procreate.

Humans are just a really big, really destructive group of animals. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama are the ultimate alpha males.

marinelife's avatar

Oh, how we wish that intellect had overcome instinct, but alas it has not. Evolution takes a much monger time frame than human history so it can’t possibly keep up with technological advances.

It is mostly instinct who we like as a potential mate.

Tribalism is still very present in world politics (for example Iraq today).

Breathing is instinctive.

Sense of direction.

dxs's avatar

Here’s a response from another Jelly (for the sake of discussion):

Sex is instinctual behavior. Intellect has taught us birth control, and battery operated toys, but chemistry kicks in, and even severely learning disabled persons get “drives” as times, and instinctively know what goes where. :) Also, fear of falling. That lurch feeling in your gut when you look over the edge of the grand canyon, or a high rooftop. We also instinctively respond certain ways to various colors. This mostly goes back to color aiding in hunting, and avoiding poisons. Lashing out when in pain, instinct. Fight or flight, instinct. More? A mother’s deeply rooted instinct to protect younglings, her own, and others.

Bill1939's avatar

I doubt that mankind’s genetic structure has significantly changed in a hundred millennia. Mature humans mastered impulse control, when calm. In raged, their instinctual behavior is evident. We would like to think that we are rational beings, but we are rationalizing beings. The last part of the brain to be informed is that part where cognition can occur. So when subtle whiffs of scent, an image, reminiscently familiar, with a welcoming stance appears before you, you can be sure that instinct will direct actions and not choices made by freewill.

The power behind freewill is found in the ability of one’s mind to envision a succession of steps leading to a future goal. To become successful in a given field, sports for example, in addition to extensive practice the mental visualization of the performance to come removes consciousness from the equation allowing ‘zoned’ behavior.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, too often instinct over rides intellect. For example, I think it’s instinct to band together, for one. And sometimes it leads to idiotic situations. Like you go to the drive through at a bank. There are 3 bays. There are 6 cars in line at one of the bays, and the other two are open. Everybody has to do what the person in front of them is doing.

Another example, which I see far too often, is at intersections on a highway. One car is at a stop sign. He has the room to pull out so he does. But all the cars behind him think that means they can pull out too. I’m talking, like, 4 more cars. And they all pull out because the guy in front of them did, oblivious to the cars bearing down on them on the highway.

dxs's avatar

@Dutchess_III That sounds like conformity. Are you saying conformity is instinct? And stop signs on the high way?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would say that conformity is an instinct, yes. I mean, look at a flock of birds, or a school of fish. Or a school of humans. We have the intellect to over come that desire if it’s detrimental in certain situations, but too often people don’t over ride it.

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. Have a highway, 65 mph, no stopping, but you have intersecting smaller roads that have stop signs.

Sinqer's avatar

I can’t relate to either of those two examples. I always shoot for where there are fewest other people unless I guess that the other money machines aren’t working. Though that says nothing to whether it’s instinctual or not.

All emotional reaction is instinctual, though our intellect can conjure stimulus that triggers those emotional reactions. Intelligence can be applied to train our instinctual reactions (martial arts training for example to change our flight to fight). That’s not to say that experience can’t do the same. Being jumped and beaten a lot in school can very well cause a change of fear response to anger response, flight response to fight response, but one might argue that the encounters constitute a method of training.

Impulse urges are all instinct as well: I need to piss, I’m hungry, etc.

Intelligence hasn’t overcome instincts, we just live in a society that fails to provide the stimulus to which many of our instincts respond. People don’t often get attacked, so they rarely experience a real ongoing experience of fight or flight, and that’s why many simply freeze when presented with immediate fear for their well being in any way, no instinctual development to those stimuli. You can see the opposite in people who return from frontline war service where their life was in danger at every moment. Reintegrating into a docile society is difficult because their instincts have been impressed (flbw) well beyond the common populace. Loud noises send them diving for cover… instinct. Being awoken, and they come up swinging… instinct.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther