Innate Animal Behavior

Animal Instincts Vs. Human Instincts

General Infomation about Instincts

Instincts are an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli. Over time, the thousands of genes determining the structure of the brain become, indirectly, the keepers of the behavioral patterns we call instincts.


For example: birds have an instinct to build nests, birds are never taught how to build a nest by other birds, they are just hard-wired to be able to build nest once they sense they are going to lays eggs.

Animal Instincts

A good way to think about instincts is that of animals. Animals are born with more hardwiring and will already have more of a model of the world built in and therefore it does not require a long period of time for animals to learn the appropriate behaviors of the specefic species. Innate behaviors are triggered by a stimulus which must occur somewhere in the animals environment.


Examples: an external stimulus (e.g., sight of a predator) and internal stimulus (e.g., hunger)


Fixed action patterns are sequences that are essentially unchangeable and usually conducted to completion once started. They are triggered by a sensory environmental stimulus called sign stimulus.

Human Instincts

In species with relatively less hardwiring, the individual animals have to instead learn about the world to build their internal models of the world and the models of behavior that help them achieve their goals. What is so special about humans is our ability to learn and to use learning as a tool for survival and reproduction of our species. An animal needs to know such things as what food is good to eat, when and where to find it, whom to avoid and approach, with whom to mate, and how to find its way home. When these things are not genetically preprogrammed, because they depend on the particular circumstances of an individual’s time and place, the animal must learn them.

How Genes Play a Role

All behaviors that Animals and Humans express are influenced by both our environment and the genes that have been handed down through generations.


For example: "Alcoholism" can be broken into two behaviors, teen-onset alcoholism and adult-onset alcoholism. Fostering studies using children placed in foster homes indicate that teen-onset alcoholism has a very strong genetic basis. Proving that the genes you have can directly have predetermined outcomes depending on your families past history.

Innate Behavior

Works Cited

"Exploring Learned and Innate Behavior." ScienceNetLinks. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/exploring-learned-and-innate-behavior/>.

"Genetic Specification of Neural Circuitry for Innate Behaviors." Hhmi. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://www.hhmi.org/research/genetic-specification-neural-circuitry-innate-behaviors>.

Quora. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://www.quora.com/How-did-instincts-evolve>.

UIC. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://www.uic.edu/classes/bios/bios101/zanimalbehavior/sld008.htm>.