Instinctual Psychology

The term instinct describes any unlearned behavior triggered by an environmental variable. Such behaviors are survival adaptations. They exist and persist because they statistically improve survival rate.

The instincts of social animals link individual survival to the success of a group. Group cohesion, cooperation and exchange enable collectives to accomplish exponentially more than isolated individuals. Among humans culture and social structure determine how these instincts are expressed.

Pack / Tribal Instinct

Tribes and nation states are human analogues of a pack. Nationalism, political partisanship, gangs, cults, and religions are all expressions of the same psychology. Group identity and a sense of belonging are fundamental human needs. When those needs are not met, replacements always emerge.

The Authority Instinct

Humans have the tendency to obey those who carry themselves with authority. This instinct increases the survival rate of groups by facilitating decisive action. This pattern is ubiquitous among social species. Presidents, warlords, gang leaders and chiefs are all human analogues of the alpha.

The Conformity Instinct

Humans have the tendency to emulate the thoughts and behaviors of their peers. Social conformity increases survival rate by facilitating group cohesion and coordination. The conformity instinct is triggered anytime there is the perception of group consensus, or social momentum.

The Reciprocity Instinct

When given a gift humans are instinctually inclined to reciprocate. Among social species cooperative exchange facilitates the distribution of effort and resources within a group, and provides a natural safety net. At the civilization scale, the reciprocity instinct has been translated to debt and monetary systems. Repayment of debt is framed as moral duty even if the gift is artificial

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