Sangeetha Pulapaka

First let me ask you this. When you see your friend cry, what do you do? Do you try to console him/her or do you walk away? Hopefully, it is the former one. You try to console your friend. This is an instinct. Instinct, an inborn impulse or motivation to action typically performed in response to specific external stimuli.

Examples are:

    1.The tendency of a dog to shake his body when it gets wet.

    2.Birds migrating south before winter.

    3.Mother’s reflex to take care of her child regardless of her upbringing in different societies.

Many psychologists have defined instinct theory which include vital elements which explained a person’s instinctive behavior. Almost all of them believed every action/activity is caused by something meaningful.

William McDougall was one of the firsts to write about instinct theory of motivation. According to him, instinct is composed of

  1. perception
  2. behaviour
  3. emotion

Based on the three elements, he outlined 18 different instincts such as maternal instinct, comfort, sex, hunger, laughter and curiosity.

For instance, you usually pay attention to odors in the kitchen when you are hungry. This is your hunger instinct. This motivates you to check the refrigerator for food.

William James is another psychologist to have studied about motivation and he believed that our instinct is to survive

Important instinctive motivation factors in his theory were:

  • Fear
  • Love
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Cleanliness

Instinct theory of motivation suggests that the key to our motivation is biological or genetic programming of our body. The general idea is that similar motivations occur on humans because of the similar biological programming shared by humans.

And, as we act or behave on other motivations emerged as a result of our core motivation, all our actions are considered as instincts.

common example used by psychologists to explain Instinct Theory of Motivation is that a human mother will always attempt to take care of her baby, regardless of her upbringing and social standard. The theory suggests that they behave so because of their biological components. Since, no other factor seems to be at play, the action is referred to as instinct. Here is more on this.