Maternal instinct

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 11:18:59 -0400

In message <> "Arthur L. Baron" writes:

> How true of many mammals, but a little closer to humans, the chimpanzees have
> shown a cognitive need learn how to mother infants, and I would call that
> maternal behaviour. Mothers, aunts, or other infant rearing females in the
> group teach the daughters the necessary skills. Infants isolated from the
> adult transmission during the formative years not only display poor social
> skills but don't have a clue of what to do when it comes to raising an
> infant.

I recall a story from a few years ago concerning a female gorilla, raised from
infancy in captivity (I think in Chicago) and thus not "socially" a gorilla.
Her zookeepers (jailers?) managed to get her pregnant, but when she gave birth
she didn't know what to do with her new infant, never having seen mothering
behavior. If I have the story right, they brought in a human mother; the
gorilla watched her nurse her infant and then proceeded to nurse her own baby.

I think something like "bioprogram" would be a better word than "instinct".
Humans (and other hominoids) are almost certainly predisposed thru
bioprogramming to be good mothers, but this like many other behaviors in these
species probably requires a "trigger" to be fully operative, the trigger in this
case being experience with the behaviors in an appropriate social context (not
unlike language in humans, by the way).

"Instinct" on the other hand, if I understand the term correctly, should, by
definition, require no such trigger.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida