The Human Animal
by Hans Hass

Ostensibly, this book is an attempt to show similarities in behavior among humans and between humans and some animals such as chimps by comparing candid films of them as they express various emotions. The photographs in the book are interesting, but very little of the text pertains to them. Instead, the text consists of unsupported speculations about life and human nature by a disciple of Konrad Lorenz's human-aggression theory.

He explains innate releasing mechanisms (IRMs) that determine which instincts in an animal's parliament of instincts gets the floor.

... the body... is not controlled by one key authority, however, but by hierarchically constructed ministries, one or another of whose ministers is always seizing power for brief periods. p. 47

To the turkey hen, the characteristic cheeping of turkey chicks is the key stimulus which arouses brood-tending behavior. Conceal a loudspeaker which emits this cheeping sound inside a stuffed polecat--one of the turkey's natural foes--and the turkey hen will take it protectively under her wing. Deprive the turkey hen of her hearing, on the other hand, and she will kill her own young because the appropriate key stimulus fails to reach her IRM. p. 33-34

When a dog licks us in greeting, this is a friendliness-eliciting behavior which developed from mutual fur cleaning among the dog's ancestors and has now been extended to human beings. p. 36

If a hereditary coordination is not released for a considerable periods--if the animal encounters no key stimulus--this can engender mounting excitation. The animal grows restless and starts actively seeks the liberating stimulus situation. This is what the phenomenon we refer to as instinct really is. p. 41

... the higher vertebrates could acquire increased adaptability only by developing a less rigid innate structure. p. 50

... the ability to learn is not entirely flexible but innately slanted in one particular direction... an innate knowledge of what it should learn. p. 63

In many creatures, sexual behavior is also determined during sensitive periods. A male duckling which is made to associate exclusively with male ducks during the crucial period will behave homosexually for the rest of its life, even when females are in the vicinity. Similarly, a young cockerel in its sensitive phase can be imprinted in favor of ducks and will later wade into the water in order to court them. A jackdaw which is reared by humans until fully fledged and prevented from seeing other jackdaws remains sexually imprinted in favor of human beings. It may consort with other jackdaws, but when the mating season arrives a year later, it will only court human beings--even if there are other jackdaws around. p. 64

It is characteristic of the mammals--as opposed to birds, reptiles, and fish, which still possess long series of hereditary coordinations--that they have freed themselves from the restraints imposed by hereditarily fixed motor patterns, thereby gaining in adaptive modifiability. Mammals take correspondingly longer to develop, on the other hand, and this necessitates prolonged brood protection. Man, who has become the learner par excellence, requires a particularly long period of "brood tending." p. 70

The ingestion of rotting substances or excrement is detrimental to our health, and we react unfavorably to them by reason of key stimuli in the olfactory domain. In the optical domain, fear reactions are elicited by darkness, steep drops, and large approaching bodies. These, too, are probably innate. p. 70-71

Feelings of enthusiasm and joy are also transmissible, which is one essential reason why people are attracted to public festivities and mass entertainment. If we see other people eating (and we are not completely satiated ourselves), our own appetite will be stimulated even if we have no desire to eat. If we see other people streaming in a certain direction, the spectacle arouses our curiosity. If other people yawn, their weariness may transmit itself to us. p. 71

... people look around repeatedly while eating, especially if alone. p. 82

... the urge to play takes longer to satisfy than other urges. p. 89

The curiosity instinct conflicts with that of fear. p. 90

Inquisitive behavior wanes or disappears completely in all learners after sexual maturity. This is not he case with human beings, who retain most of their youthful curiosity until old age. p. 93

... man's artificial organs ... do not consist of living cells and thus have no need of constant nourishment. This brings a corresponding saving in the human energy budget. Their second advantage is that they can be discarded or stored when not in use. Consequently, man does not have to carry them about constantly. This effects a further saving of energy. Their third advantage is that they are exchangeable. .... It took the multicellular organisms immense periods of time to acquire specialized organs--and remain tied to them--by means of cell differentiation, whereas man succeeded in creating his own specialized organs and harnessing them to his body as required. ... A fourth advantage: Artificial organs could be used by different individuals.
... The fifth advantage is especially important: The individual need not manufacture the artificial organs he uses. ... This, too, leads to a saving of energy ... Hire and sale--equally unthinkable in the case of natural organs--now became possible.
These advantages are, however, balanced by a disadvantage: Artificial organs require protection. Natural organs cannot be stolen. ... A lizard may bite off an insect's wings, but it cannot use them to fly. An artificial organ, by contrast, can be used equally well by another human being, which is why the problem of property has become so important to human beings. p. 103-104

The earliest written tablets... served as aids to human memory. ... clay tablets were additionally used to send messages, thus becoming artificial organs of communication. p. 105

... the domesticated animal likewise became an artificial organ. ... everyone whom we employ to serve us in return for payment likewise becomes our artificial organ for the duration of his service. The word "artificial" thus does not necessarily imply "artificially manufactured" but "artificially appended to out bodily organization." p. 106

... the dolphin has a highly developed brain, but this avails it little because it could never fashion artificial organs with its fins or harness them to its body. p. 108

Man may be described as the creature with artificial organs. Our intellect was crucial to this peculiarity, but so were our hands, our power of imagination, and our persistent curiosity. p. 109

The development of hereditarily fixed facial movements which members of the same species could understand by means of hereditarily fixed mechanisms of innate recognition must therefore have been advantageous to him and must have possessed selective value. This development--one whose existence can only be inferred today--expressed itself physically in a multiplication and differentiation of our facial muscles. This is one of the essential physical differences between us and the modern monkey, which can pull faces but is incapable of performing facial movements as subtle as our own. p. 111

Children have practically no facial lines to begin with. These take shape in accordance with facial movements performed in life, which is why people with certain predominant facial expressions develop lines which betray their basic disposition. p. 117

As far as we have been able to establish by experiments, man is the only animal capable of combining memories and experiences to whatever extent he desires. He can, mentally, bring any specific thing in the world into conjunction with any other. He can, so to speak, dream while he is awake and steer his dreams in any desired direction. He can devise courses of action for himself--lay plans--and check his memory to determine if they are practicable on the basis of past experience. He can combine experience or logic with his imagination and test the resultant thoughts within his mind for practicality. Man's brain provides him with a sort of screen upon which he can project and construct his ideas. There, future can be blended with past, components removed and replaced with others, the flow of ideas accelerated, slowed, or repeated at will. ... In short, we can perform, achieve, discover, and deduce a thousand (if not a million) times as much as the life-span accorded us would otherwise enable us to do. p. 186-187

The human body may be compared to a cart drawn by a wide assortment of horses, all pulling in different directions. The driver, the self-aware ego, is dormant when the cart embarks on its journey through the world. At first it is the existing innate horses which pull the cart, guided by parents and society. Gradually, the driver asserts his authority, receiving countless pieces of advice en route and striving to get a firm grip on the reins. He acquires more horses, and these must be curbed, too. The journey--one of business and pleasure combined--leads through a forbidding jungle of regulations peculiar to the district. Obstacles and difficulties abound, each horse requires feeding and tries to take the bit between its teeth, Often, too, the members of the team make the driver's task still more difficult by pulling against each other. p. 206

Year Read: 1997


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