Human Behavior theories instinctual Theories



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  • Instinctual Theories

  1. McDougall: Humans are driven by two instincts – (1) to survive and (2) to not die.

  2. Maslow: Humans are driven by a basic hierarchy of needs. (separate handout)

  3. Freud’s Psychoanalysis: Humans act according to the development of their Id, Ego, and Superego (separate handout)




    • Socialization Theories (Skinner and Pavlov)

- People can be conditioned and/or learn to act a certain way. Ex. Pavlov’s dog experiment.


    • Philosophical Perspectives:


Humans are Inherently Good


  1. Jacques Rousseau (1750s-70s)

“Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.”


*People are innately good. The “cultured” man learns to be degenerate by constraints of society.


  1. John Locke (1600s)

“TABULA RASA” – People are blank slates. Humans in the state of nature have perfect freedom to order their actions according to the laws of nature, without having to ask permission to act from any other person.


*Everyone is BORN equal.

Humans are Neutral


  1. Pelagius (4th century)

Humans in the state of nature are not tainted by original sin, but are instead fully capable of choosing good or evil.




  1. Plato (ancient Greece)

There is an “intellectual soul” in our head to tame the “appetitive beast” resident in the belly and genitals. We should welcome death as an escape from this uncomfortable co-habitation.


*Our mind helps us sort out temptations and desires.


  1. Karl Marx (mid 1800s)

“Who a person is, is determined by where and when he is…the beast is the past and its burdens, while the mind awaits in the future.”




Humans are Inherently Bad


  1. Thomas Hobbes (1600s)

Humans in the state of nature are inherently in a "war of all against all," and life in that state is ultimately "nasty, brutish, and short."


We are naturally evil creatures and this state of nature is remedied by good government.



  1. Bernard Russell (early 1900s)


Moral evil or sin is derived from the instincts that have been transmitted to us from our ancestry of beasts of prey. The simple fact that we humans must eat other life or else starve is probably the contemporary and historical moral evil.





  • Religious Perspectives: There are numerous religious perspectives explaining why we act the way we do as well, including the idea of creationism which states that man is sinful and redeemed only through confession.


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