How Not to Identify Innate Behaviors

Despite the biological turn of recent discussions of behavior, insufficient attention has been paid to methodological-philosophical issues about the experimental basis for talk of instincts, social or otherwise. This paper examines the credentials of one standard technique, the deprivation experiment, exploited by the ethologists in their efforts to provide an inventory of species-specific, innate behaviors. It is argued that, given some hypothetical facts and plausible theoretical assumptions (of D. S. Lehrman, Kurt Koffka, and others) about the role of environmental factors in the development of behavioral repertoires, the ethologists' efforts to identify innate behaviors on the basis of the deprivation technique are not just futile but misguided.
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Paul M. Pietroski & Stephen Crain (2005). Innate Ideas. In James A. McGilvray (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 164--181.
Stephen P. Stich (ed.) (1975). Innate Ideas. University of California Press.

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