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The Activation of an Instinct Caused By a "Transitional Action"

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It is shown by examples that the performance of a part action which also forms part of another activity than that being performed may lead to activation of the instinct to which this other activity belongs. Thus a transition from one activity to another takes place through a transitional action, i.e. a part action which is common to the two activities. It is presumed that the activation of an instinct during a transitional action takes place in the following way: the instinct is previously activated under the threshold, but during the performance of the transitional action the proprioceptors registrate the performance of an action which belongs to this instinct even if it is not active. This causes a lowering of the threshold for the activating stimuli of the instinct which thereupon are able to activate the instinct. It is shown that the activation by a transitional action may be of importance for the interpretation of some behaviour patterns. Thus a displacement activity which is determined by an initial posture or movement (= transitional action) must be activated autochtonously. The combination of different activities (incl. escape reactions) in the complicated bathing behaviour of some Anatidae may be due to the effect of transitional actions, and the same may have determined the development of the ritualized neck-dipping and other activities in the pre-copulatory behaviour in Cygninae, Anserinae, and the Cararca group.


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