Re: What Is Behaviour?

From: HOLMES Sharon (
Date: Wed Feb 28 1996 - 11:45:03 GMT

> From: "Dock, Jennie" <>
> Date: Wed, 28 Feb 1996 11:02:09 GMT

> I have always made this distiction by defining reflexes and
> behaviours.

What do you define as a reflex? Reflexes can be many things. Many
reflexes do not even reach the brain, they are executed by neurons in
the spinal cord. For example, if you stand and lean forwards, it is
a purely spinal reflex which makes you stick your leg out and stops
you from falling over. Afferent nerves provide feedback to your
brain telling you what has happened, however, the action itself is
done without the involvment of the brain.

Another definition of a reflex could be a conditioned behaviour. I
assume as part of your psychology course you have come across
conditioning etc. We can be conditioned socially (e.g. grimacing at
something unpleasant - it is unpleasant as society deems). This is a behaviour which we are aware of,
but is a 'reflex' in the sense it occurs automatically.

What I am trying to get at is that there is a difference between a reflex in
the biological sense (spinal, not involving basic or higher
processes)) and a 'reflex' in the psychological context
(i.e. conditioning - involving the brain, at basic and higher levels)

There are many things which we do automatically, especially tasks
which are procedural, motor tasks. For example, driving a car. I
think everyone has experienced driving a car and realising they've
arrive at their destination with little memory of actually driving
there! I.e. they drove on 'automatic' - similarly, you may make
your hot chocolate automatically.

These sorts of procedural tasks are at the very bottom of the
hierachy of memory and are difficult to explain verbally. For
example, try to explain how you ride a bike or drive a car - it is
very difficult. Physiologists and psychologists believe that these
automated tasks, such as driving are executed by retrieving a 'motor
pattern' from the cerebellum into 'motor memory' - rather like
playing a tape. We can carry out these procedures without conscious
awareness. Interestingly, in Altzheimers patients these are usually
the last parts of memory to go. An Altzheimers patient may not be
able to recognise members of their family, or take in new
information, but can still make a cup of tea or even play golf!

I hope this helps define the difference between reflexes and unconcious
'reflex-like' behaviours. I believe the question you are
trying to address is what is conciousness - how many layers of
consciousness are there? - The previous example of driving somewhere
without realising, daydreaming, sleeping, sleepwalking, being 'fully aware'. I
would like to know what py104 think consciousness is and what the
hierarchy of consciousness is.

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