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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index B > Category: Behavior

Behavior Quotes (49 quotes)

Nature and nurture are an inseparable blend of influences that work together to produce our behavior. A growing band of researchers are demonstrating that the bedrock of behaviors that make up the concerns of everyday life, such as sex, language, cooperation, and violence have been carved out by evolution over the eons, and this Stone Age legacy continues to influence modern life today.
In Stone Age Present: How Evolution Has Shaped Modern Life: From Sex, Violence and Language to Emotions, Morals and Communities, (1995), 25-26.
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A good method of discovery is to imagine certain members of a system removed and then see how what is left would behave: for example, where would we be if iron were absent from the world: this is an old example.
Aphorism 258 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 181.
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Art arises in those strange complexities of action that are called human beings. It is a kind of human behavior. As such it is not magic, except as human beings are magical. Nor is it concerned in absolutes, eternities, “forms,” beyond those that may reside in the context of the human being and be subject to his vicissitudes. Art is not an inner state of consciousness, whatever that may mean. Neither is it essentially a supreme form of communication. Art is human behavior, and its values are contained in human behavior.
In Art Is Action: A Discussion of Nine Arts in a Modern World (1939), 1.
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Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts which in us would be called moral.
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But here I stop–short of any deterministic speculation that attributes specific behaviors to the possession of specific altruist or opportunist genes. Our genetic makeup permits a wide range of behaviors–from Ebenezer Scrooge before to Ebenezer Scrooge after. I do not believe that the miser hoards through opportunist genes or that the philanthropist gives because nature endowed him with more than the normal complement of altruist genes. Upbringing, culture, class, status, and all the intangibles that we call ‘free will,’ determine how we restrict our behaviors from the wide spectrum–extreme altruism to extreme selfishness–that our genes permit.
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Complex organisms cannot be construed as the sum of their genes, nor do genes alone build particular items of anatomy or behavior by them selves. Most genes influence several aspects of anatomy and behavior–as they operate through complex interactions with other genes and their products, and with environmental factors both within and outside the developing organism. We fall into a deep error, not just a harmful oversimplification, when we speak of genes ‘for’ particular items of anatomy or behavior.
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For behavior, men learn it, as they take diseases, one of another.
As quoted in 'Solitude and Society', The Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1857), Vol. 1, 228.
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For Linnaeus, Homo sapiens was both special and not special ... Special and not special have come to mean nonbiological and biological, or nurture and nature. These later polarizations are nonsensical. Humans are animals and everything we do lies within our biological potential ... the statement that humans are animals does not imply that our specific patterns of behavior and social arrangements are in any way directly determined by our genes. Potentiality and determination are different concepts.
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Genes make enzymes, and enzymes control the rates of chemical processes. Genes do not make ‘novelty seeking’ or any other complex and overt behavior. Predisposition via a long chain of complex chemical reactions, mediated through a more complex series of life’s circumstances, does not equal identification or even causation.
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Historically, science has pursued a premise that Nature can be understood fully, its future predicted precisely, and its behavior controlled at will. However, emerging knowledge indicates that the nature of Earth and biological systems transcends the limits of science, questioning the premise of knowing, prediction, and control. This knowledge has led to the recognition that, for civilized human survival, technological society has to adapt to the constraints of these systems.
As quoted in Chris Maser, Decision-Making for a Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach (2012), 4, citing N. Narasimhan, 'Limitations of Science and Adapting to Nature', Environmental Research Letters (Jul-Sep 2007), 2.
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I can say, if I like, that social insects behave like the working parts of an immense central nervous system: the termite colony is an enormous brain on millions of legs; the individual termite is a mobile neurone.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 224. Note: Spelling “neurone&rdwuo; [sic].
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I would rather see the behavior of one white rat observed carefully from the moment of birth until death than to see a large volume of accurate statistical data on how 2,000 rats learned to open a puzzle box.
Introduction to G. V. Hamilton and Kenneth Macgowan, What Is Wrong with Marriage? (1929), xx.
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If I would follow your advice and Jesus could perceive it, he, as a Jewish teacher, surely would not approve of such behavior.
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If you defend a behavior by arguing that people are programmed directly for it, then how do you continue to defend it if your speculation is wrong, for the behavior then becomes unnatural and worthy of condemnation. Better to stick resolutely to a philosophical position on human liberty: what free adults do with each other in their own private lives is their business alone. It need not be vindicated–and must not be condemned–by genetic speculation.
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If you’re telling a story, it’s very tempting to personalise an animal. To start with, biologists said this fascination with one individual was just television storytelling. But they began to realise that, actually, it was a new way to understand behaviour–following the fortunes of one particular animal could be very revealing and have all kinds of implications in terms of the ecology and general behaviour of the animals in that area.
From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 15.
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If … you reward people for behavior that’s actually bad … then you’re going to encourage that behavior. Today, our [conservation] incentives aren’t set up well-you can make a lot of money burning fossil fuels, digging up wetlands, pumping fossil water out of aquifers that will take 10,000 years to recharge, overfishing species in international waters that are close to collapse, and so on.
From interview with Mark Tercek, 'Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment', Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
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Instead of saying that a man behaves because of the consequences which are to follow his behavior, we simply say that he behaves because of the consequences which have followed similar behavior in the past. This is, of course, the Law of Effect or operant conditioning.
In Science and Human Behavior (1953), 87.
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Is it absurd to imagine that our social behavior, from amoeba to man, is also planned and dictated, from stored Information, by the cells? And that the time has come for men to be entrusted with the task, through heroic efforts, of bringing life to other worlds?
From Nobel Prize Lecture (Dec 1974), 'The Coming Age of the Cell'. Collected in Jan Lindsten (ed.) Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1971-1980 (1992).
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It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that a chimpanzee or a dog is an intelligent animal. Instead, it takes a bigoted human to suggest that it’s not.
In The Omni Interviews (1984), 73.
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It is the business of scientists to explain away the magic in the world. The largest coherent body of magic remaining is the behavior of (humans) and animals.
In paper co-authored by William G. Quinn and James L. Gould, 'Nerves and genes', Nature (1 Mar 1979), 278, No. 5699, 23. As partially quoted in Michael F. Roberts and Anne E. Kruchten, Receptor Biology (2016), 238.
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It was their individuality combined with the shyness of their behavior that remained the most captivating impression of this first encounter with the greatest of the great apes.
In Gorillas in the Mist (1983), 4
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Mathematics is a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that it proclaims a truth; a form of reasoning which transcends reasoning in that it wants to bring about the truth it proclaims; a form of action, of ritual behavior, which does not find fulfilment in the act but must proclaim and elaborate a poetic form of truth.
'Why Mathematics Grows', Journal of the History of Ideas (Jan-Mar 1965), 26, No. 1, 3. In Salomon Bochner and Robert Clifford Gunning (ed.) Collected Papers of Salomon Bochner (1992), Vol. 4, 191. Footnoted as restating about Mathematics what was written about Myth by Henri Frankfort, et al., in The Intellectual Adventures of Ancient Man (1946), 8.
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Meat-eating has not, to my knowledge, been recorded from other parts of the chimpanzee’s range in Africa, although if it is assumed that human infants are in fact taken for food, the report that five babies were carried off in West Africa suggests that carnivorous behavior may be widespread.
In 'Chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream Reserve', collected in Primate Behavior: Field Studies of Monkeys and Apes (1965), 473.
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Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
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Nature never “fails.” Nature complies with its own laws. Nature is the law. When Man lacks understanding of Nature’s laws and a Man-contrived structure buckles unexpectedly, it does not fail. It only demonstrates that Man did not understand Nature’s laws and behaviors. Nothing failed. Man’s knowledge or estimating was inadequate.
In "How Little I Know", in Saturday Review (12 Nov 1966), 152. Excerpted in Buckminster Fuller and Answar Dil, Humans in Universe (1983), 31.
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Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.
Diary entry for 21 Feb 1940, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 169.
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Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate their subject matters.
In article 'Man', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1964), 108, 482-85. Collected in Cumulative Record: Definitive Edition (2015).
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Physics does not endeavour to explain nature. In fact, the great success of physics is due to a restriction of its objectives: it only endeavours to explain the regularities in the behavior of objects.
In 'Events, Laws of Nature, and Invariance Principles', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1963). in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 6.
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Psychology, as the behaviorist views it, is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do the sciences of chemistry and physics. It is granted that the behavior of animals can be investigated without appeal to consciousness. Heretofore the viewpoint has been that such data have value only in so far as they can be interpreted by analogy in terms of consciousness. The position is taken here that the behavior of man and the behavior of animals must be considered in the same plane.
In Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It (1913), 176.
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Science tries to answer the question: ‘How?’ How do cells act in the body? How do you design an airplane that will fly faster than sound? How is a molecule of insulin constructed? Religion, by contrast, tries to answer the question: ‘Why?’ Why was man created? Why ought I to tell the truth? Why must there be sorrow or pain or death? Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.
Science and Imagination, ch. 4, Basic Books (1967).
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Sociobiology is not just any statement that biology, genetics, and evolutionary theory have something to do with human behavior. Sociobiology is a specific theory about the nature of genetic and evolutionary input into human behavior. It rests upon the view that natural selection is a virtually omnipotent architect, constructing organisms part by part as best solutions to problems of life in local environments. It fragments organisms into “traits,” explains their existence as a set of best solutions, and argues that each trait is a product of natural selection operating “for” the form or behavior in question. Applied to humans, it must view specific behaviors (not just general potentials) as adaptations built by natural selection and rooted in genetic determinants, for natural selection is a theory of genetic change. Thus, we are presented with unproved and unprovable speculations about the adaptive and genetic basis of specific human behaviors: why some (or all) people are aggressive, xenophobic, religious, acquisitive, or homosexual.
In Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes (1983, 2010), 242-243.
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Sparrows are sociable, like a crowd of children begging from a tourist.
In 'Londoners', Solomon in All his Glory (1922), 68.
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The conception of objective reality … has thus evaporated … into the transparent clarity of mathematics that represents no longer the behavior of particles but rather our knowledge of this behavior.
In 'The Representation of Nature in Contemporary Physics', Daedalus (1958), 87, 95-108. As cited in Karl Popper, Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics (1992), 85.
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The habitat of an organism is the place where it lives, or the place where one would go to find it. The ecological niche, on the other hand, is the position or status of an organism within its community and ecosystem resulting from the organism’s structural adaptations, physiological responses and specific behavior (inherited and/or learned). The ecological niche of an organism depends not only on where it lives, but also on what it does. By analogy, it may be said that the habitat is the organism’s ‘address,’ and the niche is its ‘profession,’ biologically speaking.
Fundamentals of Ecology
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The hypothesis that man is not free is essential to the application of scientific method to the study of human behavior. The free inner man who is held responsible for the behavior of the external biological organism is only a prescientific substitute for the kinds of causes which are discovered in the course of a scientific analysis.
In Science and Human Behavior (1953), 447.
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The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of birth the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behavior.
In 'The Science of Custom', Patterns of Culture (1934, 2005), 2-3.
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The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities—that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future—will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.
…...
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The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events–provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social tie s and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.
…...
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The most intensely social animals can only adapt to group behavior. Bees and ants have no option when isolated, except to die. There is really no such creature as a single individual; he has no more life of his own than a cast off cell marooned from the surface of your skin.
In The Lives of a Cell (1974), 63.
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The photons which constitute a ray of light behave like intelligent human beings: out of all possible curves they always select the one which will take them most quickly to their goal.
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968), 186.
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There is a tendency to consider anything in human behavior that is unusual, not well known, or not well understood, as neurotic, psychopathic, immature, perverse, or the expression of some other sort of psychologic disturbance.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), 195.
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There is very little flexibility in the behavior of the Universe. What it does once, it does again.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 167.
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This is the excellent foppery of the world: that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behaviour—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's tail and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows that I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
King Lear (1605-6), I, ii.
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Truth and falsity, indeed understanding, is not necessarily something purely intellectual, remote from feelings and attitudes. ... It is in the total conduct of men rather than in their statements that truth or falsehood lives, more in what a man does, in his real reaction to other men and to things, in his will to do them justice, to live at one with them. Here lies the inner connection between truth and justice. In the realm of behavior and action, the problem recurs as to the difference between piece and part.
From 'On Truth', collected in Mary Henle (ed.), Documents of Gestalt Psychology (1961), 28.
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We are recorders and reporters of the facts—not judges of the behavior we describe.
Recalled on his death 25 Aug 56
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We must examine the moral alchemy through which the in-group readily transmutes virtue into vice and vice into virtue, as the occasion may demand. … We begin with the engagingly simple formula of moral alchemy: the same behavior must be differently evaluated according to the person who exhibits it. For example, the proficient alchemist will at once know that the word “firm” is properly declined as follows:
I am firm,
Thou art obstinate,
He is pig-headed.
There are some, unversed in the skills of this science, who will tell you that one and the same term should be applied to all three instances of identical behavior.
In article, 'The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy', The Antioch Review (Summer 1948), 8, No. 2, 195-196. Included as Chap. 7 of Social Theory and Social Structure (1949), 201.
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With the nervous system intact the reactions of the various parts of that system, the 'simple reflexes', are ever combined into great unitary harmonies, actions which in their sequence one upon another constitute in their continuity what may be termed the 'behaviour'.
The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1906), 237.
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Without some idea of oxidation processes, of the chemical structure of food, and of the chemical reactions in digestion, visceral behavior is a blank. And without some understanding of visceral behavior, psychic behavior is up in the air.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), xiv.
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[T]here are some common animal behaviors that seem to favor the development of intelligence, behaviors that might lead to brainy beasts on many worlds. Social interaction is one of them. If you're an animal that hangs out with others, then there's clearly an advantage in being smart enough to work out the intentions of the guy sitting next to you (before he takes your mate or your meal). And if you're clever enough to outwit the other members of your social circle, you'll probably have enhanced opportunity to breed..., thus passing on your superior intelligence. ... Nature—whether on our planet or some alien world—will stumble into increased IQ sooner or later.
Seth Shostak, Alex Barnett, Cosmic Company: the Search for Life in the Universe (2003), 62 & 67.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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