Multiple Motivation in Behavior

  • Konrad Z. Lorenz


For reasons of didactic simplicity I have not, until now, mentioned the fact that behavior can be, and in very many instances is, activated by more than one motivation. Only in Two/ I /13, 14 have I described how, on a lower level of integration in which the processes of endogenous rhythms investigated by Erich von Holst hold sway, two or more impulse-producing rhythms can compete with one another for the mastery of muscle activity and achieve, by mutual interaction, what Erich von Holst has called relative coordination. I have not yet mentioned that phenomena comparable to these can be found at the higher level of fixed motor patterns. The “classical” old ethologists were not aware of this. Many years ago my teacher, Julian Huxley, used to express the difference between animal and human behavior by means of a parable. He likened the animal to a ship commanded by many captains who, however, were not on the bridge simultaneously, but had a gentlemen’s agreement that each of them would cede his command at once if one of the others climbed onto the bridge. Huxley likened the human to a ship also commanded by many captains, all of whom stay on the bridge continuously, each giving his own commands without consideration of any of the others. Sometimes the conflict caused by their countermanding commands leads to complete chaos, but sometimes they jointly succeed in choosing a course which none of them would have arrived at alone.


Motor Pattern Displacement Activity Mutual Inhibition Antagonistic Muscle Multiple Motivation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Konrad Z. Lorenz
    • 1
  1. 1.ViennaAustria

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