Fixed Action Pattern-Motivation and Drives, Biology tutorial


In ethology, a fixed action pattern (or FAP) is an instinctive behavioral series that is indivisible and runs to the completion.

Fixed action patterns are invariant and are generated through a neural network termed as the innate discharging mechanism in response to an external sensory stimulus termed as a sign stimulus or releaser (that is, a signal from one individual to the other). A fixed action pattern is one of the few kinds of behaviors that can be stated to be hard-wired and instinctive.

Examples of fixed action pattern:

Most of the mating dances, generally carried out by birds, are illustrations of fixed action patterns. In such cases, the sign stimulus is usually the presence of the female. The other illustration of fixed action patterns is aggression towards other males throughout mating season in the red-bellied stickleback. A sequence of experiments carried out through Niko Tinbergen exhibited that the aggressive behavior of the males is a FAP triggered through anything red, the sign stimulus. The threat display of male stickleback is as well a fixed action pattern triggered by the stimulus.

The other well known case is the classic experiments by Lorenz and Tinbergen on the Graylag Goose. Similar to waterfowl, it will roll a displaced egg near its nest back to the others by its beak. The sight of the displaced egg triggers this system. When the egg is taken away, the animal continues by the behavior, pulling its head back as if an imaginary egg is still being maneuvered through the base of its beak.

Though, it will as well try to move other egg shaped objects, like a golf ball, door knob or even an egg too large to encompass possibly been laid through the goose itself (that is, a supernormal stimulus).

Other Examples:

i) Kelp Gull chicks are stimulated through a red spot on the mother's beak to peck at spot that induces the regurgitation.

ii) A few moths instantly fold their wings and drop to the ground when they encounters ultrasonic signals like those generated by bats; see the ultrasound avoidance.

iii) Mayflies drop their eggs if they encounter a certain pattern of light polarization that points out, they are over water.

Significance of FAP:

A FAP is important in animal behavior as it represents the simplest kind of behavior, in which a readily defined stimulus nearly for all time outcomes in an invariable behavioral response. A FAP can truly be stated to be 'hard-wired'. FAPs are as well unusual, in that nearly behaviors are modulated by the environment; a fixed response can lead to the maladaptive outcomes, while flexible behaviors are usually more helpful. Due to this, most behaviors that are both FAPs take place in more complex animals which are generally necessary to the animal's fitness or in which speed is a factor. For example: the Greylag Goose's egg rolling behavior is so vital to the survival of its chicks which its fitness is raised by this behavior being hard-wired. A chick that can't constantly feed will die. A moth's response to encountering echolocation requires being instant in order to avoid the predation. An attacking stickleback is positioned at a benefit if it responses fast to a threat. Though, due to these behaviors are hard-wired, they are as well predictable. This can lead to their mistreatment by other animals or humans.


Several species have evolved to exploit the fixed action patterns of other species via mimicry of their sign stimulus. Replicating the discharging mechanism needed to trigger a FAP is termed as code-breaking. A well known illustration of this is brood parasitism, where one species will lay its eggs in the nest of the other species that will then parent its young. A young North American cowbird, for illustration, gives a supernormal stimulus to its foster parent that will cause it to forage quickly in order to please the demands of larger birds.

In a natural condition a nestling will give higher levels of stimulus with noisier, more energetic behavior, communicating its urgent requirement for food. Parents in this condition must work extra hard to give food, or else their own offspring are probable to die of hunger.

Introduction to Motivation:

The Motivation is a driving force that help causes us to attain goals. Motivation is stated to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The word is usually employed for humans however; theoretically, it can as well be employed to explain the causes for animal behavior also. According to different theories, motivation might be rooted in a basic requirement to minimize physical pain and maximize the pleasure, or it might comprise specific needs like eating and resting or a desired object, goal, state of being, ideal or it might be attributed to less-apparent reasons like selfishness, altruism, morality or avoiding the mortality. Theoretically, motivation must not be confused by either optimism or volition.

Motivation is associated to, however dissimilar from, emotion. 

Theories on Motivation:

1) Self-Actualization:

Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of motivation where human requirements were separated into two groups: deficiency requirements and growth requirements. The four deficiency requirements are: safety, physiological, belongingness and love and esteem. In order to encompass a requirement for one, all the other requirements before which should be met. 

At first, the only growth requirement Maslow made was self-actualization; later, though, he separated self-actualization into cognitive, self-actualization, aesthetic and transcendence requirements. The cognitive requirement is explained by the need to know and comprehend more; the aesthetic requirement is explained by the appreciation of symmetry and beauty; the self-actualization requirement is when one requirements to find self-fulfillment; transcendence takes place when one aids others realize their potentials. 

2) Hulls Drive-Reduction Model:

Hulls Model defines that a body wishes to stay in the homeostatic equilibrium. When a part of the body's system is thrown off balance, the body will work to go back to a level state. Hull's Drive-Reduction Model means that behaviors are caused due to a corresponding lacking in the internal environment. 

3) Cognitive Consistency Theory:

The cognitive consistency theory is an alternative to Hulls, yet it still consists of a base in homeostatic equilibrium. In this theory, motivation for behavior takes place when different internal thoughts conflict and make tension. The tension makes the motivation for behaviors to relieve the tension and therefore bringing the subject back to the homeostatic state. 

4) Arousal Theory:

Arousal theory is mainly based on the ideas that various individuals function better at different levels of arousal and that each and every individual seeks to determine its optimum level. A few people enjoy a quiet evening to rest whereas others might prefer a loud concert to end a hard week. This as well describes the behaviors of thrill-seekers. 

There optimum arousal level is much high, therefore to feel comfortable they get involved in the thrilling acts.

5) Biological Determinism:

The basic idea behind Biological Determinism is that behavior is controlled biologically.  All animals encompass a preset manner of behaving, instincts, and animal's instincts are geared toward survival. Instincts are activated by means of stimuli. The stimulus of food awakens the animal, creating hunger and the wish to eat.  The stimulus of the opposite sex promotes sexual behavior, producing offspring and future generations. The stimulus doesn't for all time have to be a complete object, however instead it might just be one feature of an object like the color red, which will trigger the behavior.

6) Incentive Theory:

As other theories of motivation support the faith that cause of responses is internal, the incentive theory states that in fact the environment brings out behaviors. The fundamental concept behind the incentive theory is goals. If a goal is present, the person tries to reach that goal. The goal might be anything from relaxing to feeling stimulated to losing weight. In order to relax, we might watch TV; in order to feel stimulated, we might skydive; in order to lose weight, we might go on an exercise program.

Motivation and Emotion:

By Renee and Nicole:

Motives, Needs, Drives and Incentives:

i) Motive: Hypothetical state that activates behavior and propels one towards goals

- Need: Physiological and psychological

  • Physiological needs: Oxygen, food, drink and so on.
  • Psychological needs: Achievement, self-esteem, power and so on.
  • Not essentially based on a state of deprivation and might be acquired via experience.

ii) Drive: Arises from requirements

- Physiological drives are the psychological counterparts of the physiological requirements.

iii) Incentive: Somewhat capable of being enviable or satisfying for its own sake.

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