By William McDougall
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Consider the case of the birds on an uninhabited island, which show no fear of men on their first appearance on the island. The absence of fear at the sight of man implies, not that the birds have no instinct of fear, but that the instinct has no afferent inlet specialised for the reception of the retinal impression made by the human form. But the men employ themselves in shooting, and very soon the sight of a man excites the instinct of fear in the birds, and they take to flight at his approach.
We are therefore driven to look for a still simpler interpretation of the facts, and such a one is not far to seek. , we may suppose that, after repetition of the experience, the sight of a man directly excites the instinctive process in its affective and conative aspects only; or we may say, in physiological terms, that the visual disposition concerned in the elaboration of the retinal impression of the human form becomes directly connected or associated with the central and efferent parts of the instinctive disposition, which thus acquires, through the repetition of this experience, a new afferent inlet through which it may henceforth be excited independently of its innate afferent inlet.
The discovery of a mouse in the corner of the room at once explains and banishes her fear, for she is on friendly terms with mice. The mouse must have darted across the peripheral part of her field of vision, and this unexpected and unfamiliar appearance of movement sufficed to excite the instinct. This avenue to the instinct, the unfamiliar, becomes in man highly diversified and intellectualised, and it is owing to this that he feels fear before the mysterious, the uncanny, and the supernatural, and that fear, entering as an element into the complex emotions of awe and An Introduction to Social Psychology/47 reverence, plays its part in all religions.