The Fixed Action Pattern: Empirical Properties and Theoretical Implications

  • Howard Moltz


In a recent article, Lorenz [1, p. 53] wrote, “Like genetics and many other branches of inductive science, ethology started from a real discovery and definitely not from a theory. This is a fact that we do not want to be forgotten.” The discovery to which Lorenz referred was made independently at the beginning of the present century by two zoologists, Charles Whitman and Oskar Heinroth. What they discovered was that certain behavior patterns are so typical of particular taxonomic groups as to provide reliable criteria for systematic classification—as reliable, in most cases, as anatomical structures. Behavior patterns having the same or similar properties were subsequently identified in a number of vertebrate and invertebrate forms and were designated as “instinctive movements” (Erbkoordinationen) by Lorenz and as “fixed actions patterns” (FAPs) by most other ethologists.


Maternal Behavior Directed Head Appetitive Behavior Empirical Property Graylag Goose 
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© Plenum Press Inc. 1962

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  • Howard Moltz

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