The Ecology of Humans (27-1) Imprinting


Evil, by definition, is that which endangers the good, and the good is what we perceive as a value. ~ Konrad Lorenz

Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz was a Nobel-prize-winning Nazi. The award was for his work in ethology: the study of the development of human ethos (human moral nature). Ironies never cease.

Messing with the minds of geese, Lorenz rediscovered imprinting: the instinctual association made by newborn animals that leads to parental bonding. Lorenz deceived goslings to bond to him and follow him around rather than their mother. In the repeated process of confounding baby geese into goose-stepping to his will, Lorenz learned that imprinting was strongest in goslings from 15 hours to 3 days after birth.

The concept of imprinting echoed to the perceptive Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who observed, without resort to ruining other animals’ lives, that humans go through development stages in brief windows of time, and that these periods were formative: shaping individuals for the rest of their lives.