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Four Fs (evolution)

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In evolutionary psychology, people often speak of the four Fs which are said to be the four basic and most primal drives (motivations or instincts) that animals (including humans) are evolutionarily adapted to have, follow, and achieve: fighting, fleeing, feeding and mating (the final word beginning with the letter "M" rather than "F" is a reticent allusion to the cruder synonym "fuck").[1]

The list of the four activities appears to have been first introduced in the late 1950s and early 1960s in articles by psychologist Karl H. Pribram, with the fourth entry in the list being known by terms such as "sex"[2]: 11, 13  or occasionally "fornicating",[3]: 155  although he himself did not use the term "four Fs".

Conventionally, the four Fs were described as adaptations which helped the organism to find food, avoid danger, defend its territory, et cetera. However, in his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins argued that adaptive traits do not evolve to benefit individual organisms, but to benefit the passing on of genes.[4]

Four Fs and vertebrates


In the case of vertebrates, this list corresponds to the motivational behaviours that drive the activity in the hypothalamus, namely: fighting, fleeing, feeding and sexual functioning. The hypothalamus responds to these motivations by regulating activity in the endocrine system to release hormones to alter the behaviour of the animal.[5] These hormones include epinephrine (adrenaline) to increase blood flow and heart rate for a sufficient fight-or-flight response,[6] and ghrelin, which is commonly described as "the hunger hormone".[7]

In other animals


Species from other phyla than vertebrates, such as arthropods and sponges, do not possess a hypothalamus. Hormones that influence the behaviour of insects are excreted by neurosecretory cells (NCS) in the corpora cardiaca.[8] Sponges, despite not having a neurosystem, do show signs of behaviour in response to external stimuli, but not much is known about neuro-sensory mechanisms in sponges and whether they possess all four of these drives.[9]


In order to explore the influences of the hypothalamus as a drive on the four Fs, researchers lesioned the lateral areas of the hypothalamus of rats. This resulted in a reduction in the interest of eating (feeding). If these animals were not fed or cared for, they starved to death, even when enough food was present around them. The influence of the hypothalamus is also clear when researchers overstimulated the hypothalamus. When the lateral areas of the hypothalamus were treated with electrical brain stimulation (EBS), the animals would start eating uncontrollably, which resulted in gaining excess weight rapidly.[10][11][12]

The hypothalamus consists of clusters of highly similarly functioning nerve cells. These nerve cells operate so intimately that signals may get misinterpreted. Optogenetic stimulation of the ventromedial hypothalamus in male mice resulted in aggressive attacks towards male and female mice. When this area was controlled by silencing the ventromedial nucleus, mice showed increased interest in mating, showing a relationship between the responses to fighting and fornicating.[13]

See also



  1. ^ Kurzban, Robert (2011). Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind. Princeton University Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-4008-3599-7. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  2. ^ Pribram, Karl H. (January 1960). "A Review of Theory in Physiological Psychology" (PDF). Annual Review of Psychology. 60 (1): 1–40. doi:10.1146/annurev.ps.11.020160.000245.
  3. ^ Pribram, Karl H. (1958). "Chapter 7: Comparative Neurology and the Evolution of Behavior" (PDF). In Roe, Anne; Simpson, George Gaylord (eds.). Behavior and Evolution. Yale University Press. pp. 140–164.
  4. ^ Linquist, Stefan Paul (2010). The evolution of culture. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0754627616. OCLC 619142755.
  5. ^ Lambert, Kelly (2011). "A Tale of Two Rodents". Scientific American Mind. 22 (4): 36–43. doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0911-36.
  6. ^ Lieberman, Michael (2013). Marks' basic medical biochemistry : a clinical approach. Marks, Allan D., Peet, Alisa. (4th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 9781608315727. OCLC 769803483.
  7. ^ Sakata, Ichiro; Sakai, Takafumi (2010). "Ghrelin cells in the gastrointestinal tract". International Journal of Peptides. 2010: 1–7. doi:10.1155/2010/945056. ISSN 1687-9775. PMC 2925405. PMID 20798855.
  8. ^ Truman, James W.; Riddiford, Lynn M. (1974). Hormonal Mechanisms Underlying Insect Behaviour. Advances in Insect Physiology. Vol. 10. pp. 297–352. doi:10.1016/s0065-2806(08)60132-0. ISBN 9780120242108.
  9. ^ Renard, Emmanuelle; Vacelet, Jean; Gazave, Eve; Lapébie, Pascal; Borchiellini, Carole; Ereskovsky, Alexander V. (2009-09-01). "Origin of the neuro-sensory system: new and expected insights from sponges". Integrative Zoology. 4 (3): 294–308. doi:10.1111/j.1749-4877.2009.00167.x. ISSN 1749-4877. PMID 21392302. S2CID 205928095.
  10. ^ Weiten, Wayne (2012). Psychology: themes and variations (9th ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Cengage/Wadsworth. ISBN 9781111354749. OCLC 776541087.
  11. ^ Squire, Larry R. (2013). Fundamental neuroscience (4th ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press. ISBN 9780123858719. OCLC 830351091.
  12. ^ Keesey, R. E.; Powley, T. L. (September 1975). "Hypothalamic regulation of body weight". American Scientist. 63 (5): 558–565. Bibcode:1975AmSci..63..558K. ISSN 0003-0996. PMID 1163887.
  13. ^ Lin, Dayu; Boyle, Maureen P.; Dollar, Piotr; Lee, Hyosang; Lein, E. S.; Perona, Pietro; Anderson, David J. (2011). "Functional identification of an aggression locus in the mouse hypothalamus". Nature. 470 (7333): 221–226. Bibcode:2011Natur.470..221L. doi:10.1038/nature09736. PMC 3075820. PMID 21307935.