The 4 main primary impulses: what they are and what they are used for

Human beings move and act for different reasons and for different purposes. These can be multiple, often based on compensating for a lack or need or to prevent their occurrence. It is in this context that we have probably heard on some occasions about primary impulses as something that cannot be evaded and which is sometimes used to justify different types of actions, and can even commit criminal acts.

But … What are the main impulses and why are they seen as such? In this article, we propose to make a brief comment on the matter.

    What is a primary impulse?

    We can consider as primary impulses to set of motivations that induce action to meet the most basic needs of the subject, being its fundamental achievement in most cases for the survival of the subject.

    These impulses aim to cause the subject to increase his energy level if it is insufficient to maintain his function or to survive, or to reduce it if it is excessive and presents a risk to health. It also allows maintain a state of homeostasis or balance that keeps us alive.

    Primary impulses have a biological or organic basis, being and emerging innately in all living things. This implies that impulse is not learned culturally, although the means to achieve it (hunting, cultivating or flirting for example) are. In fact the primary impulses they are shared by a large number of animals, not just humans.

      The main primary impulses

      There are different types of primary stimuli, highlighting four main ones. While we generally speak of three, given the definition of these, we have decided to add a fourth primary impetus which is in fact fundamental to our survival. Let’s see below.

      1. Fam

      The urge to eat is one of the most basic that exists, and they allow survival through the supply of different nutrients. This way the individual can maintain or increase their energy level. This type of primary impulse oscillates between two main types of signals or impulse, hunger or impulse to seek food, or satiety as an impulse to stop consuming.


        Thirst is another of the basic primary impulses, which allows us to survive. The goal of this boost is to regain levels of bodily fluids or liquids so as to maintain bodily homeostasis. We must keep in mind that throughout our life we constantly lose fluids with our behaviorSo not getting them back would end up leading us to death. Through thirst, we can recover fluid levels and keep our body functioning properly.

        3. Gender

        Probably one of the best known and most considered primary impulses as such, sex is the mechanism by which we perpetuate our species, Generate new individuals who will carry much of our genetic code. Within the primary impulses, however, we are faced with one of the most particular, as it has unique characteristics.

        First of all, it is the only one of the primary impulses which in reality does not imply an activity which alters the possibilities of survival of the individual organism, supposing neither an increase nor a decrease in the level of energy that is required. keep it alive. Another peculiarity of this primary impulse is that it is the only one of the most primary which it necessarily requires interaction with another member of its own species, Promote a certain level of socialization.

        4. Sleep

        While sleep or rest is not always added as one of the primary impulses due to the lack of behavioral activity, the truth is, we could include them. In fact, it is one of the most important vital needs that total absence would lead us to death. The reasons why sleep can be considered a main impetus are in the first place because it’s something imposed by our biology which allows us to survive.

        This urge to sleep leads us to optimize energy levels and physical activation throughout life, avoiding the state of deprivation and discomfort that would mean not having this need covered.

        Other fundamental primary impulses

        Although when we talk about primary impulses we usually think of the previous four, the truth is that we can think of many more that we usually do not take into account and who are even largely unaware. Among them we can find the following.

        1. Maternal or paternal impulse

        That kind of impulse it arises naturally when we are parents. While in some species both mother and father seem to hear it, in others it is only found in one of the parents. Usually this parent is the mother (although, for example, in the hippocampus it goes the other way around).

        This impulse shares with the sexual the fact that at the physiological level it assumes no benefit in terms of individual survival, While yes for the propagation of the species, and which is linked to the presence of a being of the same species.

        A distinguishing element is the kinship relationship that usually exists between parent and offspring (although it also appears before adopted children). It refers to the need to be close, protect, nurture, care for and be considerate of the offspring. This impulse can even push the animal or be the object of acts of self-destruction in order to protect the children.

        2. Breathing

        It is a semi-unconscious impulse in humans, but not in other species (such as dolphins). It is the impulse of open the airways to allow entry of an oxygen supply (Which allows our cells to stay alive) and the excretion of waste products from cellular functioning.

        3. Excretion

        Defecating or urinating are basic processes, which are a primary impetus to remove everything from the body this organic waste that could affect our functioning to stay in us. If they do not include salivation or sweating, it is because they are unconscious processes, not requiring conscious action or motivation to act.

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