Human Instinct

Friday, 9th May at 8.30pm

Our instincts protect us and guard our interests in ways we are barely aware of. But what explains the extraordinary human instinct to risk our lives for others, for a parent to risk life and limb to save a child, or to save a complete stranger? Science is only just beginning to understand why humans are capable of acts of supreme heroism. This programme looks at how humans are programmed to protect their children from birth and how million years of evolution have made us generous to our families. It explores how human beings can read each other’s minds and how the most unique of human instincts have helped us to become the most successful species on the planet . Robert Winston visits Provence to see what a jawbone fossil reveals about human kindness. Sometimes humans go much further; Cindy made the ultimate sacrifice for her son Steven after they met with disaster on a camping
trip in Canada and shows our instinct to safeguard our children at any cost.. Humans are also unique in their willingness to help complete strangers because of our instinct to empathise. A year ago Steve Grey went much further than that, he did something truly heroic, going to the aid of a complete stranger trapped in a burning car.

Friday, 2nd May at 8.30pm

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we do the things we do? This fascinating BBC series gets to the root of the invisible forces that drive our desires and explains the hidden urges that make man wreak violent revenge, or as in the case of tonight’s episode, the reason winning feels so good and losing feels so bad. Every single human is a winner – descendants over hundreds of thousands of generations of grandparents that competed for survival in the tough terrain of our distant past. And their competing instincts live on in us all. Our bodies push us to compete out of all proportion to the prize on offer, by making winning feel wonderful and losing terrible. We compete with our mothers in the womb for nutrients, with our siblings, and to establish ourselves in hierarchies, without even being aware of it. The Will To Win reveals how competition starts early, even before birth, as new mother Ceri found out when she was experiencing very high blood pressure during her pregnancy. Her baby was resisting the mother’s normal slight drop in blood pressure which occurs when pregnancy is nearing term and nourishment can be reduced. The hungry baby was sending up mum’s blood pressure in its demand for food and in Ceri’s case it was causing her real harm. What do Ghandi, Darwin,Thomas Jefferson and Florence Nightingale have in common? – besides being radical thinkers they were all younger siblings A study at the University of Michigan explores how older and younger siblings compete for their parent’s attention and shows how younger siblings tend to challenge the rules to get what they want from a very early age.

Friday, 25th April at 8.30pm

The fascinating BBC probe into what makes us do the things we do delves into one of our most primitive drives tonight with a revealing look at the way sex governs almost every facet of our lives. One of the strongest human urges is to procreate, to have sex and create the next generation in our own likeness. The different biology of men and women has shaped radically different instincts to make this happen. Some of those instincts guide us in ways we are only too aware of. At other times our instincts are in the driving seat without us even knowing it – the partner who smells sweetest is the one whose genes are most compatible and will help make the healthiest baby. Our instincts act as a temptation towards adultery – with the right person at the right time. A secretly filmed experiment at a London University campus reveals how men and women react differently to a simple chat up line and why.

Friday, 18 April at 8.30pm

Human Instinct is the story of how instincts have helped make humans into the uniquely successful species that we are – without us even knowing it. Along the way, presenter Robert Winston has his own instincts tested, telling the story of these urges within every one of us.Can science explain the overwhelming drives within us, like love at first sight,road rage and why we find it so hard to resist another bag of crisps? Our instincts are long out of date – shaped for a lost, primitive world. Which is why each of us can be driven to do extraordinary things, without knowing why. Only now can science begin to explain the power of these hidden forces and why they might have evolved. Science is only just beginning to understand the amazing story of our instincts. The series opens at the Pamplona Run in Spain, where American fire-fighter Andy Minton takes part in an experiment to see how his body responds at moments of acute danger. Real danger struck June Brailsford whose fight or flight reaction kicked in when she was car-jacked and fought off a potentially life threatening attacker – a natural response that has helped humans stay alive for thousands of generations – and Andy Mochan describes the drive to live that led him to jump 150 feet into the sea from the Piper Alpha Oil Platform.