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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:00 
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I've long been aware that many lower driving functions are delegated to a semi-autonomic brain subsystem sometimes described as "the lizard brain".

The lizard brain is pretty stupid, but but very fast and accurate at repition of well learned tasks. Lower driving functions such as gear changing clearly fit into this category. If you can shift medium level driving functions like skid control into the lizard brain then you can become fast and automatic and drive a skidding car just as you would drive one that isn't skidding.

I'd like to start a discussion into the subjects surrounding the lizard brain idea, and how it relates to "getting into the zone" - a state of almost thoughtless perfect concentration.

I set about Googling and found these gems:

http://visordown.com/forums/showthread.php?t=178951

FJSRider (also a safe Speed forum member) wrote:

The lizard brain ("reptile brain") is known scientifically as the rhinencephalon (literally nose-head) or paleocortex (ancient brain). This is the part of the brain which controls basic response to stimuli, and is the part to which our sensory organs, thalamus and hypothalamus connect. It is the first part of the brain to develop during foetal growth in utero. This is what has given it the "lizard brain" moniker.

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny and all that. The lizard is very, very fast, but not at all smart and is best programmed by repetition. Driving, riding, and flying are very much lizard brain activities.

Thinking about Keith Code's "attention dollar" concept is useful. There's only so much conscious processing power available. In the beginning, most new riders devote 100% of their attention to trying to operate the clutch without stalling the engine. A few thousand miles later, they're literally not even aware of operating the clutch at all; it takes place below conscious perception, handled by the lizard, just like maintaining balance while walking.

The better you program the lizard the more attention you have left over for other things. Which is where you snapped back to attention wondering where the past few seconds had gone!


In the same thread MikesG7 writes:

I think I may be able to concentrate 100% all the time when riding, I can't with very much else mind you. My mind isn't going ten to the dozen going "ooh, a car - and another one, - ekk, a corner - road surface and condition check - good, grippy - pick braking point and decide on corner speed - start braking - down a gear - down a gear - tipping in, easing off brakes and winding on throttle - past the apex - wind on harder - drifting out a bit - bike is upright - wind on hard" ... or anything like that (sorry got a bit carried away there but you'll be pleased to hear I didn't crash).

I don't think about anything really, very little internal dialogue at all but I'm 100% aware of what I'm doing, what the bike is doing and what other people are doing. I don't get mentally tired when I'm riding. Maybe that's odd but it's what I do. My mind doesn't wander to what I'm having for lunch or how much trouble I'm in for the report being late - it's actually really quite relaxing in a focused way if that makes sense. In fact I think I would be a stress case if I didn't have my bike, it's the only time I can concentrate 100% on what I'm doing to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.


See also the following Safe Speed forum topics:

http://www.safespeed.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1033

http://www.safespeed.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1330

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:55 
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 13:48 
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FJSRiDER wrote:
I think this last point is important to consider when leaving the driving to the lizard. It can't comprehend, evaluate or plan. It can only react. This makes it very fast, but also very stupid. It can't make the decision that hitting the car is better than hitting the person walking by etc. It can only do what it's done before. The lizard brain does just what it thinks is best - and that is what had worked best in the past. It cannot evaluate the situation in any way. Evaluation is purely a function of the neocortex.

Yet another reason why Calming Kills!

If, surprisingly, you spot the kid running out between the pavement projections while you are concentrating on avoiding the projections, complete with bollards, and the car coming the other way trying to avoid its bollards:

You'll do what you've done every other time you've driven through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

You'll drive through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

And you'll drive through the kid!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 14:32 
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If, surprisingly, you spot the kid running out between the pavement projections while you are concentrating on avoiding the projections, complete with bollards, and the car coming the other way trying to avoid its bollards:

You'll do what you've done every other time you've driven through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

You'll drive through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

And you'll drive through the kid!


Surely this suggests that the model used for reaction is unsuitable for use as a first line defence.

By these criteria you would be unable to deal with any change in the preconcieved memory of the road. The statement that it is not possible to cope with a car coming towards you suggests that an equally serious problem would result if there is ANY change in the road layout, or surface as these will also be outside the capability to react. It is worrying to think how a simple change in the geography like somenone parking a car would be dealt with under this response model!

In this case it would not be the road that is the problem, it is the inability to react tor deal with anything outside a fixed and unwavering set of parameters.

However blaming the road is a classic case of self-denial. TI cannot cope oe reactto a situation therefor the problem cannot be with me it must be with the road!

If this is the case then this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as driving in a safe manner.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 15:54 
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Cunobelin wrote:
Surely this suggests that the model used for reaction is unsuitable for use as a first line defence.


I think the "lizard brain" reaction to these sorts of incident is usually to brake as hard as possible.

That's a great place to start if it's all gone wrong, but this isn't first line defence, this is last ditch emergency defence - virtually the last line of defence in fact.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 03:56 
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FJSRiDER wrote:
Hope you find the 'full' discussion (below) interesting!

[...]


Indeed. Thanks.

I had another major reference to the subject, mainly in relation to car racing, but it seems to have vanished. I wish I'd kept a copy or even a bookmark.

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I don't know if I like to be considered reptilian but this thread sure explains a few things.

When I go onto the skid pan I am genuinely not thinking of what I'm doing, just having fun doing the most lurid slides and flicks with my car. I took a passenger out as he asked me to show/tell him how to do it. As soon as I started to think about what I was doing it all started going wrong.

"When it starts sliding you do this.... Oh shit wrong way... oops stuffed it up again... Shut up and watch...." All started going right again as soon as I stopped "thinking" about it.

Same with gear changes. The only time they seem to get rough is when I try to be smooth and then they get rough...

This is the first I have read about this concept and it really makes sense to me.

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Nearly twenty years ago I read a book called "The Winning Mind" by John Whitmore (now Sir John Whitmore, ex racing driver & Telegraph motorinng columnist). Whilst this book is about improving performance in sailing not motoring, a lot of the same principles apply. I've just dug out my copy, and here's an interesting quote about the value of 100 percent concentration...

(what Paul refers to as "The Lizard Brain" Sir John refers to as "the Natural Mind").

A more common but no less interesting experience is one that, in many ways, suggests the complete opposite. Have you ever driven along a familiar route completely absorbed in a business problem? Suddenly you are home. Where did those last ten miles go? This is really driving on automatic. In fact your natural mind was fully engaged with driving and was probably at its most efficient. You drove better than usual, not worse as you might think, while your anxious mind was equally fully occupied with cash flows or profit forecasts. This is not to advocate inattentive driving; the state of concentrated attention is vital to good performance but the actual object of that attention does not have to be the job in hand. However, what you concentrate upon will determine what you recall, and in the example of driving in automatic you recall nothing of the route home.

(Copyright duly acknowledged (C) Ferhurst Books 1987.)

It's a truly fascinating and informative book. I also had a brief exchange of emails with the author about six months ago, when I responded to one of his Telegraph articles which mentioned speed cameras! In this he recommended another of his books on a similar topic but I must confess I've not yet got round to ordering a copy. :oops:

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 11:14 
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Hmm Lizards eh? I started to think about this, and was thinking about instincs, sports reactions and then I thought about muscle memory and found this. It does go on a bit longer, but the wax in my ears started to melt :(

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.


NEURO-SEMANTIC REPORT
On an Exciting New Pattern
A Meta-Stating Process for
Installing "Principles," "Concepts"
"Theories," and Great Ideas


NEURO-SEMANTIC PROCESS

Where there is Thought, there let there be Muscle
A Meta-Detailing Pattern for Incorporating Great Ideas Into Your Muscles


History

I stumbled onto the Mind-to-Muscle Pattern during the research and training of the Wealth Building training. It seems that most of the information in that field is encoded in terms of "principles" (laws, secrets, points, etc.). Writers, researchers, and even presenters seem so focused on presenting "the seven laws for building wealth," or the like. Almost none of them provide technologies for doing so— technologies in the form of patterns, processes, step-by-step coaching, etc.

Actually, this seems to apply to most fields for that matter. In almost any given field of endeavor, you can find some truly great generalizations, beliefs, ideas, etc. for how a person needs to think in order to succeed in that field. Writers, trainers, and researchers seem to think in terms of principles. "What are the basic understandings you have to know to function effectively in this domain?"

Now that approach does take us pretty far down the road to understanding a field (mathematics, architecture, chemistry, sales, customer service, psychotherapy, etc.). Yet as you have probably already guessed, it doesn’t take us all the way. It does not provide a specific map for navigating the field in terms of informing us how to learn to think the way the experts do in that field.

That’s where NLP and Neuro-Semantics come in. With the meta-field of NLP, we shift from content to context. We move above the facts and details of what to think to the higher level structural elements of how to think. Neuro-Semantics, driven by the Levels of Mind model that makes up Meta-States, goes even further in working with the structure of those higher levels of awareness.

The idea behind the patterning of mind-to-muscle in Meta-States is that we can take a conceptual level frame-of-reference— some high idea, understanding, concept, etc. and install it into our neurology, that is, into our muscles. Then, once it gets into our neurology, we have it in our eyes (our way of seeing the world), our voice (our way of talking), our muscles (our way of being in the world). This puts the "knowledge" into a form that allows us to have it at ready access. When it gets to that level, it enables us to operate from those ideas as our Frame of Reference— as our frameworks.

Most of us who have worked with computers and with various software programs have well incorporated such conceptual understandings and processes like function keys, commands, etc. so that now we can make a keyboard sing. In fact, we may be able to do so to such an extent, that like typing, we no longer "know" what specific keys we’re using to center, set off a macro command, etc. Yet, our fingers know.

Of course, in saying that "our fingers know," we have identified a very powerful and almost magical realization. This neuro-linguistic program now runs the show. Our muscles know things. We call it "muscle memory." Muscle memory drives and governs such complex activities as skating, driving, skiing, etc. This means that we have somehow incorporated ideas and concepts so that they are now embodied at the primary level of experience. They hardly seem like concepts at all; they no longer seem to be things of the mind. We now "intuitively" know. The knowing is "inside" of us. Somehow

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 15:47 
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I found this article about the reptilian brain:

THE REPTILIAN BRAIN

by James M. Ridgway, Jr

Added to the StarNet Community Editorial Page on January 22, 1997

All social issues, good or bad, are in the end dependent upon man's reptilian brain. The so called reptilian brain is the oldest, most primative region of our gray matter. It is the aggression-survival center of our existance. The basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment emanate from this first stage of the brain. Over millions of years of evolution, layers of more sophisticated reasoning have been added upon this foundation-- our intellectual capacity for complex rational thought which has made us theoretically smarter than the rest of the animal kingdom. When we are out of control with rage, it is our reptilian brain overriding our rational brain components. If someone says that they reacted with their heart instead of their head. What they really mean is that they conceded to their primative emotions (the reptilian brain based) as opposed to the calculations of the rational part of the brain.

While the more modern, sophisticated parts of the brain get to do all the really complex day-to-day thinking, it is still the antiquated reptilian part that rules the roost. Politicians, preachers, and ad men know this, and always aim their words at our emotions, not at our intellect to get their message across. The scary thing about the reptilian brain is that it has no concept of good or evil. It simply demands action of some kind. It will not tolerate a void of inactivity. If it can not find an outlet for creative action, it will push relentlessly for destructive action, and if neither is possible it then begins pressuring for self-destruction. Thus mankind as a whole, and individuals as well, oscillate between war and other murderous impulses and peaceful building and harmony. At times when there is no perceived outlet for constructive activity, especially among the young and the old, and a strong conscience is blocking a destructive outlet, severe depression will take hold of a being in this suspened state of activity, pushing the victim insufferably toward suicide. Thus conscience can keep one pure and honest, yet under the wrong conditions it can also push one over the edge.

The classic example of the reptilian brain in action can be seen at work in that evilest of all evil men of the twentieth century, Adolph Hitler. At first Hitler had strong creative impulses to be an artist. However, when he applied to the established schools of art he was judged (perhaps more because he did not have the right social connections) to lack the basic talent for acceptance. Hitler's dreams were crushed. During the next several years he wondered the streets of Austria and Germany, at time a wholly destitute person whom some historians claim made at least nineteen attempts at suicide. On one nearly successful attempt, ironically, he was prevented from self-destruction by members of a jewish family. Eventually, as we all know, blocked from positive pursuits and having failed at suicide, Hitler discovered the Nazi party and his reptilian brain got its way in a destructive orgy that took out himself and over 60,000,000 others of his species, and left much of Europe in ashes. From the glories of our poets and healers to the criminals and killers who terrorize our streets and homes, all are powered by the reptilian brain.

If the reptilian brain is the furnace of our actions, then the male hormone, testosterone, is like gasoline upon that fire. This is why over the millenniums men have been far more creative and destructive than women. (Sorry politically correct group.) Of course, as we know, men are physically most active when their testosterone level peaks in their early twenties. Thus with their reptilian brain fired up by testosterone at its maximum craving for action in their late teens and early twenties, warriors, athletes and gang bangers reach their leatal zenith at this stage of life.

Now the point of this exercise is that the reptilian brain is not about to give up its hold on mankind in the next few million years or so, even if we could survive without it, which is most likely an impossibility. In any event, it is important that in all our political and social endeavors, legislators, aministrators, business and religious leaders, and the public at large, be fully aware of how what they intend might impact the reptilian brain. Will it create unintended pockets where positive action is blocked, leading to a whole array of destructive forces being unleashed, or will it allow for activities that, while perhaps not ideally suited to every interest, will at least minimize the destructive potential? To know the solution, one must first understand the problem. The reptilian brain has forever been the curse and the salvation of mankind. It is ignored at great peril.


Quote:
Of course, as we know, men are physically most active when their testosterone level peaks in their early twenties.


This explains the accident statistics then.

Andrew

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 22:29 
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andys280176 wrote:
While the more modern, sophisticated parts of the brain get to do all the really complex day-to-day thinking, it is still the antiquated reptilian part that rules the roost. Politicians, preachers, and ad men know this, and always aim their words at our emotions, not at our intellect to get their message across. The scary thing about the reptilian brain is that it has no concept of good or evil. It simply demands action of some kind. It will not tolerate a void of inactivity. If it can not find an outlet for creative action, it will push relentlessly for destructive action, and if neither is possible it then begins pressuring for self-destruction. Thus mankind as a whole, and individuals as well, oscillate between war and other murderous impulses and peaceful building and harmony.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 22:41 
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Cunobelin wrote:
Quote:
If, surprisingly, you spot the kid running out between the pavement projections while you are concentrating on avoiding the projections, complete with bollards, and the car coming the other way trying to avoid its bollards:

You'll do what you've done every other time you've driven through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

You'll drive through the gap between the bollards and the car coming the other way:

And you'll drive through the kid!


Surely this suggests that the model used for reaction is unsuitable for use as a first line defence.

By these criteria you would be unable to deal with any change in the preconcieved memory of the road. The statement that it is not possible to cope with a car coming towards you suggests that an equally serious problem would result if there is ANY change in the road layout, or surface as these will also be outside the capability to react. It is worrying to think how a simple change in the geography like somenone parking a car would be dealt with under this response model!

In this case it would not be the road that is the problem, it is the inability to react tor deal with anything outside a fixed and unwavering set of parameters.

However blaming the road is a classic case of self-denial. TI cannot cope oe reactto a situation therefor the problem cannot be with me it must be with the road!

If this is the case then this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as driving in a safe manner.

No.

A parked car on a normal road is dealt with by advance observation, and adjusting your speed and line to the conditions at that point, as part of an ongoing interaction with the open road that keeps you alert.

The pavement projection is usually part of an ongoing series of obstacles deliberately styled (I won't say engineered) to attract close attention. After a few of those you will be so focussed on the (gap between the) bollards and the oncoming vehicles that you won't see anything else.

All IMHO :wink:

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 22:58 
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I'd like to point out that Andy's interesting "reptilian brain" article is talking about something rather different from the original "lizard brain" stuff.

I guess we're talking about different subdivisions of subconscious thought.

When I was googling for the original post in this thread, I found a load of "lizard brain" references around the net that were talking about different things. I guess this a problem that results from using vague and colloquial terms...

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 23:15 
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SafeSpeed wrote:
I'd like to point out that Andy's interesting "reptilian brain" article is talking about something rather different from the original "lizard brain" stuff.

I guess we're talking about different subdivisions of subconscious thought.

When I was googling for the original post in this thread, I found a load of "lizard brain" references around the net that were talking about different things. I guess this a problem that results from using vague and colloquial terms...

Probably time we sorted out the nomenclature then.

"Conscious Mind" is probably pretty safe, but not sure what to badge the autopilot side. "Sub-conscious mind" suggests sleepiness, which is nothing to do with this. Whitmore calls it the "Natural Mind" which makes a good bit of sense but isn't very self-explanatory.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 04:53 
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JT wrote:
Probably time we sorted out the nomenclature then.

"Conscious Mind" is probably pretty safe, but not sure what to badge the autopilot side. "Sub-conscious mind" suggests sleepiness, which is nothing to do with this. Whitmore calls it the "Natural Mind" which makes a good bit of sense but isn't very self-explanatory.


I thought I'd check out the terms in the original post:

Medical dictionary entry:

rhinencephalon (rhin·en·ceph·a·lon) (ri²n[schwa]n-sef¢[schwa]-lon) [rhin- + encephalon] 1. a term generally applied to certain parts of the brain previously thought to be concerned entirely with olfactory mechanisms, including the olfactory nerves, bulbs, tracts, and subsequent connections (all olfactory in function) and the limbic system (not primarily olfactory in function); it is homologous with the olfactory portions of the brain in lower animals. Called also olfactory brain and smell brain. 2. a term formerly used in official terminology to designate the area of the brain comprising the substantia perforata anterior, stria diagonalis (Broca), area subcallosa, and gyrus paraterminalis. 3. one of the portions of the telencephalon in the embryo.

Medical dictionary entry:

paleocortex (pa·leo·cor·tex) (pa²le-o-kor¢teks) [TA] [paleo- + cortex] that portion of the cerebral cortex that, with the archicortex, develops in association with the olfactory system, and which is phylogenetically older and less stratified than the neocortex. It is composed chiefly of the piriform cortex and the parahippocampal gyrus. Spelled also palaeocortex.

Those two look like a "fail" to me.

This looks as if it might be helpful, but it's huge:
http://neuro.psyc.memphis.edu/NeuroPsyc ... issues.htm

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Safespeed wrote:

Quote:
I'd like to point out that Andy's interesting "reptilian brain" article is talking about something rather different from the original "lizard brain" stuff.


I thought it added a bit of spice to the argument. I see it isn't exactly relevant but do you not think it does give a good overview of the reptilian brain? :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 10:30 
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I'm sticking to a combination of muscle memory and subconcious thought. Great, my brain is hurting now :cry:

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JT wrote:
Probably time we sorted out the nomenclature then... "Conscious Mind" is probably pretty safe, but not sure what to badge the autopilot side. "Sub-conscious mind" suggests sleepiness, which is nothing to do with this. Whitmore calls it the "Natural Mind" which makes a good bit of sense but isn't very self-explanatory.
How about a nice simple layman's term, like "instinct". In the driving situation there are things we do conciously, such as count junctions on an unfamiliar motorway so we can find the right exit. But there are many more things that we do instintively. How often do you actively think about what gear you should be in, or how much pressure to apply to the brake, or how much to turn the wheel for the bend you're negotiating?

The difference is when we first get into the driving seat as a zit infested teenager and we possess few, if any, of these instinctive responses. Remember your first driving lessons? Remember how much concentration was needed for all those individually simple tasks that have to be done simultaneously when driving? Not like that any more is it? As a learner my kid sister is having to train and develop her driving instincts from scratch, during which time she's likely to have to think about things which I would do without even realising. What she does conciously I tend to do instinctively.

I think muscle memory is also a big part of this, since you can also develop that by repetitive training. I once read that Ian Peel (the UK trap shooter who got a silver in Sydney) lives too far from any clay shooting places and has to practice shooting imaginary clays in his bedroom. Sounds daft, but apparently it's just developing muscle memory - getting his body to do the right things without being told by his brain. It's bound to apply to driving as well. As another analogy, watch someone touch typing if you can. My mum blazes away on a computer at a rate of knots only occasionally looking down at the keyboard. She doesn't need to think about where the right keys are to type a sentence any more than she needs to think about where the brake pedal is or how to turn the lights on when she's driving. Whether muscle memory is part of trained instinctive behaviour, or the other way round, I have no idea. But the effects are pretty much the same.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 16:59 
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Instinct isn't right, because we're talking about learned behaviour.

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I'm not talking about instincts that we're all born with. Haven't you ever reacted instinctively to a situation on the road? One in which as a learner you might well have had to waste time thinking about how to react? If so, surely that's a learned instinct. You conciously learn what to do, well mostly. But you apply the knowledge instinctively.

Edit: Actually I've just realised that I didn't qualify my use of the term at all well. :oops Sorry. This is what I had in mind (from a Collins dictionary):
instinctive (sense 2) - condtioned so as to appear innate: an instinctive movement in driving.
Yep, they really do have that driving bit in there, and I honestly had no idea. (Only got the dictioary for Christmas though and long way from finishing it. I expect zygote did it. :))

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