A tendency to channel needs into specific, fixed gratifications.The hunger drive is unselective in the first few years. Young children attempt to eat practically anything. After a time, however, we limit ourselves to certain foods which have repeatedly given us satisfaction and are at the same time considered acceptable. Other articles of food, such as fried grasshoppers, appear unnatural and repulsive even though they may be regarded as delicacies in some cultures. Similarly, we gradually restrict our esthetic tastes, our friendships, our sex life, our work and recreational interests, to a relatively narrow range of satisfactions. In other words, we tend to fall into a pattern in the way we seek to gratify most of our needs.Gardner Murphy (1946) has applied the term “canalization,” borrowed from Pierre Janet, to this universal tendency. He believes these acquired wants can be distinguished from conditioned responses, since they can seldom if ever be eradicated completely, while conditioned responses can usually be extinguished. As evidence he offers the fact that although we may replace old canalizations with new ones, we have a tendency to revert to original satisfactions when we are under stress—that is,- we derive a nostalgic pleasure from the music or the sweets or the mother love we enjoyed in childhood. There is further evidence in the hypnotic-regres- sion technique, in which an individual is able to recapture the entire level of behavior which obtained at four or five years of age.Murphy regards canalization as an important aspect of personality development. The child’s own body is the first center for the process since it is a source of his early satisfactions. Within a few months the mother gradually emerges as the most intense satisfier in the outside world, and since the strongest and most lasting canalizations usually occur in the early years of childhood, she may remain the child’s basic source of satisfaction in life—in other words the child may become “fixated” on her. As a result he may fail to respond adequately to other satisfiers, and in later life may seek a love mate who will be expected to provide everything, just as mother used to do.Fortunately there is a countertendency which Murphy believes to be equally basic—the desire for novelty, variety and adventure. This helps to insure diversity in the canalization of our drives. At the beginning of life we are all basically similar, since we are endowed with similar physiological mechanisms—but as we grow and come in contact with different cultural and personal influences, we acquire more and more specific and divergent ways of satisfying our needs. In other words, identical drives become canalized in different ways, but our humanity remains essentially the same.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "CANAJLIZATION," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed January 29, 2023).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here