Instincts are predefined "good" responses to stimuli, contained in their genome, that are automatically learnt by creatures while they sleep or in the last stages of hatching. When a creature sleeps, it is as if their mind is detached from their body and run through a series of scenarios to train their brain - effectively, they dream.
A good way of looking at what a norn is "supposed" to do is to look at the instincts in their genome using the Genetics Kit. It is possible to find out several interesting facts about your creatures through this method.
For example, taking a Creatures 2 norn genome:
- Norns have instincts to push things when suffocating - and there just happens to be a bouncer in the ocean . . .
- You weren't just imagining it - norns really do like sleeping in vehicles!
- Norns have instincts to associate actions with words for push, pull, come, get, rest and eat while in the egg, but will probably find it hard to understand what deactivate, run, drop, west, east or hit means, or how to express what they need, until they reach the Child life stage. Of course, they have to be taught the words that you want to use for these actions first!
- It may be obvious, but Adolescent norns do dream of petting other norns (of the opposite sex)
- Norns start dreaming of getting their own (less crowded) place when they reach the Youth stage
- Norns dislike staying still when hungry, and are trained to retreat from cliff edges
- When you're a baby, eating almost everything seems like a good idea
- Good plants smell good, while bad plants smell bad
On the other hand, due to instincts the average C2 grendel:
- Tends to understand come, get and eat when it is born, and hit after it becomes a Child
- Favours using lifts when its Need for Pleasure is high
- Likes to approach norns when bored, and likes to hit them when angry
C2 Ettins have special instincts to escape overcrowding by using lifts, and for some reason to fall asleep when frightened.
A problem with the Creatures 2 genome was that many norns were unable to sleep properly due to an imbalance in reward and punishment, and therefore did not get trained by instincts to do vital things like eat and sleep normally - the latter just made things worse until the former killed them (see also Socrates). As with rats, sleep deprivation can kill! This problem was solved with Nova Subterra and the Canny Norns.