Richard Ord: Save my chips

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THE HUMAN instinct is an inborn reflex honed by millions of years of evolution. It cannot be ignored or suppressed.

 Just as our survival instincts cause us to recoil at the sound of an angry scream, so our mating instincts attract us to a pretty face. (Evolutionary confusion reigns when the pretty face lets out an angry scream. Have you met the wife?).

 Perhaps the strongest of all these instincts is the protective mothering instinct. An instinct that has also been honed over millions of years of evolution, though there are some instincts which are the exception.

 Seaham mum Paula Sanderson made the news this week when she was fined £75 for littering. Her defence? Human instinct.

 She told reporters how she was out walking with her toddler son at Seaton Carew, enjoying a tray of chips, when the youngster bolted out towards a busy road. She said: “I did what any mother would have done, and instinctively went to grab him.

 “I put the chips on the wall, grabbed him, then turned round to where the chips were.”

 On returning to her chips, she was slapped with a £75 fine for littering by a council worker.

 An offence she vehemently denies.

 “There was half a tray left,” she said. “So I hadn’t just dumped them. I’m fuming about being fined, but what would anyone else have done?”

 Yes, if my child was in danger I’m sure my protective instincts would have kicked in too.

 What I think is most interesting, however, is that though the protective instinct was fast, it was the “save my chips” instinct that acted faster.

 Surely this is the most modern of all our natural-born instincts.

 One for the Echo’s evolutionary psychology correspondent to investigate further, I think.