Another example of fixed action patterns is the red-bellied stickleback (fish). The male turns a bright red/blue colour during the breeding season. During this time they are also naturally aggressive towards other red-bellied sticklebacks, another FAP. However anything that is red, or has the appearance of being red, will bring about this FAP. The proximate response to this is that due to the stimuli, a nerve sends a signal to attack that red item. The ultimate cause of this behavior stems from the fact that the stickleback needs the area in which it is living for either habitat, food, mating with other sticklebacks, or other purposes. This is an inherited behavior, but it is has been found that this behavior may be more flexible than scientists thought at first. This interaction was studied by Niko Tinbergen. The threat display of male stickleback (fish) is also a fixed action pattern triggered by a stimulus.
Now, FAPs, to my mind, raise a couple of interesting questions vis a vis EP. Here's another.
Suppose that the sticklebacks using a "smart" mechanism in the sense of one that "capitalize[s] on the peculiarities of the situation and the task". That is, the sticklebacks rely on the fact that, by and large, the only things with red patches on them in the stereotypical stickleback environment is a male stickleback.
Yet, this is what cognitivists, I think, will often describe as relying on an "assumption" about the environment. It might be what cognitivists call an implicit assumption, one that is not coded as a line in a program or as a data structure, but an assumption nonetheless.
Now, I don't have text to cite, here, but I think at least one thing EPists don't like
"assumptions" is that they don't like them construed as representations or what cognitivists might call "explicit assumptions". But, perhaps non-representational, "implicit assumptions", are ok. Indeed, I take it that Runeson's account of the information a person uses in state Ames room viewing relies on what cognitivists might call "implicit assumptions".