Bad Behavioral Contagion and The Smart Phone
Behavioral Contagion is the spread of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors within a population via biological, psychological, and social mechanisms of contact. The effects of behavioral contagion can be beneficial or harmful to societies.
From my perspective, and generally speaking, the results of conservative social and political polices in America have been essential to our ascendency in the world. The importance of Judeo/Christian influences must also not be underestimated.
The net effects of America’s increasing radical liberal/progressive social and political policies have accelerated our cultural decline.The effects of the “religious” non-religion of Secular Humanism is also a part of this damaging mosaic.
Liberal/progressive policies, built upon Secular Humanism, have catalyze bad behavioral contagion within America’s population, and through our national and international policies the harm has spread to the world.
However, this same cycle of decline has been independently occurring throughout Western Civilization for what appears to be similar reasons.
I have blogged extensively about the mechanisms and effects of behavioral contagion among populations. Please consider doing a search on the upper right side of my home page. Simply type “behavioral contagion” in the search box.
The concept of technological determination identifies a very important class of variables producing cultural change. This concept identifies the ways in which technological advancements change the culture in which they occur. Technological advancements directly change the behaviors, thoughts, beliefs (expectations) and emotions of those who use, or in other ways, benefit from the new technology.
Technological change is an important stimulant to the mechanisms of behavioral contagion within a population. Easy examples of this cultural evolutionary force can be found in the clock, gun powder, the manufacture of steel, the internal combustion engine, the discovery of germs, modern medical practices, air travel, space travel, medical advancements, etc., etc., etc.. The population behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and emotions that have changed as a result of such technological advancements are virtually countless: These behavior changes could be categorized as good or bad for the evolution of a culture.
But for America, consider the following: At a time when two-parent families are financially stretched to the limit and both parents are commonly working; when approximately one in four children are being raised by a single parent; when the stabilizing force of grandparents living near to nuclear families has been greatly reduced by mobility; when children are left unsupervised more often than ever; when the mental health of children has been in decline; when the entertainment media increasingly showcases bizarre behaviors, gay and straight sexuality, pornography of every description and florid extreme violence;…how could anyone expect that a technology that increases children and teen’s exposure to such media would not catalyze bad contagion?
Unsupervised and unlimited access to cyberspace unquestionably opens children and teens to the effects of obscene real and simulated violence, pornography, sexting, aggressive bullying and brutal, inhumane treatment by peers through social media .
All of this without limits or restraints. All of this without the healthy teaching effects of real-time social consequences for ungoverned hedonistic and antisocial behaviors.
In the fictional book, “Lord of The Flies”, children were isolated on an island without adult supervision leading horrific outcomes. Now ,in reality, Children are isolated in cyberspace without adult supervision leading to horrific outcomes.
From a conditioning and learning, as well as a social learning theory perspective, all of the above must catalyze bad behavioral contagion in the form of an epidemic of children and youth who are increasingly showing forms of psychopathology: Anxiety, Depression, Substance Dependency, Social Withdrawal, Conduct Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Sexual Acting-Out, School Under-Achievement and Withdrawal, Aggression , and more.
I have seen this increase over the past nearly 40 years as a psychologist in private practice. But of course my little practice could easily represent a biased sample of our youth.
Please see a recent evaluation of , not only the frequencies of child disabilities over time, but of a change in rank-orders of the categories of disabilities shifting steadily from physical to mental disabilities. Note that the author of this article dutifully warns that it is hard to prove what is causing this increase.
I warn that there is sufficient research to deduce a multiplicity of causes and society has little time to make corrections to its own harmful practices.
Technological modernity has its advantages. But it also has its disadvantages. This is particularly so for children when they are not in a two parent well-functioning home (ideally with a mother and a father), that appropriately facilitates and supervises their healthy development.
While the following article is not a controlled research study. Its concerns and anecdotal observations reflect the predicted outcomes of a great number of published controlled behavioral science studies.
Please see this article about the apparent harms to children of unsupervised access to smart phones and the internet.
V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend
Health Services Provider In Psychology