Archive for February, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline #5

February 27, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline #5

In science, it is important to measure the phenomena under study. As you have learned, it is not difficult to measure the rates per 100,000 of population to assess important social indicators. Also, it is no longer difficult to understand the mechanisms involved in changing the behaviors of individuals, and envision the multiplication of various behavior patterns within our population through the known mechanisms and avenues of behavioral contagion.

But to develop measures of the impact of all of previously discussed factors upon the health and viability of America (or any socioculture) will require the development of yet another conception. This concept is one that I call Social Entropy. But first it is important to lay some important groundwork for its construction.

Physical Entropy

The concept of entropy is not new. Jeremy Rifkin (1980) Other Authors wrote the book, Entropy. He noted that Albert Einstein held that entropy was “the premier law of all science”.  He also noted that Einstein judged that entropy, the second law of thermodynamics was the physical law most unlikely to be ever invalidated. He further noted that the scientist Sir Arthur Edington asserted that the Entropy Law was “the supreme metaphysical law of the entire universe”.

The principle of entropy was originally described by a French army officer named Sadi Carnot while he was investigating the workings of the the steam engine. The German physicist, Rudolf  Clausius was the first to use the term, entropy, in 1868. It was the field of thermodynamics that yielded this extraordinarily important scientific concept.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy or matter cannot be created or destroyed and that the total amount of energy in the universe is finite and constant.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy can only be transformed or changed and that the direction of change is always from energy which is available for use, to energy which is not available for use.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that “processes which do not conform to the First and Second Law cannot occur“.

The concept of entropy is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Rifkin (1980) defined entropy as “a measure of the amount of energy no longer capable of conversion into work”. Another common definition of entropy centers on the “tendency of organized matter to move in the direction of disorganization, deterioration, and chaos”.

While both of these definitions can be adapted to have relevance to our sociocultural analysis purposes, the concept of the amount of energy not available to maintain a system or process, is most germane.  Although the energy-not-available concept will normally be used within the following discussions, the tendency-toward-disorganization will also be a very useful and compatible subordinate concept.

A simple example of entropy in the physical world is the burning of a log. I fondly recall my dear father explaining this concept to me when I was a child. A piece of wood represents free and easily used energy in a highly organized state. When the wood is burned, nothing physical is actually lost in the universe. The wood is simply converted into various gases and ash residue. The energy has been converted from free to bound energy.  It was once easily used through the process of combustion, but now it is much less available for convenient or easy use. Another, more troublesome, example of entropy is the dramatically escalating use of our planet’s fossil fuels. These natural resources represent a finite supply of “free or unbound” energy. Once this fuel is combusted, or converted, the byproducts will represent bound energy which are no longer so easily available to do work.

It is clear that physical scientists are convinced that the entropy law manifests a great deal of reliability, validity and generality across all of their disciplines. The conception of entropy in the physical sciences is not only the result of diligent research, but this concept has functioned as an immensely valuable catalyst for further scientific advancements.

I believe the concept of entropy can be adapted to understand a large part the puzzle of the worlds sociocultures that inevitably fall into decline and often have totally collapsed.

Please Stay Tuned!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/27/12

You are welcome to share my writing on this topic. But, reproducing for commercial use is prohibited


The Psychology of America’s Decline #4

February 22, 2012

Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Sources of Bad Behavioral Contagion

In order to avoid catalyzing bad behavioral contagion the avenues of its development must be identified. The behavioral contagion model is similar to the medical contagion model in that the best way to treat pathology (whether it is physical or psychological) is through prevention. Whether it is a medical epidemic or a psychological epidemic, only treating the afflicted individuals is generally a losing strategy. It is the source of the epidemic, along with its modes of transmission of the pathology, that must be identified and controlled to stem the tide.

With medical problems the discovery of germs and genetics and the modes of their spread that was a major advancement. Within the psychological world, it is certain classes of environmental events (genetics included) within a population and the spread of their effects through human direct and indirect interaction that cause numerous “epidemics” of psychopathology.

Chapter X identified several cultural rule changes that have catalyzed various forms of bad behavioral contagion. Many avenues of bad behavioral contagion were identified that will not be so easy to control in a socioculture such as ours. America has historically preserved individual choice (also called liberty or freedom) for its citizens. In the past 50 years those freedoms have been dramatically expanded and this has powerfully catalyzed many forms of bad behavioral contagion within our population.

Among those identified were the legalization of Pornography and Gambling which catalyzed related socially damaging impulse control problems. Another was the interpretation of “separation of church and State” to mean that there could be no references to religion in our public places: thus reducing the beneficial influences of America’s traditional moral codes upon our behavior.

Changes in civil divorce laws increased rates of divorce and this increased the rate of numerous bad events for children (poverty, parental alienation and abandonment, lack of parenting time and supervision, physical and sexual abuse), and the many psychological problems that flow (are contaged) from these damaging environmental experiences—through generations. On balance marriages that contain untreatable infidelity, abuse and neglect are often more damaging to psychological health than a divorce. But divorce, when children are involved, for mere reasons of self-fulfillment are more dangerous to the children’s normal development.

For those who take notice and objectively evaluate the behavioral contagion consequences of these and other rule changes in America, the bad consequences will be clear. Unfortunately many other changes in America, and elsewhere, have brought damaging contagion consequences that are more difficult to see and address.

For example, the inexorable process modernization itself has had a weakening effect upon our behavior. Individuals appear to have less resistance to extinction (they give-up trying more quickly), they become depressed and anxious more frequently. Modernization has also allowed medicine to save those with central nervous system impairments that lead to increased rates of population behavior problems. Similarly, modern psychotropic medications have allowed for  release the mental patients who formerly would have been hospitalized during their reproductive years. Now those who suffer from genetically-based chronic mental illness are medicated and release back into our general population where their reproductive rates are similar to that of non-mental patients. The increased common use of recreational drugs has produce difficult to detect increases in central nervous system damage to infants who grow among us with increased behavioral/psychological problems. More such examples of “hidden” sources of bad behavioral contagion were discussed in Chapter X. But in summary, all of these human behavioral/psychological problems, and more, move forward in time and they multiply themselves among others within our population through the continuing processes of behavioral contagion.

It is with significant trepidation, and all due respect to the intentions of America’s Founding Fathers, that I address this delicate matter. The many advantages of historically beneficial freedoms in America are well known and do not require discussion here. However, the modern explosion of many free choices, newly allocated to both adolescents and adults has revealed grave disadvantages to the health and viability of our socioculture.

The same must be said for the curtailment of some free choices (such as restrictions to the celebration of traditional religious holidays and references to God in public venues). The same must be said of the freedom from hard effort and labor (afforded by modernization and technology). The same must be said of the increased freedom from the consequences of our own incompetent actions (i.e., The expanded protections of poorly designed Well-Fare Programs).

It is true, especially in the American system of government, that all of the social and environmental conditions that catalyze good or bad behavioral contagion cannot be changed to achieve maximum benefits. But this is not a good reason to ignore and fail to discuss the presence of these important conditions as well as the possibilities or impossibilities involved. After all, there should be ways to bring vast improvements to the quality of our own behavior patterns while keeping restrictions to our individual choices in life to some minimal acceptable limits.

The Psychology of America’s Decline #3

February 22, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline #3

Behavioral Contagion and Changing Population Behavior Patterns

Medicine was able to make great strides when it learned the ways in which disease spread among humans. It is now time that the science of human behavior capture similar gains. In chapter 9, the older psychological concept of behavioral contagion was revitalized. Discussed there was the fact that behavior is contagious. Behavior (emotions, perceptions attitudes and actions), both good and bad, spread within a population as a result of person to person, or media mediated symbolic contact.

You may recall that my definition of behavioral contagion is: The spread of particular behavior patterns within a population via scientifically validated biopsychosocal mechanisms. 

Behavioral contagion is a social phenomenon and from that perspective behavior change is spread by contact with other humans through direct contact (we see, hear, or are touched by someone within a particular context). Though we normally do not think about it in this way, it is essential to do so. Just think about any personal relationship (friends, lovers, or family, in which you have had to deal with someone who has been angry, threatening, violent, depressed, untrustworthy, etc. Conversely, think about the times that you have had with those who are kind and loving, courteous, honest, and helpful. Recall the emotions, thoughts and your own behaviors in under these conditions. I will assure you that if you were a practicing psychologist, the range of phenomena that I call behavioral contagion would gain stunning clarity.

It would also be clear that behavioral contagion spreads through indirect contact (individuals witness artificial depictions of events through our ever-present media. We observe others seeing, hearing, or being impacted in good or bad ways by still others, or different events,  within various contexts. This also is clear to see as our society becomes more profane, violent, drug involved and sexual amid ever-present media portrayal these behavior patterns.

The behaviors of someone that impinge upon others though direct or indirect contact commonly change the emotions, perceptions, beliefs and behaviors of the impinged individual. In these complex and ubiquitous chains of social transmission, the behavior patterns that impinge upon others become both causes and effects.

This is commonly observed in the transmission of both good and bad behavior patterns within families across generations. Such examples of behavioral contagion include all three domains of transmission (biological, psychological, and social). Family members physically resemble one another and they often display genetically based physical and psychological strengths and weaknesses. The same can be said for the behavior patterns that are shaped by basic principles of psychology and also function predictably within unique family mores, folkways, traditions, and action patterns. All of this occurs within the family’s unique sociocultural contexts, which further shapes behavioral outcomes.

Although the outcomes of behavioral contagion are individually difficult to predict, when viewed from statistical perspective (Rate per 100,000 of population), they become very predictable. This predictability advantage can be observed when individuals who are subjected to x, y, and z events are at significantly greater risk for certain kinds of behavioral/ psychological problems, or they are at less risk for them.

A great deal is known about the workings of behavioral contagion. Both prosocial (good behavioral contagion) and damaging (bad behavioral contagion) advance or spread through a population, via the very same well-known biological, psychological and social principles which I have described in earlier chapters.

No less real, but more difficult to recognize, is what I call Higher-Order behavioral contagion. Increases in Primary behavioral contagion (good or bad) among the citizens of any society are directly transmitted to the social organizations and systems that function to transmit, stabilize, and protect the socioculture of concern. Look carefully and you will see that as America’s behavior problems have increased, the demands (stressors) placed upon social services, law enforcement, the courts, education and special education has continues to overwhelm them. Higher-order bad behavioral contagion flows upward through our levels of government and back down to the population in the form of increased taxes and decreases in the quality of infrastructure and services at all levels.

As explained earlier, the effects of this massive and very complex behavioral contagion cycle are both catalytic and synergistic to further escalating feed-back cycles of bad behavioral contagion.

Breaking these escalating feed-back cycles of bad behavioral contagion will require a great, focused and well-defined effort by both government and citizens.

Francis Bacon reportedly stated that: “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they are not altered for the better designedly”. I am certain that this is the truth.

It is much more labor intensive to insure that the rates of good behavior contagion are greater than the rates of bad behavior contagion. Maintaining higher rates of good behavioral contagion requires sustained planning, coordinated effort, and constant maintenance This is true whether the focus is upon the individual, family, city, state, or a whole socioculture. It is the basic nature of bad behavior contagion that its determinants are low effort, easier, faster and more immediately rewarding than those of good behavioral contagion.

The failure to understand these basic truths, and to vigilantly work to increase and maintain rates of good (and avoid bad) behavioral contagion is an important variable in the decline of civilizations.

The preceding from the book I am writing. You may share it with others, but not for commercial purposes.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.  2/20/12

The Psychology of America’s Decline 2: Cultural Decompensation

February 20, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline 2: Cultural Decompensation

The concept of psychological decompensation has been used in the field of clinical psychology to describe a condition in which an individual loses their ability to respond to stressors in an integrated and adaptive way.

Hans Selye identified the General Adaption Syndrome which describes three phases that organisms go through in coping with stressors. A stressor is defined as any demand upon an organism adapt or adjust to some environmental change.  These phases are:  1) the alarm reaction, during which time a threat or a stressor (or more) is perceived and defensive or coping efforts are mobilized (concentration, organization, effort, energy, money, etc., are to defend against the stressor(s);  2) the stage of resistance, in which aggressive, defensive and resistive energy is utilized at maximum levels for as long as possible in order to manage the stressor cope successfully; and 3) collapse, the point where energy resources are exhausted and continued stress leads to the disintegration of coping abilities and perhaps even death. Of course, if the organism is able to adapt effectively, the collapse phase can be avoided.

Perhaps you can identify a situation in your life in which you have been challenged to change your behavior to cope with some big stressor, or perhaps many smaller ones impinging upon you all-at-once, or in rapid succession. One individual suffered the loss of his business, a divorce, and bankruptcy, all within a short-time of each other. His struggle to cope with these events visited each of Selye’s three stages. The man survived the ordeal, but he was left anxious and depressed and his ability to cope with future stressors was significantly impaired.

The last stage of Selye’s general adaption syndrome is collapse. In clinical psychology this stage is known as psychological decompensation.  Again, decompensation refers to a process in which severe or multiple stressors finally overwhelm a person’s ability to function in an organized, integrated, and effective way.   This process is thought to occur with all forms of life, across all environmental conditions. For example, when a cell is invaded by a microorganism it is stressed, and presumably goes through these three stages as it fights to destroy the invader. Other Individual organisms can be similarly taxed by countless stressors (starvation, crowding, natural disasters, and temperature extremes, etc. 

Finally, the collections of people the comprise sociocultures can also be stressed by war, famine, climate change and a host of other changes that require them to adapt effectively. But more to the focus of this book, another class of stressors can be the outcomes they suffer as a result of a populations own self-defeating adaptations and the resulting maladaptive behavior patterns that represent more positively accelerating stressful feedback avenues within that population. These self-perpetuating and potentially increasing stress auto-cycles, without effective change and intervention, can lead to cultural decompensation and eventually the severe decline or the utter collapse of  cultures.

The reader may share this material with others for noncommercial purposes only.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.  1/19/12

The Heritage Foundation

February 19, 2012

The Heritage foundation

I hope you will visit the Heritage Foundation Website.

This is an authoritative conservative site providing a great many statistics and analyses of all things political and sociocultural.

If you just poke around there, you will find and enormous amount of information that can help you see through the foggy bias of the liberal media..

Yes, it is a conservative source of information, but I have yet to find anything that is not factually based.

Look on the left lower corner of my blog, click on it in My Sites.

VTM, 1/19/12

The Psychology of America’s Decline 1

February 19, 2012

 The Psychology of America’s Decline 1

Sooner or later, all sociocultures experience decline from which they may or may not recover. Countless sociocultures have been totally undone and have collapsed into oblivion.  As identified in Chapter 8, on cultural evolution, decline and/or collapse can occur for many reasons. Many causes have been identified (pestilence, disease, conquest, depletion of resources, etc.), but others remain less clear.

Less well understood is the problem of sociocultures that fail to maintain the strength and quality of their own citizen’s behavior patterns. This internal processes of collective behavioral decline is not yet well understood. It is true that external forces such as climate change, immigration and military invasion, etc., can unilaterally overwhelm healthy sociocultures. But, all to frequently it is the damaging and stressful byproducts of a weakened or otherwise self-defeating population’s own behavior patterns; plus the more easily identified external challenges that finally overwhelm their culture’s adaptive capabilities.

From A Book I am writing: The Psychology of America’s Decline.

You may share this, with citation, for noncommercial purposes only.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/18/12

Another Example of America’s Self-Destructive Behavior

February 18, 2012

 Another Example of America’s Self-Destructive Behavior
I am Sorry for the brief ad at the start of this video. It is brief and the news report is essential to our understanding of our continuing financial decline. We are giving China our jobs!
Thanks to Howard Hawkins for sending this to me.
VTM, 2/18/12

Regarding The I Dare You To Watch Post: I Fixed The Video

February 17, 2012

Regarding The I Dare You To Watch Post: I Fixed The Video

If you missed this video because it did not work, please go back and see it.

It is too important to miss.


I Dare You To Watch: Think You Know About Education?!

February 16, 2012

I Dare You To Watch: Think You Know About Education?!

 I grew up in the 40’s – 50’s.  I do not even recognize our culture anymore.

I must be having a nightmare!

V. Thomas Mawhinney

Competition In Education Will Win!

February 15, 2012

Competition In Education Will Win!

The following is a great article on education, Obama’s proposed program to lower the costs of college. Two University of Michigan students debate the merits of this proposal. One is in favor of Obama’s big government supposed solution, the other student argues for free market competition in education.

I judge that the free market solution is the winner, as indicated in my remarks at the end of this article.

Please consider the following:     V. T. Mawhinney

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