Law of Effect Needs Moral Governance


Law of Effect Needs Moral Governance

There are many psychological principles that determine human behavior. They work together in complex ways and the behavioral outcomes of these interactions often appear to be both synergistic and exponential.

For example, being sexually abused twice, 1+1, may not equal a magnitude of disturbance in the victim of 2; it might equal a magnitude of disturbance of 5. Other unfortunate experiences frequently evolve from this person’s troubled behavior and is likely to produce a quickly accelerating rate of more troubled emotions and behaviors.

Of course principles of genetics and biology are of great importance. The interactions between these factors and psychological factors are bi-directional. Therefore, principles of psychology influence behavior and behavior is influenced by bio-genetic factors.

For example, a person born with the genetic factors that determine alcohol addiction will be more motivated to consume alcohol to excess , which in turn, can lead to more physical and psychological problems. These problems can include broken families, road fatalities, ruined business early death due to alcohol related illnesses or suicide.

In the previous example of rape, the victim may turn to drugs or alcohol in order to self-medicate for the fears and anxieties that typically are associated with rapes or other traumas. This can lead to more physical and psychological problems, which could end in bad outcomes for the individual and society.

These individuals could be helped by entering therapy. But many refuse treatment, are only partially assisted, or even fail to benefit in any measurable way.

Any society that designs itself in ways that accidentally, or selfishly, increase such problems for their citizens and then spends increasing revenues and energy to fix the problems is maladaptive and self-defeating. Such cultural designs are on a certain path to cultural decline.

This defines one of modern America’s most severe and worsening self-management problems.

The primary focus of the remainder of this blog will be upon psychological principles, processes and behavioral outcomes.

The great and powerful Law of Effect states that the probability of behavior is controlled by its consequences. The higher an animal is placed upon the phylogentic continuum, the greater the Law of Effect influences that animal’s behavior. Therefore, human behavior (good, bad, or indifferent) is most greatly influenced by the Law of Effect. The behavior of animals lower on the phyologentic scale is less influenced by the law of effect and more so by genetics.

Unfortunately, if  the powerful and natural influences of the Law of Effect and other interacting psychological principles are not guided by commonly accepted moral rules, values and consequences transmitted consistently and synchronously; within families, agencies and organizations (at managerial and governmental levels)…increased rates of bad behaviors within populations will certainly occur.

This is my prediction based upon principles of conditioning and learning theory and behavioral/cognitive social learning theory. My prediction is also informed by my 36 years as a professor of psychology and over 40 years as a private cognitive/behavioral therapist.

The population behavior changes I have seen in America during the course of my adult life (now at 75 yrs.) is largely, though not a singularly result, of a decline in our moral rules and consequences that less and less consistently govern our behavior. The interacting biopsychosocial scientific principles and  behavioral outcomes cause by this erosion of moral rules, values and consequences is what I call Behavioral Contagion. More specifically, Bad Behavioral contagion, leading to increased rates of bad behavior.

For our informal purposes, “bad behaviors” will include those  perceptions, emotions, beliefs and actions that damage the healthy physical and psychological development of children, adolescents and adults. These problems are very expensive and decrease the ability of a society to survive long and well.

To be sure, an entire book could be written about what bad behavior is, and is not, and there would be disagreement about what are good or bad behaviors under various circumstances. Regarding the class of “good behaviors”, I view these as human actions that are incompatible with, or compete with, the bad behaviors as defined above.

Most people would agree that, bad behaviors are neglecting, abusing or abandoning children or other loved ones; becoming addicted to activities or substances; lying, cheating, stealing and murdering, etc.. Most people would would agree that behaviors that are incompatible, or compete with, such actions would be examples of good or non-harmful behavior.

My general definitions, for the sake of this blog, will allow most folks to begin to to think about this complex matter of desirable, pro-social (good), or undesirable antisocial (bad) behavior among residents of our society.

It is important that citizens of America learn to think about such moral values and judgments because they determine the consequences for the actions of  themselves and others (rewards, punishments or no consequences) through their social interactions with others. Just as importantly, in America’s Representative Republic, citizens also influence the moral values, rules and consequences for themselves and others by casting votes for those who will be elected to make and enforce, or change the rules that govern all of us.

So, now comes the big question based upon Behavioral Contagion Theory: What can be done to decrease bad behavioral contagion in America and, as a result, also increase our cultural health and viability? 

Without a doubt, the “wisdom of the ages”, on this matter can be found in the moral precepts of the worlds greatest peaceful religions. My research finds that many scientists who study cultural decline, note that when populations loose their faith in their God’s teachings, they also loose the moral precepts and values important for their culture’s health and viability. This phenomenon appears to be happening to many (perhaps all, to some degree), modern technologically advancing societies in the world. 

I judge that skillfully using the psychological (and genetic/biological) principles of behavioral contagion will naturally decrease rates of bad behavior and increase rates of good behavior in America. But, to achieve this will require that we strengthen the influences of the social agencies, families, churches, schools and media influences that can promulgate and model moral rules and values and also reward conformity to these rules and values with acceptance, praise, recognition, influence, political power and material/financial consequences

Though it is unpopular in America’s increasingly immoral society, withholding these rewards for those who do not follow moral rules is essential. In extreme cases, murder, robbery, rape and child abuse, etc. To ever be effective, Swift and certain punishment must be administered by authorities for these and similar behaviors. 

For this chain of events to occur will require that America’s government (at all levels) cease the restrictions and punishments for America’s traditional and contemporary, peaceful and pro-social religious influences. 

I judge that it is essential to vote only for those public servants who support conservative moral rules and values to guide local, state and national governance. This will naturally catalyze increasing rates of good behavioral contagion in America and decrease rates of bad behavioral contagion.

Wake-Up America: Vote For Conservative Moral Values and Principles!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Health Services Provider in Psychology

 

 

 

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