Posts Tagged ‘cultural selection’

Maybe Darwin was Onto Something!

March 18, 2018

Maybe Darwin Was Onto Something!

Yes, I am grinning.

But let’s not forget psychology’s premier Law of Effect: Which states that consequences control behavior. 

Actually, the Law of Effect can influence more that just behavior. Of course it is intimately involved in determining an individual’s behavior. But it is also a major force in shaping species’ biological make-up and behavior patterns, as well as the evolution of human cultures.

Please go to my upper right-side search box on this page for a more detailed explanation of the wide-ranging influences of the Law of Effect. Type “Consequences Control” in the box and press enter.

While scientists look for the “missing link”, here is an excellent example of how the environment can shape bipedal behavior in a biologically exceptional primate.

Gorilla’s can, but normally do not walk on two feet very much.

Perhaps the big guy in the video below, who primarily walks on two feet, is an approximation of one of our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandpas!

By-the-way, he is not as dumb as some might think he looks.

O.K. now, please do not be offended. Maybe you won’t buy-into my line of analysis. But just remember: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

The video and article below could suggest that a specie, normally running around on all fours, might produce a few members with a unique physiology (perhaps a very rare helpful genetic mutation), yielding somewhat differently configured brains and/or bodies that facilitate comfortably efficient bipedal movement.

The next step would be for these creatures to discover that they can gather more food, run, intimidate, fight, and attract members of the opposite sex; or maybe care for their babies more effectively on two feet, than can others in their clan stuck walking  primarily on four feet.

He or she would not understand that by walking on two feet their hands would tend to be cleaner, thus making them less prone to infections than others in their tribe. The discovery of germ theory would come much later in the evolution of an associated much smarter (though often self-defeating) lineage of self-named “homosapiens”.

By assembling the pieces of this interesting puzzle, we construct an individual who will be better fed, bigger, stronger, more intimidating, healthier and perhaps more attractive to the opposite sex.

Presumably, therefore they will be able to make more babies and more successfully pass this helpful mutation on to future generations than their competitors still hopping around on all fours.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 3/18/18

Fix America’s Self-Destructive Cultural Designs: It’s Do or Die!

December 21, 2012

Fix America’s Self-Destructive Cultural Designs: It’s Do or Die!

Everyone is saying the problem is the existence of evil. Well evil is just a another word used to describe things and actions that are bad, immoral, or wicked, etc.. Evil has been described as a force of nature that leads to wickedness and sin (the breaking of God’s laws…i.e., “Though Shalt Not Kill”!). For the religious, the word evil suggests “The Work of The Devil”.

For the secular humanist, evil is just a word that they snitch from religion in order to describe something that is horrible beyond the ability of their secular language to describe. It is most instructive to observe how they try to borrow the word, without its true meaning, in order to have an emotional impact upon their listeners that they wish to influence in some direction. It is the distorted mirror image of a secularist who wishes someone “God’s Blessings” in order to achieve some strategic behavioral or emotional goal with them.

Every radio and T.V. station is featuring pundits (supposed experts) who blame guns, especially so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines for the carnage that is so much a part of  our modern American culture. But, of course, high-capacity semi-automatic pistols and rifles have existed well before the escalating rates of our contemporary so-called “senseless”,  but truely horrific mass murders of innocent men, women and children

I often hear people say, it’s not the gun, it’s the person. Of course it is “the person”, the gun cannot shoot by itself!  But that smug and dismissive rejoinder to the gun critic does not answer the key question.

The key question is: What in hell causes people to perpetrate such horrendous violence upon their defenseless and innocent fellow citizens, even children, for no identifiable material gain!?

My life-time study of the behavioral and social sciences leaves me with some distressing news for you. In the final analysis, if you are looking for the single cause for any behavior, let alone these senseless complex mass-murder rampages of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, you will never find it.

There are no single causes of human behavior. Rather there is a massive confluence of interacting causes/influences that include Genetics-Biology; the Learning history of the individual; the Current State of the Person; and the Current State of the Environment.

But if you are looking for one word that subsumes nearly all of the relevant causes and interactions that produce the dramatic increase in these murderous rampages, look no further than the word Culture.

There are many definitions of the word culture. But the definitions that I find most useful are the ones that emphasize the formal and informal rules for good behavior and the sanctions for bad behavior adopted by society in question.

Such rules and sanctions are normally imposed through government (laws, regulations, rewards and punishments; through various Commandments for moral and ethical conduct taught by the population’s religions with promised spiritual rewards and punishments such as God’s love, God’s Care and versions of Heaven and Hell; Refinements in Medical Practices that change which people within a population (gene pools) survive to propagate and which ones do not; And, there are also the products of technology that alter various  advantages and stressors that impact the population (technology in all its forms; entertainment, conveniences, weapons, and conveyances, etc.).

Finally, there are the “informal” (More’s and folkways) expectations that are imposed by the friends, families, neighbors, and fellow workers upon the individual in the forms of grass-root expectations, rules, and social and material rewards and punishments that form the fabric of our every-day existence.

All in all,  these are the contingencies (I.e., the antecedents, contexts, behaviors and the consequences) that select our most important behaviors  in or out-of frequent existence (high or low rates of occurrence within a population).

But there are many more scientific principles that effect our cultural behaviors, These many principles comprise the mechanisms that drive a societies’ cultural changes. The many behavioral principles involved in this process are beyond the scope of this short blog. But, taken together they comprise the mechanisms of behavioral/cultural change, the outcomes of which, I call Behavioral  Contagion.

I define behavioral contagion as the spread of particular behavior patterns within a population via scientifically validated biopsychosocial mechanisms. And yes, dear reader, just as there is good and bad behaviors (no matter what the secular humanists tell you) There is also good and bad behavioral contagion.

Good behavioral contagion strengthens the viability of the culture in which it occurs and bad behavioral contagion weakens its viability.

At some point, failing cultures have probably always known they were in decline, and they have normally attempted to reverse the process. Given the complexity of the many interacting behavioral principles that spell success or failure, it is not a wonder that so many have failed to save themselves.

It appears to me that the evolution of individual cultures recapitulate the evolution of the countless species that have evolved to life and then devolved into extinction. For cultures in a changing and “selecting” universe, failure is the general rule: Successes are short-lived and cultures have normally destroyed themselves.

Not a hopeful picture! Especially if we, as our own cultural designers, continue to do dumb,  self-abusive and self-defeating things to our selves. Perhaps the dumbest and most maladaptive things that America has done is to fail to use the products of its own behavioral sciences. And where such useful products are not yet available, America has failed to  use of the wisdom of the ages available in the teachings of the world’s greatest benevolent religions.

Coming now in my blogs will be a discussion of some of these failings that I judge to have come into strong confluence and catalysis to produce the murderous carnage among America’s citizens that we are now suffering.

In short, we have designed our modern American culture in ways that have dramatically increased bad behavioral contagion and the result is a dramatic destruction of our viability.

Stay tuned folks, I am about shiver-your-timbers with the truth that I see.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Health Services Provider in Psychology


Thomas Jefferson on State’s Rights

August 9, 2012

Thomas Jefferson on State’s Rights

The idea that each state is given the right to make its own choices about all issues of economics, social intercourse, law, and other matters of life and style (not delegated to the Federal Government by our Constitution) is pure genius!

This cultural design embodies God’s evolutionary plan for all creatures of the universe. There are many designs or adaptations that will evolve. Only a few are a good and useful advantage: These adaptations will tend to survive and multiply. A great many others will fail and eventually die out.

So it is with natural selection, the selection of individual’s actions, as well as the behavioral adaptations among our states and our nation (i.e., subcultural and cultural selection forces).

When the Federal Government dictates uniformity among our states, and that uniform adaptation fails. It is not “an appendage” that fails: It is the entire American organism!

Do You Get It!?

If you do, pleases pass this on to others.

VTM, 8/9/12

8/9/12 Founder's Quote Daily

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” –Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 1791

Consequences Control!

December 14, 2009

Consequences Control!  

There are at least three levels of influence or selection by consequences that affect the lives of humans. The first is natural selection; the second is behavioral selection; and the third is cultural selection.

 Psychology’s Law of Effect (consequences control the future frequencies of behavior), is operational at all levels of our existence. The influence of consequences on our behavior are so pervasive and commonplace that we fail to see and appreciate one of the most important and controlling forces of life: Consequences powerfully shape our biological, psychological, and social existence. What we also fail to recognize, appreciate, and use wisely is that we; through our own cultural practices, significantly determine how and what consequences will affect our own biological, psychological and social existence.

 Natural Selection

 In natural selection, the biological existence of species are determined by their ability to interact with their physical environment effectively. As creatures behave within various environments (enriched and supportive or harsh and barren), the environments select certain species, or certain physical and genetic features within species, into and out-of existence. This natural selection process is called phylogenetic selection, or phylogenesis. Phylogenetic selection occurs throughout the life-span of all species. The environment “shapes” biological and biologically based behavioral adaptations by “reinforcing” them with food, water, warmth, escape from predators, and increased reproduction rates, etc.. The environment may also reduce or eliminate certain biological and biologically based behavioral adaptations by “withholding” these essential reinforcers and weakening or “extinguishing” them. That is, the creatures and their gene pool do not survive to propagate.

This phylogenetic process is well documented and its mechanisms bear a marked similarity to the psychological principles of selection-by-consequences (reinforcement, punishment, and extinction) that “shape” the behavior of individuals within their own life-times.

 Behavioral Selection

 The scientific term for behavioral influences within the life-span of individuals is ontogenetic selection, or ontogenesis. A great many of the behavioral similarities and differences between the billions of people on planet earth are caused by more than genetic differences. The experiences that each individual has had in their own culture coping with their own physical and social environments will yield vast differences in the ways that their personal behavior patterns have been shaped by the basic principles of reinforcement, schedules of reinforcement, punishment and extinction.

 Cultural Selection

 Cultures are behavioral in nature. The physical, geographical, and population of a society exists in a particular place in time. These things are easily observed. But a society’s culture refers to the rules, mores and folkways, sanctions, and the combined behavior patterns and practices of its population. A society may exist in an identifiable form for a very long time, but its culture may change so dramatically over time that the older cultural practices are replaced by dramatically different new ones. Consequences strengthen or weaken cultural practices and consequences select sociocultures in, or out of, existence. A passive and peaceful culture may live until the barbarians invade it. An agrarian culture may prosper until it depletes its soil of nutrients. A nomadic culture in the Amazon basin may prosper until its forest is destroyed by entrepreneurs, then the nomadic culture may disappear.

Cultures do not exist forever. Some live long and well, only to slowly weaken and evolve into vestiges of their former selves (i.e., early Greece and Rome, or perhaps our own Western Culture). Some cultures disappear entirely (Incas, Aztecs and Maya). And some mini-subcultures flicker for only moments in history before they die (i.e., the suicides of Reverend Jim Jones and his subculture in Guyana, South America in 1978 and the Heaven’s Gate Cult of Santiago, California in 1997). Sociocultures are often selected-in or selected-out by the immediate and delayed social and physical consequences of their own actions.

The consequences of self-destructive cultural evolutions will further weaken citizen’s ability to produce competent and emotionally healthy children. These children will likely be even less competent, as parents, than their own parents were, and the downward cycle will accelerate. In short, if a culture fails to teach its children the beliefs and behaviors necessary to perpetuate that socioculture, it begins to weaken and may eventually collapse.

Self-destructive sociocultures will not be reinforced with continued viability. This eventuality results because a world of essential sociocultural reinforcers will be unavailable to them. The natural laws of the universe dictate that if a culture fails to teach its children to obtain food, it will starve; if it fails to teach its children to love and care for children, future children will be neglected, abused and become even more dysfunctional than past generations; if it does not teach relevant intellectual skills, future citizens will be ignorant; if children are not taught to work hard and invent, economic failure will follow; and if children are not taught to love and defend their culture and its beliefs, they will be overrun and dominated by other cultures. Other losses will also be in evidence: freedom from the fear of crime, the ability to cope with international aggression, and the ability to care for the incompetent, sick and old. Cultural behaviors that lead to these outcomes will not enjoy the reinforcing consequences of continued success in our world.

The psychological principles of reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are intricately involved in our outcomes at all three levels of selection by consequences. How skillful we and our socioculture are at using these behavior principles to strengthen and maintain adaptive behavior patterns will determine our evolutionary success or failure.

A socioculture that fails to educate its young; fails to teach them to avoid early sex or pregnancy without the means to raise and care for their babies; fails to teach them to avoid inebriates and violence; and fails to teach them a strong set of culture sustaining morals and values, etc., will set the stage for its own incompetence, decline and eventual failure.

V. Thomas Mawhiney, Ph.D.   12/14/09

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