Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Law of Effect Needs Moral Governance

January 18, 2018

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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Some Truth About America’s Moral Decline

January 14, 2018

Some Truth About America’s Moral Decline.

I presume that you are aware of America’s moral decline. It is very real and it is a function of many factors that have changed in American culture; some are not so easily identified as connected with our moral decline. 

The following is an article that identifies a couple of factors that are directly related to America’s moral decline. 

It is very important that Americans see this clearly. My research suggests that moral decline is all too often associated with a decline in a societies viability and long-term debilitation.

Please read this short and insightful article.

Wake-Up America!

https://patriotpost.us/opinion/53401

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 1/14/18

President Trump’s Bad Language

January 13, 2018

President Trump’s Bad Language

There is no question, President Trump can use bad language if he is angered.

Read the outstanding book about this President’s amazing strong points, “Let Trump Be Trump”, and find that it is honest enough to report that Trump is prone to profanity when he discovers a lack of progress or incompetence. Who should be surprised to find that a man who is used to wielding great power to get his own way can become upset and unpleasant when he does not?  So what?!

Democrats, RINO republicans, and liberal members of the deep state will certainly inflate and leak such incidences. They do this to derail Trump’s “America First” efforts and to distract attention from their own evil agenda of exchanging favors to the poor, uneducated and gullible… for votes and power.

Who, in touch with reality, would be unaware of any of this?

There are at least three points to ponder on this matter.

First Point:

Is President Trump “Crazy”, as so many liberals allege?

The simple answer is absolutely not. How could it be so in light of his many life-long consistent and complex accomplishments? I will grant that he is likely to show a difficult personality when he is failing to achieve his goals. But his thinking must have remained stable and rational or he would have been incapable of a life-time of his stellar achievements.

Note that the word “crazy” is a pejorative slang term used to destroy the credibility of someone. The closest technical term to this word is psychosis, a term used by psychologists and psychiatrists for one of the most debilitating psychological conditions featuring great mental confusion and the loss of contact with reality.

President Trump is certainly not psychotic.

Furthermore, President Trump’s recent physical exam found him to be in very good condition. A physician would certainly have been able to determine if the President was in a state of psychosis (i.e.,”crazy”), or not.

The Second Point:

Is President Trump a racist?

I am unable to tell you what his deepest thoughts are on this matter, nor are others who do not know him intimately.

My research finds that most liberals, and the main-stream media are convinced that he is. Additionally, a very few liberal republicans in favor of chain immigration and continued liberal immigration policies from very poor third-world countries may also accuse him of racism.

Trump has reached-out to minorities as no other republican has for many years. He should be given the benefit of doubt on this issue.

An alternative explanation for President Trump’s position of immigration is that randomly selected, or indiscriminately admitted uneducated and unskilled individuals from third-world countries are overloading America’s social welfare, medical, educational and law enforcement/judicial systems. As a result these essential systems are in financial crises and their dramatically increased work loads are stressing their workers to the point of systemic breakdown.

This problem threatens the viability of America. It can only be resolved by increasing tax supplied funds to our essential social systems. This would be a self-destructive act on top of other self-destructive acts. Or, it can be resolved by changing our immigration system to  merit based policies to insure that immigrants are self-sufficient.

It is critically important to vote for the latter solution.

The reader should also note that uncontrolled immigration from certain Islamic countries has led to increased terrorism in America and in every other country that has tried to assimilate their refugees.

You have probably noticed that most of these countries happen to be largely inhabited by people who are not Caucasians. This is the flimsy and dishonest basis for those on the “left” launching defamatory attacks on President Trump, calling him a racist.

Perhaps you are familiar with the scientific dictum: “Correlation is not causation”.

Trump’s objection to unlimited immigration from third-world or terrorist-ridden countries is absolutely not proof that he is a “racist”.

More likely, it is proof that President Trump is putting America’s urgent need to reverse its steep decline and recover its financial and cultural health and viability is first and foremost among his many objectives.

The Third Point.

Is President Trump distinctive in his use of bad language and crude remarks?

It is a fact that Trump will win no prizes for consistent tact and diplomatic language, though he is very capable of this style of communication.

I am not arguing that profane and crude language is a good thing. But it is a fact that public language and language in chambers, during political combat, can get pretty salty.

See for yourself.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/lists/a-brief-history-of-presidential-profanity-20121210/abraham-lincoln-19691231

Wake-Up America!

Radical Liberals, socialists, progressives, RINO’s, and their deep state accomplists are attempting to destroy and then impeach our properly elected President of the United States.

Vote Conservative Republican!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 1/13/18

Mini Lesson: Business Economics

January 7, 2018

A Mini Lesson: Business Economics

In my undergraduate days, I was a business major before making that a minor and majoring in psychology. 

I learned about something called “Enlightened Self-Interest” in my business classes. This is a material-consequential based explanation of why it is best for businesses to take good care of their employees and their customers. It also explains why, in a free-market economic system, private businesses tend to do so.

Radical liberals, socialists, progressives and anarchists preach that private businesses are evil. They argue that businesses abuse both their employees and their customers.

While there is no doubt this is true in some cases, it is certainly not generally true.

In fact it is not true of most successful businesses because there is “Reciprocal Control” between the businesses, its workers and their customers.

If private businesses threat their employees poorly they will leave and be replaced by less skilled and dedicated ones. These businesses, in turn will tend to produce a poorer product and product services.

All of this will tend to lead to dissatisfied customers who, in a free market, most likely seek-out better businesses who will provide them better products and services. 

All of this is why socialism, communism, fascism and obviously, anarchy, fails so badly in comparison to democratic republics and a free-market economies.

Radical liberals/progressives and socialists argue that the “trickle-down theory” does not work.

See for yourself!

Click the following link. Please endure the brief ad that precedes the video. It will be worth your wait. 

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.    1/7/18

 

 

Operant Behavior and Cultural Evolution

April 8, 2016

Operant Behavior and Cultural Evolution

B. F. Skinner is often credited with being the greatest psychologist of the 20th Century.

In my judgment, and that of countless others, Skinner deserves this special honor  because his prodigious research and writings gave birth to the psychological science of Behavior Analysis. Furthermore, his work also led to the development of the science and technology of Applied Behavior Analysis. Skinner’s efforts and that of his legions of followers has culminated in, and continues to yield, the world’s most powerful and practical applications of psychology to ameliorate human behavior problems. But, even better, the wise use of this behavior technology could lead to the prevention of human behavior problems!

One old saying is: “An Ounce Of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”. This rule  could be one important the key to sociocultural longevity, if humans can be helped to care for such future outcomes.

Societies that do not teach their children and young adults about science-based findings about the environmental forces that shape human behavior patterns, as well as an effective moral code to their populations, fail to do so at their own great peril. The dramatically increasing behavior problems in America’s society, and others, provide stark support for this conclusion.

Some of B. F. Skinner’s prophetic words were published in 1971 in his powerful little book,  Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Please read the following samples of his writing with care and you may begin to understand one great source of America’s citizen’s behavior problems.

Then get the entire book and learn some essential information that relatively few citizens know.

Sample 1.

Twenty-five hundred years ago it might have been said that man understood himself as well as any other part of his world. Today he is the thing he understands least (Kindle Loc. 64).

In other words, as we have advanced our understanding in all other areas of science and technology, we have remained woefully ignorant of the psychological science and technology that shapes our own behavior patterns. Skinner also wrote about the fact that the health and longevity of all cultures rest upon the understanding and benevolent use of this science and technology of human behavior.

Sample 2.

In trying to solve the terrifying problems that face us in the world today, we naturally turn to the things we do best. We play from strength, and our strength is science and technology. To contain a population explosion we look for better methods of birth control. Threatened by a nuclear holocaust, we build bigger deterrent forces and anti-ballistic-missile systems. We try to stave off world famine with new foods and better ways of growing them. Improved sanitation and medicine will, we hope, control disease, better housing and transportation will solve the problems of the ghettos, and new ways of reducing or disposing of waste will stop the pollution of the environment. We can point to remarkable achievements in all these fields, and it is not surprising that we should try to extend them. But things grow steadily worse, and it is disheartening to find that technology itself is increasingly at fault. Sanitation and medicine have made the problems of population more acute, war has acquired a new horror with the invention of nuclear weapons, and the affluent pursuit of happiness is largely responsible for pollution. As Darlington has said, ‘Every new source from which man has increased his power on the earth has been used to diminish the prospects of his successors. All his progress has been made at the expense of damage to his environment which he cannot repair and could not foresee’.

Whether or not he could have foreseen the damage, man must repair it or all is lost. And he can do so if he will recognize the nature of the difficulty. The application of the physical and biological sciences alone will not solve our problems because the solutions lie in another field. Better contraceptives will control population only if people use them. New weapons may offset new defenses and vice versa, but a nuclear holocaust can be prevented only if the conditions under which nations make war can be changed. New methods of agriculture and medicine will not help if they are not practiced, and housing is a matter not only of buildings and cities but of how people live. Overcrowding can be corrected only by inducing people not to crowd, and the environment will continue to deteriorate until polluting practices are abandoned.

In short, we need to make vast changes in human behavior, and we cannot make them with the help of nothing more than physics or biology, no matter how hard we try (Kindle Loc. 31-50).

The powerful truth that B. F. Skinner has tried to explain to us is that our most enduring and damaging problems are a result of the ignorant management of our own individual and collective behavior. Furthermore, our ignorance can be remediated only if we will study the right available information and convert this knowledge into practice.

I have taught my psychological subject matter as a professor for 36 years and also taught and applied it within my a private practice for a similar duration. Over this time I have watched as America has all but destroyed itself, largely through the gross misapplication of these very elemental psychological principles.

I believe that certain sociopolitical and economic philosophies are compatible with, and naturally catalytic to, the societal integration of these elementary principles of psychology…and that is why they have consistently succeed.

It is clear to me that other sociopolitical and economic philosophies are naturally antithetical to these elementary principles of psychology and this is why they have consistently failed.

In my judgement, many important elementary principles of psychology are inherent in  conservative political and economic philosophies and practices. Although the resulting behavioral and cultural outcomes are never perfect, history demonstrates conservative principles are superior to those of other sociocultural designs. I judge that B. F. Skinner would not have agreed with many of my political/economic conclusions on this last matter and I am certain many of his followers do not.

On the other hand, the natural elemental principles of psychology, as implemented by progressive/socialist political and economic philosophies consistently damage motivation and most often lead to increased rates of maladaptive and self-destructive behavior among its citizens and leaders. These tragedies are are illustrated by the fact that socialist leaders normally gather the lions-share of power and material gains, at the great expense of their citizens….including the imprisonment and even death of over one hundred of million of them by starvation and execution. The arrested development, if not the horrific decline, of entire socialist/communist societies is clearly documented by history.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 4/8/18

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend

President and Clinical Director, Behavioral Psychological Family Services

 

 

My First Of Now 1300 Posts: “Boiling The American Frog” (6/30/09)

February 8, 2015

My First Of Now 1300 Posts: “Boiling The American Frog” (6/30/09)

The following is my very first post from (6/30/09).

I admit it is too long for this forum. It is essentially an introduction to a, seemingly never-ending, book that I am still writing. I present it, in total, at this time for many reasons. One reason is to remind myself of my own originating motives for this daunting effort.

Another reason is to see if the American sociocultural concerns that were troubling to me then, starting in 1980, are still relevant today.

I have decided in the affirmative.

I would be interested in what you think.  Are my concerns more or less relevant today?

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/8/15

____________________________________________________________

“Boiling The American Frog”.

I have studied the decline of our American society and culture for nearly 30 years. I have long wanted to share my findings with the general public and now the time has come.

In all that follows, I will promise you–as I promise my therapy clients– “I will never lie to you:  I will always tell you the truth, as best I can know it”.  It is the truth, and what is done with it, that provides the only hope for a good life with individuals and families. The truth, and what is done with it, also determines the  survival of nations and their cultures.

My dear brother, Mark, once told me that an author should make his or her biases clear at the start of their book. He thought it was appropriate to warn the reader of my biases straightforwardly, so the reader could guard against manipulation. This was great advice and in the interest of honest communication, I will follow it.

As a behavioral psychologist I naturally value good behavior. Race, color, creed, and age, etc., are irrelevant to this bedrock value. By “good behavior”,  I mean behavior patterns within the individuals of a population that help the population and its culture to survive long and to prosper. Except in rare instances of self-defense against lethal or damaging attack, I despise violence.  I also despise hostility, intimidation, lying, cheating, stealing, aggression, rape, child abuse, child sexual molestation/exploitation, and murder, etc. In short, I despise those things that have always destroyed the lives of people who wish to live long together in peace and harmony. I despise those things that are destroying our historically marvelous society and culture.

I will not be inhibited about addressing other issues involved in my value system. It is now common for almost any identifiable organized group to accuse others of some sort of “ism” (racism, sexism, ageism, or hate against someone’s lifestyle). This dirty and stigmatizing accusation is increasingly used when someone says something that is not in support of the accuser’s political agenda. I vow to myself and to everything that I know to be right and good, that I will not be intimidated by such brutal forces of self-interest.  I will not withdraw ideas that must live, if we are to live.

In 1984 the phone rang and my physician informed me, “we have a problem”.  At 45 years of age, I was told that I had cancer of the colon. Of course, this was very bad news! But this bad news, along with immediate effective action,  saved my life.

What I will now tell you about our beloved American culture is no more “fun” than having to tell someone that they suffer a cancer. Or, as in my own field of psychology, having to tell one of my clients that they have debilitating emotional and behavioral problems that will destroy their lives without swift and effective corrective action on their part.

What I must tell you in this book is that our culture’s sad fate will be sealed if we continue to imbue our children and young adults with troubled and destructive beliefs, thoughts  and behavior patterns.  We have been doing this, with increasing power,  without most of our citizens and politicians even knowing it.  It is particularly ironic that our hard-earned tax resources have supported very productive scientific research into how to avoid such outcomes, but this information is ignored and buried in the remote bowels of our libraries. All the while, each generation produces a next generation which is more psychologically disturbed and self-damaging than it was. The only possible salvation from this relentless self-destructive course is to educate ourselves about the basic laws of human behavior and to conduct significant emergency American Culture redesign changes accordingly.

It is symptomatic of our huge cultural blind-spot that a common exclamation of considered wisdom is: “it’s the economy, stupid!” Of course the economy is important. But, to secure and maintain our rightful goals of cultural health and longevity, the exclamation should also be: “it’s our behavior, stupid!”

The economy, alone,  is likely to be a relatively late indicator in such matters of cultural health. For a strong economy to emerge and endure, a population’s behavior must also be strong. Among other things, the individuals in a population must learn to invent, to cooperate, to work diligently, to follow certain rules of law, and to forgo certain immediate personal gratifications in order to secure future benefits. They must also raise a sufficient number of competent and similarly endowed children to replace themselves. If these things are not accomplished, eventually, the economy will suffer and so will the whole culture. Of course, these influences are circular: the rewards of a free market economy strengthen a populations productive behavior patterns and these productive behavior patterns strengthen the free market economy. However, I will argue that the predominance of healthy and effective population behavior (among other environmental factors) is an essential ingredient leading to the success of our free market economy within our free society.

If we fail to raise and train –to acculturate– our own children effectively, our economy can be fueled by the “behavioral capital” from past generations (senior citizens) for some period of time.  But as that reservoir of quality human behavioral energy is being used up, we must create and train more, or, we must import behavioral energy from other cultures. We now appear to be embracing the later strategy at the expense of the former one. The question is: how long can a culture exist if it fails to raise and acculturate its own competent future generations to support a growing and increasingly complex technology and information-based economy? No one knows the answer. However, I am convinced that we already know enough about creating strong and healthy human behavior to avoid learning the answer to this question the hard and tragic way.

The issues and concerns identified in the preceding paragraphs will take many pages to make clear and, for some, believable. This will be done in the following ways:

I will tell true stories and use anecdotes as a way to introduce and summarize the findings of hard science—these findings relate to what is happening in our increasingly self-destructive culture. The values of an Applied Science of Cultural Analysis will guide this process and they will be explained as they become relevant.

I will first tell you what I think I see happening to our culture and the catastrophic future that it implies. Perhaps I am wrong about some of these observations and concerns–but I genuinely fear that I am not. You can decide this matter for yourself.  If I am wrong in my assessment, I have faith that with time and careful study, the truth will eventually emerge and things will evolve as they will.

I will then explain the basics of psychology, sociology, and anthropology by explaining their most robust principles, and relating them to my observations of events in our own society that you can also see clearly. I will use these factual principles to help you see and understand how and why the quality of our collective social behavior has diminished to the point that it is now glaringly reflected in our obvious cultural decline. I can only hope that my efforts will benefit the American Culture that has produced me, and that I have served and loved so much.

There is a wise old joke about doing successful psychotherapy with individuals. The question is: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?”  The answer: ” Only one—but the light bulb has got to want to change”!  It is no great leap of faith for me to conclude that, like the individuals with whom I have done behavior therapy and counseling for over 30 years, we citizens of America,  must first also “feel a strong need to change” before successful cultural change becomes a possibility.

My intent in writing this book is to produce a felt-need-for-change, among ourselves,  which is based upon information that is honest, factual, clear, and powerful enough to motivate individuals and groups to work for desperately needed improvements. But at 67 years of age, and having observed the evolution of these United States for my entire life, sparking such a chain of events feels “a tad shy” of unlikely.  No problem.  I also write out of a sense of duty and for personal catharsis. Independent of the outcome, for me, doing this task will be its own reward.

New ways of seeing the world do not generally emerge because” minds” are changed. What happens is that entrenched ideas die with their thinkers and new, yet uncommitted, individuals are persuaded. However, this normally slow process can grind to a virtual halt if the new and uncommitted thinkers are taught to think only of their own immediate goods and pleasures. This culturally pervasive mode of personal arrogance, short-sighted thinking , and ignorance about long-term outcomes is our greatest danger.

My original training is in the psychological sub-field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Some may recognize one part of this sub-field as Behavior Modification. The discipline of Behavior Analysis has won its strong principles and techniques through the rigorous scientific analysis of human behavior, in nearly all of its forms, in almost all imaginable settings. More recently this field has turned its powers of analysis to the evaluation of cultural change and evolution. I have participated in this development and by doing so, I have come to believe that much of great practical value is now available— just when we need it the most.

I believe that someday, somewhere, cultures will finally learn how to extend their own life-span greatly by managing their own behavior effectively. Why can’t one of these cultures be us: The United States of America? To insure that we live long and well will require that we change our behavior substantially. I anticipate the reasonable concerns of many. I too worry about the exploitation of people through various behavior control methods.  Like you, I have watched the horrific bestialities of our time (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Ladin etc., all in quest of a “better culture”. Of course, our own culture has, for periods, been guilty of its own despotisms. Witness the genocidal treatment of the American Indians and our use of African slaves. These are the “ghosts of our cultures-past” whose barbarous actions towards our own, and other citizens of the world, haunt and frighten us. But these virulent and maladaptive strains of cultural behavior patterns, that long continue, tend to kill themselves just as they kill others. They cannot resemble the healthy, adaptive, and enduring species of cultures that may someday evolve to live very long and very well. Of course, there are no grantees that such healthy and adaptive cultures will ever appear: There is only an educated hope and the certainty that the pursuit of a better cultural future is not for the faint-of-heart.

I would like to think that a new breed of adaptive cultures are now being selected by the natural forces of survival. Such cultures would be especially good at teaching their children to live in an extraordinarily complex and threatening world. Their children would learn to work to preserve countless good things for themselves, as well as  good things for others who live, and those who are yet to live. Their citizens would therefore learn a rare mature value system that strikes a balance between self-interest and dedication to the long-term collective good of their fellow citizens—and of all people who mean them no harm. Such cultures would probably blend the best aspects of democracy, socialism and free-market capitalism into unique and effective hybrid of these adaptations . To the greatest degree possible, the citizens of these cultures would be dedicated to the preservation of life (in all of its forms) and yet they would have the skills, technology, and courage to defend themselves from the barbaric and predatory forces that will apparently exist for all time.

Such adaptive cultures would motivate their populations to propagate with a rate sufficient to maintain the proportions of age, skill, and intellectual resource groups necessary for survival. In doing so they would provide the quality and quantity of human energy necessary to build and maintain their own health and developmental vigor.  Such cultures may also use carefully controlled and specifically targeted immigration policies and rigorous acculturation standards in order to achieve these goals. They would strongly defend themselves against unregulated or illegal immigration, knowing that for all times this has been a destroyer of cultures.

These cultures would develop forms of government which strive to govern rates of cultural change such that, except in times of crisis, change remains slow and deliberate enough to avoid the damaging and misguided explosions of change that now threaten the United States. Of course there will always be threats to survival over which there is little or no control. But, the adaptive cultures will be able to respond to external or internal threats to their welfare in timely and effective ways that reflect the motivated, informed and intelligent problem solving efforts of their populations and political systems.

These adaptive cultures will also seek to preserve and maximize all of their natural resources, be they human-animal, vegetable, or mineral, and they will be amazingly adaptive to their changing environments. Their shared values and mutual interests will naturally lead them to avoid war with one another and they will seek to provide mutual support. By contemporary standards, such cultures will live for a very very long time. The main reason for these culture’s long-term success will be their learned ability to predict the occurrence of nearly all of the possible short and long-term astronomical, gelological, biological, psychological, social, and political problems that are known to have damaged and destroyed other cultures. More importantly, these cultures will have learned to implement effective preventive strategies as well as timely remedial adjustements in order to survive long and well.

If you see flashes of America’s history within my description of adaptive cultural designs, it is because we have actually achieved and reflected many of these values and actions at times in our own past. And if you see, during our present decline, the loss of these characteristics, you will begin to understand the general truths that I will now attempt to demonstrate in this book. To a significant degree, our cultural successes and failures relate to our evolution toward, and away from, these previously stated ideals.

It has become “politically incorrect” to say that an increasing number of the things that people do are “good” or “bad”. However, as with any social problems (past, present, or future), there are  many possible helpful or destructive cultural adaptations that can be made. I call those adaptations that are helpful, good changes because they will improve the culture’s health and viability. I call changes that are destructive or damaging to the culture’s health and viability, bad changes. I recommend this value to you and invite you to consider that extending the life of your culture is a good thing to do and destroying it is a bad thing to do.

But, it is often difficult to know, in advance, what the good and bad changes might be for any culture, under any particular set of circumstances. To some degree, cultural evolution is a series of adaptations similar to gambles at a “comic crap table”. The “winners” may take all, but seldom do they keep it for long. And simply trying ideas that are intuitively, philosophically, or politically popular  (as we do now) is to court disaster in this deadly game of cultural “Russian Roulette”. Fortunately, there are ways to increase the odds of winning at this profoundly important game.

B.F. Skinner would reminded us that, although we will frequently not know what we should do about a cultural problem;  we can learn an ever increasing number of things that we should not do. Make no mistake about it, “learning more and more what not to do” is significant progress. Individuals who are knowledgeable about the basic laws of human behavior already know many possible adaptations that are clearly wrong and therefore, bad. They will also know which old and new possible adaptations accord with these laws and are, therefore, worthy of further consideration and experimentation. It is past time that our culture reap the benefits of its financial investments in over 100 years of its own behavioral science research findings. To do this only requires that the real cultural planners learn these laws and principles of behavior and then support those cultural practices that conform to them. It is essential that our cultural planners learn enough about the basic laws of human behavior to understand why they must attack and change, through existing political processes, our own cultural practices that do not conform to these laws and principles

You may ask, who are these cultural planners who must learn principles of human behavior and change our culture’s design to accord with them? Indeed, this is a huge task. But there is a huge number of cultural planners who are equal to the task. Who, in the final analysis, are the real cultural planners in a republic such as ours? It is certainly not our politicians, who increasingly war within between the two parties that have failed to stem our decline; who milk dollars from tax payers to benefit their own regional interests; and who pander to various rich lobbies and other donors to shore-up their own short-term political viability. The real cultural planners are the hundreds of millions of citizens like you and I, the voting citizens of America.

I believe that a vitally interested voting citizenry in free economic and social markets, under the guidance of basic Judeo-Christian values and  Basic Pyschological Principles of Human Behavior, will tend to strengthen its own health and longevity and that of other similar cultures. It will also secure the greatest good for the greatest number of  people.

In stark contrast, if there is anything to learn about the societies that designed themselves according to the Marxist/Leninist principles of central government control and planning, it is that they have failed repeatedly. Similarly, it is foolish to hope that our own central government will ever singularly fix this culture’s increasing woes, because “it”, in large part, has done more than fail to do so. “It” is what has caused most of our devastating sociocultural problems in the first place.

Just as our Founding Fathers understood, the informed individual citizen is the appropriate cultural planner in a republic such as ours. I therefore urge you to learn the things that we know cause good and bad human behavior. Having done that, there are hard and frightening realities to contemplate and it is our responsibility to do so. If our society, as now designed, produces ever-increasing numbers of barbarians of its precious children (and we are doing just that). We must accept that reality, study the problem,  and make our cultural changes accordingly.  As B. F. Skinner has said,  the idea that “the government that governs best,  is the one that governs least, only works when something else governs.” I will suggest that we move to a design where “that something else” is a newly educated voting public re-motivated with a combination of clearly understood principles/laws of human behavior, traditional values and ethics, and a clear perception of our own failing culture.

In the final analysis, I have a passion for truth and reality even if it disappoints or frightens me. As an emeritus professor of psychology, I deal with research findings and theory; as a therapist, I do “acid tests” upon this academically derived knowledge. I am not isolated in the theoretical traps of academe, nor have I become addicted to the trendy treatments of the therapist’s world. I am a pragmatist. If certain techniques and methods solve real problems, I value them: If not, I do not. I also believe that the interplay between scholarship and the demands of practical therapeutic applications in my life have earned me a measure of useful wisdom unavailable to those who do not work in both of these worlds.

Of course, experts frequently argue among themselves about the nature of things.  I could be wrong in my assessment of the state of our culture and its worsening condition,  about the reasons why this is so, and about the suggestions for change that I will give in the last two chapters of this book. It is for you to look at the facts that I will provide and to decide for yourself.

A good scientist/therapist will know the prognosis of their client and do their best to help; even when the prognosis is not good. I will do my best to help my socioculture to perceive itself accurately, to rationally evaluate and caringly confront its own self-destructive beliefs and behaviors. I will do my best to provide the general information and motivation necessary to help all of us to work for adaptive cultural changes that are now so urgently needed.

This is what I will now attempt to do.  And now the rest is up to you.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 6/30/09

Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

January 27, 2011

Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

Thanks to Bruce Bryner for sending this wonderful video collection to me.  It best illustrates that human behavior is controlled by consequences. This is one  of psychology’s major Laws. It further illustrates that using rewards (positive reinforcers as consequences for behavior that we wish to see happen more often in the future is the way to go).

Beyond this, the traffic control videos show that for some behaviors, a combination of punishment for infractions and rewards for compliance are needed. It should be known that the over-use of punishment without strong rewards for incompatible behavior normally has bad outcomes for the punished and the punisher.

Finally, all tapes illustrate that to implement systematic consequences that will influence behaviors in desirable ways, it is necessary for groups or sociocultures to organize themselves around common values and morals (i.e., it is good to follow speed limits it is bad to speed; it is good to put trash in its proper receptacles; it is bad to pollute the environment; etc.).

Want some fun?

What to see some ways to help ourselves behave better by having fun?

Watch the following videos.

http://thefuntheory.com/

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

The Law Of Effect and Unemployment

December 30, 2010

The Law of Effect and Unemployment

Psychology’s Law Of Effect states: BEHAVIOR IS CONTROLLED BY ITS CONSEQUENCES.

The consequences of a particular behavior determine whether we are likely to repeat that particular behavior (or something similar) again in the future.

If consequences are punishing, the behavior is less likely to occur in the future.

If consequences do not occur at all…no environmental change following a behavior happens…the behavior is less likely to occur in the future.

If consequences are rewarding, the behavior is more likely to occur in the future.

Governmentally arranged consequences for population behavior patterns must be informed by the Law Of Effect, or government will destroy the quality of its population’s behavior.

From the perspective of The Law Of Effect: What do you think the outcome will be of our government continuing to extend the “benefits” of unemployment compensation to our unemployed citizens?

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

April 20, 2010

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

There are only two kinds of behavior in humans and other animals.

One kind of behavior is called Operant Behavior because it “operates”, or acts, upon the environment. Most important, operant behavior is controlled by its consequences. Consequences are said to “control” our behavior because they increase (strengthen) or decrease (weaken) the future frequency of the behaviors they follow.

Consequences influence our operant behavior probabilistically, but not absolutely. For example, a child who is praised for helping with a chore, is more likely to help others in the future. A child who is allowed to push another child down and take their toy, is more likely to be aggressive to others in the future.

The only other kind of behavior is Respondent Behavior. The word respondent means that these behaviors are reflexive responses to specific stimuli. Common examples of our respondent behavior are being startled by a loud noise, snapping our hand away from a hot flame, or salivating when we put food in our mouths.

As you will see, these two apparently simple kinds of behavior, and the ways they can be learned, are of huge importance to the lives of fellow citizens and to our socioculture.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.       4/20/10

Top-Down Influences on Culture

April 18, 2010

Top-Down Influences on Culture

Of course,  bottom-up influences are only part of the picture. There are also very powerful top-down influences on our population’s behavior as various levels of our government adopt laws and rules that can strongly affect, even regulate,  how people behave to each other. Some examples of top-down influences are the profound growth of government control, increasing taxes and the legalization of pornography, gambling, marijuana (under the pretext of medical applications) and a media that increasingly attacks traditional family and religious values and showcases antisocial behavior through its many venues.

What happens in our culture when top-down influences evolve that are in strong conflict with traditional bottom up influences; or, when subcultures bring their own dramatically different top-down and bottom-up forces into our existing socioculture? What happens to families and the future citizens that they produce when science and technology alter the physical, social and moral environment dramatic ways? How do these environmental changes impact the principles of psychology that shape the ways in which we and our children see, feel and behave toward each other?

These are only some of the  “big picture” concerns that need our closest attention. It is good to mention these major issues now,  because these are the ones we must attempt to answer in the end. With some of these larger issues in mind,  we can be on the look-out for the smaller (seemingly insignificant) factors that may be powerfully related to big and very important cultural outcomes.

We will return to these big picture concerns in due time. But, in order to understand the larger dynamics of cultural change, we must first understand a few key principles of psychology and how they powerfully influence the behavior of individuals within a population.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.  4/18/10


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