Posts Tagged ‘Science of Psychology’

The Psychology of Socialism #1 (Why So Seductive ?!)

January 3, 2021

The Psychology of Socialism #1 (Why So Seductive ?!)

Why is Socialism so resurgently popular around the world?!

How could this ever happen in America…”The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave”?!

Why does it keep reoccurring in spite of Socialism’s countless failures?

Why does Socialism keep reoccurring in spite of its certain progress into tyrannical and all-controlling bloated central governments?

Why does it keep reoccurring in spite of the great tendency of Socialism to morph into an even more tyrannical and murderous  form of government, called Communism?  Read: “The Road To Serfdom”, by Friedrich Hayek. 

Why does Socialism keep reoccurring in the face of indisputable historical evidence that Socialism/Communism has caused the death of around 94 million citizens (some say 100 million)?! The statistics of these victims include deaths through executions, man-made hunger, famine, war, deportations, and forced labor. See Wikipedia, “The Black Book of Communism”.

Many answers to these questions are far from simple; but they are very clear and easily found within the Laws and Principles of the Science of Psychology. One of these main Laws is the “Law of Effect”.  The Law of Effect simply states that “Consequences Control Behavior”.  Read: “Elementary Principles of Behavior”, by Dick Malott and Co-Authors.

These basic principles were first observed with various animals, and were found to also greatly influence the thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors of humans. 

Unfortunately, our sense of superiority and vanity has historically blinded many of our leaders and the rest of us to these critically important facts-of-life. Many don’t like to see our similarities to other animals. But, unless we wish to conclude that we are minerals, vegetables, fungi or bacteria, etc., we must accept the fact that we are animals.  This perception is actually a great advantage to us because it confirms critical aspects of our nature and points the way to understanding the social, cultural, and political systems that can strengthen our best human characteristics and avoid those that catalyze our worst. 

For individuals to improve themselves though cognitive behavior therapy it is important that they come to know and understand their own behaviors and the Psychological Laws and Principles of behavior that influence them. The challenge then is learn more healthy and adaptive beliefs, rewards and behaviors. Often, it is essential to fashion, or seek, healthier environments in which to live. All of this is no different with our entire societies and the political systems that govern them.

Given all of the above understood, let us return to the ultimate questions:  Why do humans, like moths, repeatedly fly into the destructive fires of socialism? Why do we repeatedly leap into the deadly Venus-Fly-Traps of both Socialism and Communism? 

The answers are contained within the fact that, like all other animals, we tend to work to obtain things and activities that are rewarding to us. Just as importantly, we tend to work to escape and avoid things and activities that are unpleasant, painful, demand  greater effort, or deprive us of rewards. We search (forage) to obtain, escape, or avoid such things and activities; just like other animals.

We forage to get, escape, or avoid such consequences and locations as fast and as conveniently as possible.

When we experience pain, or the deprivation of rewards, we may be motivated to remain where we are located and try to remedy our situation. We may read, google, or seek the advice of experts to do this. Or, we may move in search of safer and/or more rewarding environments to inhabit. For example, observe the current movement of America’s populations from high crime, high blight and high tax-rate cities and states to more rewarding/less unpleasant social and political environments.

We love our rewards to occur as immediately as possible (i.e., fast food, microwaves, faster computers, 5g phones, etc., etc.). We do not like it when rewards are terminated, reduced, or delayed; or we experience pain (i.e., pay checks, mechanical/technological failures; or job loss, friends lost, injury, sickness, death, etc., etc.).

Tragically, humans easily fall prey to behaving in ways that bring the joys of immediate rewards, but often lead to painful delayed consequences (gambling, lying, cheating, stealing, drug/alcohol abuse, gluttony, disloyalty in social relationships/marriage, “buy now but pay later” acquisitions, and other forms of immediately rewarding; but ultimately harmful impulsive behaviors. Behavioral Psychologists refer to this all to common behavioral trap as: “The Tyranny of Immediate Rewards and their Delayed Bad Consequences”. 

We easily fall prey to novel and addictive things and activities (sex, drugs, pornography, and gambling. We also become addicted to the stimulating adrenalin and dopamine highs produced by many of these and other activities such as fighting, war, rule-breaking and escape from various dangers.

Science and its developing Technologies has allowed us to experience all of the highly arousing harmful and addictive activities listed above, and more. Psychologist Albert Bandura and others have demonstrated, without a shadow of doubt, that one of the most important ways that humans learn their behaviors and appetites is through seeing the behaviors of people and and imitating them. All of this involves the psychological principles of Modeling and Imitation. We are more likely to imitate others who are attractive, very popular, have the rewards we want, and who have the power to reward or punish us.

By now, dear reader, you should be thinking about some of these powerful Laws and Principles of the science of Psychology and how they can help or hurt you and your loved ones, and the successful evolution of America. 

There is more of this analysis to come. 

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 1/3/2021



The Psychology Of Socialism In America: And Elsewhere

November 26, 2019

The Psychology Of Socialism In America: And Elsewhere

From my perspective, as a psychologist, the reasons for the growing  popularity of Socialism in America (and elsewhere) basically have to do with many elementary principles of psychology and the equally basic principles of animal behavior.

These basic scientific principles strongly tend to yield certain behavioral outcomes in animals, the world around.

Though we often do not think about it, humans are animals. After all, we are not vegetables or minerals…so we are animals. Both logic and mature psychological scientific experimental research strongly supports that our emotions and behaviors are influenced in ways similar to the other animals on earth. Yet, few among us understand any of the details of this amazing perspective of modern psychological science.

In his powerful book: Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1972), B. F. Skinner explained how this great problem blocks the maximization of our individual and collective human potential. Reading his book will inform you of this relatively new perspective and  dramatically transform your thinking. You will learn a great deal about the determinants of human behavior and also the success and failure of evolving cultures…including our own.

The following are facts about how human nature interacts with some principles of psychology and behavior. I judge that they also help explain why socialism and communism can be so attractive to people everywhere.

  1. Animals prefer to get more rewards, easier, with less work.
  2. Animals prefer to find ways to make #1 happen more often.
  3. Animals prefer to get their rewards sooner than later.
  4. Animals prefer to find ways to make #3 happen more often.
  5. Animals prefer to get bigger rewards than smaller ones.
  6. Animals prefer to find ways to make #5 happen more often.

When animals are used to getting rewards easier, with less work; sooner than later; bigger than smaller; and getting all of this to happen for themselves with less effort, this tends to weaken their their tenacity and perseverance. Therefore animals who experience this learning history are prone to “give-up”, or”quit trying” when rewards, for any reason, suddenly become 1. harder to get, 3. are obtained later than sooner, 5. become smaller than bigger, or 6. happen less often than more often. In fact, this frustrating chain of events all too often tends to produce aggression in individuals and wars among civilizations.

Of course,  if animals have never been trained, or somehow learned to work hard to get their rewards they will be prone to showing a lack of persistence.

When rewards have slowly, over time, become harder to get, animals tend to continue to work harder and not to give-up or quit working quickly. They have learned to “hang in there” because, in the past they have learned to work hard to achieve their rewards. They are more likely to work harder to get rewards, “when the “going gets tough”!

When rewards are in short supply animals are more likely to “forage” (# 1, #3, and #5, in order to secure the highly rewarding consequences of 1, 3, and 5.

The following is an unusual perspective. But, please stay with me for the surprising outcome of chain the events described above.

A. If animals had a bar or button (i.e., #1, #3, and #5) to push that made items 1., 3., and 5. happen more and more often in their lives, they would push this manipulanda more and more frequently because these low-effort responses would be so very powerfully rewarded. 

B. These elementary principles, and others not listed, are subsumed under a Law of Psychology, named the Law of Effect. This is one of psychology’s premier laws, that allows us to predict how the occurrence of rewards will change the behavior patterns of animals.  A simple explanation of the Law Of Effect is: Consequences Control Behavior.

I wonder if you can anticipate what I will say next about why Socialism is growing in popularity in America.

C. Humans are animals. Therefore, they are subject to all of the principles and behavioral outcomes listed above.

D. “Modernity” is a relative term though history (I.e., wheels vs. sleds; wells vs. aqueducts, horses vs. cars, ovens vs. microwaves, trains vs. planes, etc., etc., etc.). Modernity tends to make 1., 3., and 5. more easy to achieve. Successive generations of youth within a modernizing society tend to become more susceptible to giving-up or not trying when faced with the inevitable greater demands for effort that will face them in young adulthood. It tends to be true of modernizing societies that as children develop they encounter greater complexity in their lives and they also encounter greater demands for them to do more work per units of time. As a side-note; this may help to explain why, the world around, withing rapidly modernizing modernizing societies various population behavior problems, as well as anxiety and depression  show increasing rates of occurrence.  

E. Finally, under these conditions, clever and unprincipled power-hungry politicians target their reward-deprived citizens with promises of free money, services, and opportunities in exchange for their votes. If this potentially accelerating self-defeating sick-sociopoliltical mututal reward system continues, the outcome becomes predictable.

As a professor of psychology I was required to give one of four letter grades to my students (A-E). A stood for Excellent, B stood for Very Good, D stood for Poor and E stood for Failure.

When the chain of events identified above ends with E, as they do above, it naturally leads to a growing population preference for promised free and easy rewards (I.e.,1., 3., and 5) for voters and the eventual decline of the society in which it occurs. 

There are other events and cultural evolutions that are stimulating the popularity of socialism in America, so please stay tuned for more on this topic!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 11/26/19

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend

President, Behavioral Psychological Family Services



%d bloggers like this: