Tangled lines.

Humans have a great number of fixed behavioural patterns.  These are standard responses to external inputs, and take a predictably similar form (but see the comments on the bell curve).  For practical purposes they are universal and form the basis of all levels of human society: these are not conscious but instead are inherent and if  translated into psychological jargon, intuitive.  There is no contesting that these  patterns are modified with context, but that is an “over-ride”and mostly there is a “reversion to form”. The behaviourists would have it that the majority (if not all) of these response patterns are “learned”.  An analytical scrutiny does not bear that out.

Perhaps the best example [because it is pre-eminent in human behaviour} is the protection of the child. This is displayed with consistency, often amplified emotively by the press, saleability amplified when various forms of threat to children are mentioned. These include sexual aberration, illness of a child or other physical and psychological threats.  Curiously some threats such as drug taking by children do not often initiate similar headlines.

Individuals are asked about their enhanced concern for the wellbeing of children often  cannot give an immediate answer.  Then one might get a response such as “well it is natural isn’t it?” or “of course we have to protect them because they are vulnerable and need adult help”.

Neither of these address the nub of the issue which is children are the harvest of the prevailing generation of adults and are a crop that requires much energy if it is to replicate and produce its own harvest in turn.  Females also have an elevated triage value, below that of the child, but well above that of the male, hence a variety of expressions such as “women and children first to the boats” or numerous extensions which ultimately are expressed as “politeness” in being allowed to be first to enter lifts or go through doors .

Societal contexts have changed dramatically and that context change includes greater dissemination of information, both in detail and geographical extent.  Information load has been considerably increased (some would say “for better” others would disagree but this is not a value judgment it is simply an occurrence).  One sequel to the “abnormal” information load is that it will impinge upon intuitive behavioural patterns.  As this happens it is very likely to change those patterns, perhaps confusing one intuitive response direction with another.  Here we are back to the analogy of an overloaded railroad system.  Behaviourists will respond with a gleeful “I told you so”, but this is not necessarily the point.  The real concern is that a given set of circumstances, in a particular context, which would produce a specific and predictable response pattern, might now be triggered by other, relatively irrelevant or perhaps hazardous context-information input. The rail lines become jumbled.

The ultimate outcome might become a counterproductive, perverted or hazardous response.  Some of these responses rather than preserving the psycho-socio-biology of the human may present threats to the very continued existence of the species.


About jp

Orthopaedic Surgeon
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