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Posts Tagged ‘contingencies’

Emotion research is now routinely referenced as a part of an evolutionary substrate. However, explicit experimental evolutionary analyses of emotions remain rare.

The implications of natural selection for several classic questions about emotions and emotional disorders should be the focus of research programs that are stagnant with 19th and early 20th Century hypotheses that cannot be proven but are failed to be dismissed by those doing research in the area marring if not diluting the term ‘social scientist’.

Emotions are NOT special modes of operation or unique states shaped by natural selection. They ARE conditioned artifacts of centuries of classical conditioning between flight or fight related contingencies that then are conditioned using conditioned products of those states to set up additional pairings that come to elicit response once related to fear, threat, escape from danger, avoidance of peril, and other euphemisms of exhaust [with all the physiological and nervous system components apparent as if a real threat or escape from isolation were present] from contingencies involving wide swings in homeostasis. They are conditioned most assuredly and supported by the environments (including people) that have notions [history in context] of similar states.

Collectively they are, or they make up, a large scale of response parameters [behavior sets] that may have or potentially do increase fitness by learned adaptations to challenging situations that occurred over the course of the individual’s history and were taught to generations over the course of that tree’s evolution. Some societies are almost devoid of emotional content while others are mired in emotional waves as a ‘tradition’ or a cultural response to the vagaries of life’s changes.

In all cases emotions are valenced.

Valence, as used here means the property along a continuum (positive – negative) of an event, object, or state. Ambivalence here would refer to no particular valance based on the context or history of the organism. No, valences are not just for humans but are represented differentially by any organism that displays changes in affectations based on behavior.

Valence is not an absolute property of any identified emotion but is relative based on context and history. Selection shapes each case where contingencies that have influenced fitness in the past shape expression. In situations that decrease fitness, negative emotions are useful and positive emotions are harmful.

Selection has partially differentiated subtypes of emotions from generic precursor states to deal with specialized situations: our communication of internal states that are not available to view by the outside world. This communication of subjective states – emotions – has resulted in untidy associations that blur across dimensions rendering the quest for simple or objectivity futile. For some social scientists this state of affairs doubles their efforts. For others, the recognition of emotions as exhaust is good enough for both communication and but also the redirection of research time and effort on things, events and states that lead to a better understanding of what’s going on in the world. Non-scientists use the same approach to make their course corrections only those sets of changes lack a unique vocabulary to allow communication and efforts to be reinforced effectively by the environment.

Selection has shaped mechanisms that control the expression of emotions on the basis of an individual’s appraised value of a state based on the past and the current context. This is the conversion of data to meaning. This meaning of events, etc. is the synthesis for the individual to use in evaluation of subsequent conditions – some of which may be related to avoidance and some of which may be related to acquisition of reinforcers whether they are goals, etc. or states of existence.

The prevalence of emotional disorders can be attributed to several conflicting values [also conditioned in us all] and valences that go with them as factors that contribute to something being a ‘disorder’ [negative] or a ‘passion’ [positive].

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‘Thinking’ as a class of potential behavior is hard to study and thus, makes it ripe for speculation and interpretations beyond the data. As things are today, thinking is made more significant because it is presumed that humans are the only ones that do it making is a signature feature on what is human and what isn’t. “Mind”, “consciousness”, thought and all sorts of covert related properties are offered as evidence that humans are different and somehow more substantive than other animals. The past and existing organizations of what is going on inside the ‘vault’ [read: brain, head, mind, neural node, CNS] have been dismal. Answers are as elusive as they were 2000 years ago and are made more mysterious for some by being out of reach.

We have made no progress in regards to our understanding of what goes on there and how those things relate to subjective or empirical states of man or our institutions, including governance and law. They have suffered most while we hack away at deciphering the muddled mess of metaphysics and logically indefensible postulates that are put forth to explain how man behaves and why.

the verbal community has not yet been able to connect with what is going on that the community cannot experience. Any reinforcements that are delivered are not contingent on specific behavior because they can’t be seen in time or space. This comes to create a response class that looks like behavior that is reinforced on a VI schedule independent of a specific response on the part of the target organism. Yes; the prime requisite for development of superstitious behavior is non-contingent VI delivery of a reinforcer.

thinking may occasion in a person a fixed gaze, unblinking or reduced eye blinks, change in gate, or time insensitivity to many external stimuli, changes in galvanic responses and lowered heart and breathing rates. However, these are not thinking per se but may be part of what is inferred to be happening when one is doing any covert behaviors including thinking. All are part of other behaviors as well as behaviors with parameters of their own.

In describing thinking there is a lack of external conformation possible that any observer or the free-floating reinforcements can access. Thus, there is no connection between a specific covert behavior and a potential reinforcer. Thus, there is no way to show an increase in the future probability of occurrence of a target covert behavior occurring when the potential reinforcer was delivered.

Our covert behavior [including thinking] has several problems as a behavior class.

  1. it is not sensed and can’t be verified or falsified
  2. it does not have standard units of measurement
  3. results will depend on the way it is measured
  4. it is experiences through filters that transducer it to something else based on history and context
    1. vocabulary
    2. environment context
    3. culture
    4. in articulation of aspect (what parts are of interest – dreams, impulses, value, etc.)
    5. unknown empirical properties

Ultimately, the products of processes generated from within the ‘vault’ of the listener are routed and locked there. Everyone will continue to investigate how and what is going on there with whatever methods that can be mustered. Today the neurosciences are taking their shot at deciphering the relationships between what is going on inside our head and what we experience. To that end they are using 19th century models of man and behavior mixed with decrepit autonomous man inklings and sophisticated 21st century technology and chemistry. For some there is value in how they postulate the working of man and his mind. Those values are the same as postulated 2000 years ago and haven’t benefited our species as much as science methods have benefited biology, chemistry and anthropology. The value to science will depend more on changes in approach to man than the power of the magnet used in a portable fMRI.

Any set of the things related to what happens when someone is thinking is all just that, related to thinking for that person and not thinking itself. All the covert events can be related to things associated with other behaviors done when a person is not thinking as well as when some are thinking. The set of responses become associated as events related to a state that may be referred to as ‘thinking’ for that person who, when asked, “What are you doing?” or “Why don’t you answer me?” may report, “I was thinking…” and otherwise communicate something the other person will probably relate to as a set of private covert actions (events) that can be arbitrarily called ‘thinking.’

Of course it is very true that if thinking were an operant the people in the examples above would not have to ask, “What are you doing?” or “Why don’t you answer me?” If thinking were doing something overt, the observer could learn from observing or measuring behavior and would know the answers to those questions after learning to discriminate what was/is thinking and what is something other than thinking.

Psychotherapists, bosses, clergy, spouses, friends, parents etc., all have a version of why we do what we do. They have a story about what relationships exist between us and the world around us; the environment. There is a good chance that, after some time experiencing a person, that each could be right. Of course their story is riddled with inaccuracies as well seeing how they only see what they were trained to see. Seems impossible but consider that each of us has a VERY broad and complex behavior repertoire. Our complex behavior allows us to behave differently and distinctly in the different environments and contexts of different people. Sometimes the people we are, how we behave, overlaps. Sometimes they don’t.

SUMMARY

Great thinkers as well as the delusional philosophers, pontiffs, despots and princes and even the man and woman on the street have been reinforced for reporting their internal covert musings in subjective and fantasy terms focusing on the exhaust of the human thinking process – emotions and feelings. These 3 thousand years of focus has outdistanced the empirical study of thinking by overlooking histories of the individuals and the use of the least productive research methods NOT found in 17th century science! In the not-so-grand scale of things, it is more interesting for the lay person and the scientist alike to be enamored by the fantasy than by the environmental contingencies. We pay for that interest every day we live on this earth.

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Like a flu virus in a preschool lunch room, the question comes up every 6 months or so as to “Why do children lie?” and “What does it mean?” and “What do you do about it?” The latest incarnation was on CNN/health in a Parenting.com article.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/family/11/12/why.kids.lie/index.html

There is huge divergence out there on the answers to the above questions. Even when the conclusions are correct, like Michael Brody, M.D. who correctly says “There’s nothing wrong with telling it [a lie]” he’s grossly mistaken when he says that, “Very young kids don’t know the difference between truth and fiction.”

And again later in the CNN article, when it states “It doesn’t make sense to punish toddlers for truth bending, since they don’t get that what they’re doing is wrong.” Right conclusion for the wrong reasons, again.

Alix Finkelstein in her book, Baby Name Tool Data Set and her article “Baffling Kid Behavior – Explained” subtitled “Why they say one thing and then do another — and how to know what they really want” concludes with the assessment that is chilling: “Kids are a bundle of contradictory impulses.”

So, what do the above proclamations tell us? Can these authorities with all these published works and fancy letters after their name be mistaken?

It is very clear; children can tell what contingencies are operating in different contexts as well as when those contingencies change. They understand counter-control before the parents are driven to pap in doctor office magazine racks for clues on what “counter-control” means.

Parents are the one’s that have been deceived and have not been told the truth. For instance, parents are told that the ‘Terrible twos’ is just a phase that the children go through, etc. That period boils down to the children learning rules – everyone’s rules, faster than the parents learning the children’s rules. They and teachers and ‘authorities’ see no inconsistencies with encouraging their children they can be President of the United States some day [or a princess or baseball player] with that same child also needing different strategies of how to navigate the politics of third grade.

The enveloping scheme here though is the different rule sets the parents have that conflict with the rule sets the child have.

Ask the 3 year olds living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro without parents if they know the difference between truth and fiction. Ask the four year olds working in the factories around the world if they can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad or about ‘truth’. Ask the five year olds in Bagdad, Darfur, Mexico City, NYC, Moscow and Rome if they understand the rules (contingencies) for telling the truth, lying and what is fiction. Consequences control behavior. Get over it and on with life.

We all live in a world of fantasy and reality. Telling the difference is not easy for children and it is not easy for adults who have been given license to be uncritical of what controls behavior. It is not made easier with superstition and traditions that foster fantasy masked as reality – Christmas – the Easter Bunny – grandpa is now sleeping in heaven – mommy is busy – when the child senses what is going on and it is not what is reported to be going on.

For a child to NOT pick up the differences on what is going on and what he or she is told defines a level of what all parents dread more than anything…the child is a dolt! For parents to NOT manage these relationships with communication supports the contention that parents don’t understand behavior –theirs or their children’s – any better than Finkelstein does above with her assessment that “Kids are a bundle of contradictory impulses.”

Here is a list of scenarios that lead to lying. Can you tell which are for children and which are for adults?

  • Boredom – lack of stimulation and social attention
  • Anger over some broken rules by others

o Betrayal

o Frustration

o Their own rules conflict

  • Seeking material gain
  • Mimicry
  • Story telling to connect things that seem unconnected
  • They want the lie to be the truth
  • Escape / avoidance from aversive stimulation

I can’t tell either.

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We know that behavior is not simple but there are simple behavioral components that keep getting ignored. Relative to what we all experience in life like conflicts in the Dan Ariely remarks below and in a previous blog on this site.… we recognize his statements on habits, good and bad, etc.  Yet there is a second component that comes to be more easily considered as well.  Follow along…

Dan Ariely: ….(on the October Bailout, politicians, Wall Street, etc.)

The second thing is that nothing has changed much in the short term living of people. In some sense, this is smaller than the effect of the increasing gas prices.

Greer: Yeah.

Ariely: What is happening? Basically the thing is we are creatures of habit, if you think about it. The best predictor of what we will do tomorrow is what we did today. That is it. Habits are good and bad. They are good because they help us save energy. We don’t have to think about it. We don’t have to contemplate every cup of coffee if it is worth it or not. As a consequence, we get into habits.

When we lose 50 or 500 interactive habits all at once via an earthquake, hurricane, family death, financial threats, loneliness, fall from grace, rejection…etc. (you get the idea) we have nothing to replace those ‘habits’ that are the products of conditioning shaped by consequences over years. We don’t have any behavior to replace those lost dynamic relationships with… literally!. We have to figure it out all over again. Sometimes it is too much to handle.

Take the following stories bunched together from Associated Press just today…10/7/08

Tuesday, October 7th 2008, 11:31 AM

AP/The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A deputy coroner confirmed Tuesday that Hope Orwick stabbed her two children to death and then shot herself.

Deputy Jefferson County Coroner Bob Jones said Emily Orwick, 9, and Lindsey Orwick, 8, were stabbed multiple times, though he could not say how many. He said Hope Orwick, 35, shot herself in the head.

RELATED: FATHER KILLS SELF, FAMILY IN MURDER-SUICIDE DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said a family member stopped by the house just before 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday and found the bodies.

Jones said he hasn’t been able to pinpoint when the girls died, and police were trying to determine a motive for the killings.

Crisis counselors will be available at the girls’ elementary school Wednesday, said Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Roberts, who would not say which school they attended. Public schools in Louisville were closed Tuesday for parent-teacher conferences.

RELATED: MOM KEPT DAUGHTERS’ REMAINS IN THE FREEZER

Along the quiet, well-kept southwest Jefferson County street where the family lived, children played in their yards Tuesday. All was quiet at the family’s modest, ranch-style house, where there were no signs of activity.

Two chaplains were at the scene Monday night, and Smiley said 15 or so family members gathered there. Police talked to relatives to see if they could help explain what may have led to the deaths.

Neighbor Mechelle Rockey, 48, told The Courier-Journal that she has lived across the street from the family for about six months. She said the two girls often played outside.

Contingencies around us control our behavior. We give them other ‘causes’ but as you can see it is contingencies that have all the power, be you the Pope, the President or the paparazzi… all the people above lost what they saw as options on what to do. Ariely and the others represent the loss (of behavior) on how to cope, what strategies to use, what methods to embrace, etc. They lost their behavior.

What contingencies control your behavior and generates your ‘habits’ that define who you are and what you’d do in your crisis?

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