Posts Tagged ‘supporting actress’

John Bryant writes:

At the 80th Academy Awards Sunday Feb. 24th, 2008, an actress stood up and said that her award is an “accident” because she didn’t know how she got up there to receive her Oscar. No one can attend to the how this particular Oscar award came to be.  Besides “accident” being monocausalitis (see definition below) itself, she was probably responding to reality for her.  There are so many variables and interactions involved in winning an Oscar it is very hard for a person to ‘understand’ with any empirical certainty how it did happen!   That loosely translated to her as an “accident”.  Giving it a ‘cause’ like fate, luck, Buddha or alignment of the stars is preposterous.




Yes, it is a made up word but it represents a very serious brain freeze. Humans drift to monocausalitis whenever possible.  Quick links between one event and another are reinforced by others due to…


Û competition

Û access

Û information

Ü absolutism

Û # of approaches

Ü data validation


Simply put, “one problem; one solution” can also be seen as one event, one reason; one effect, one cause.  Very MBA-driven and very superficial science. 


Ernst Poppel coined the term in an Edge.com paper as far as I know.  Ernst is the neuroscientist and Director of the Institute for Medical Psychology, University of Munich and says that humans are victims of “evolutionary heritage being satisfied only if one and only one cause for a solution to a problem is identified.” I think that conclusion is bunk but it is an interesting launching point.


Single causes are simple, complete and represent closure in a life that seems increasingly complex and that escapes both understanding and conclusions. 


I am not sure that evolution is involved in monocausalitis as Poppel has suggested other than that detection of things in the environment is part of selection by consequences.  The consequences for finding a single or major ‘cause’ are almost universally reinforced.  Thus, the strategy that goes in that direction is repeated over and over; taught, mimicked, and copied. You see it all the time:

  • Book of the month revealing…
  • Cop shows… Game shows… Law and order brands…
  • Guru solution for…
  • Stock on the move due to…
  • Magic cures…
  • What the government (doctor, lawyer, baker, hair dresser, etc.) doesn’t want you to know…
  • Reasons for this, that, or the other thing…


The behavior of organisms is frickin’ complex.  Simplistic connections between behavior, world hunger, war, peace space exploration or a Super Bowl win are junk despite being the daily fare from Foxy talking heads cleverly passing themselves off as “newstainment.”  Move on.  Even the relationship between a PowerBar and getting homework done is not 1:1.  Fill your head with something you can count on: multi-causal relationships.


The scientific basis of the behavior or organism’s hasn’t advanced much for a zillion or reasons.  the ease with which we can claim a person is ‘evil’, talented, dumb, biased, towel head, female, liberal, fundamentalist, ADD or this and that dilutes any substantive understanding of behavior by helping to keep behavior ethereal rather than tackling its existing complexities.  


Don’t take my word for it!  Test monocausalitis for yourself.  If you can find a ‘single cause’ for anything send it to this sight.  We’ll post it and any information you can provide for others to rejoice in.   Believe me, it will be a big deal and the start of some awesome conversations.


If you see the telltale signs of monocausalitis anywhere, be suspicious, be very suspicious.  If you can, dig deeper.  In science, trust is not a virtue. 


Understand that the idea of ‘cause’ itself is not exactly cogent with what we know about how things work in the universe.  For 5 decades ‘cause’ has been a very low credibility concept of a mechanistic or Newtonian ilk.  Poppel’s appeal to end it in everyday usage is refreshing but improbable.  As a way of speaking, and thus thinking, it is too well established to have it go away swiftly.

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