Behaviorism is a psychological theory that sees mankind as operating more like a machine than as a free agent. Its modern form arose in reaction to so-called armchair philosophers, depth psychologists and alleged mystics who tried to understand human motivation in terms of what went on inside the mind or soul. For behaviorists, what really counts is what we can directly observe—in a word, behavior.
This approach is traceable to thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke David Hume, George Berkeley and David Hartley. Hobbes viewed man as a natural and social creature, while the others stressed the importance of the association of ideas.
In 1739, the so-called British empiricist philosopher David Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature:
The qualities, from which…association arises, and by which the mind is after this manner conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz. resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and effect.¹
Most will say that the scientific study of behaviorism begins with the Russian, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who conditioned dogs to salivate not just at the sight of food but also at the sound of a bell that preceded feeding.
The American psychologist J. B. Watson (1878-1958) generalized these findings to human beings, emphasizing the importance of recency and frequency. This means that if we’ve smiled every time we’ve seen a child for the past ten years, we’re very likely to smile if we see a child today. The American B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) extended this system to include the idea of positive and negative reinforcement.
Pavlov’s type of learning is usually called classical conditioning, while Skinner’s is called operant conditioning. Skinner soon became the most popular advocate of behaviorism. He argues that past reinforcements determine behavior. We learn to repeat or decline behaviors based on their consequences. This is called the Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement (S-R-R) model.
Skinner also formulated the idea of shaping. By controlling the environmental rewards and punishments for behaviors, one is able to shape behavior. Psychologist also call this behavior modification.
Critics of behaviorism say it depicts a soulless, mechanistic view of mankind. Instead of resembling a pleasure-seeking machine, critics say that human beings are uniquely free, replete with emotional, intuitive, intellectual and spiritual concerns extending well beyond the narrow confines of reward and punishment.
Daniel Dennett contends that human beings are Skinnerian, Popperian and also Darwinian creatures. This means that we learn from stimulus, response and reinforcement but we also have the inner ability to test our hypotheses prior to enacting them in the real world.
This challenges Skinner’s anti-mentalism, as does Dennett’s Darwinian component. According to Dennett we act partially in accord with ancestrally acquired knowledge. A good example of this can be found in our capacity for language. Because of our language skills, many believe that human beings are hard-wired to learn languages. And we do, in fact, learn language if we’re raised in the right kind of environment, whereas a child parented by wolves in the wild won’t learn how to speak a language.²
¹ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature London: Collins, 1962 , p. 54.
² Wittgenstein’s notion of a private language might seem to challenge this idea. But Wittgenstein, himself, argues that any kind of representation that isn’t socially shared cannot truly be language. More recently, the postmodern notion of connotation complicates this claim. Some postmoderns ask: If everyone understands signs differently, are we really communicating?
- Today’s Birthday: BURRHUS FREDERIC “B.F.” SKINNER (1904) (euzicasa.wordpress.com)
- Ep 191: What Was B. F. Skinner Really Like? (thepsychfiles.com)
- Positive Reinforcement and the General Public (ayahska.wordpress.com)
- New Textbook! Behavior Analysis and Learning, 5th Edition (psypress.com)
- 4 Fantastic Thinkers Who Helped to Shape Psychology (whatispsychology.biz)
- David Hume: Reason is Dead(ness) (pathtothepossible.wordpress.com)
- Artificial Artificial Intelligence (smashingboxes.com)
- “Networked Minds” Require A Fundamentally New Kind of Economics (videolectures.net)
- B.F. Skinner: The Man Who Taught Pigeons to Play Ping-Pong and Rats to Pull Levers (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Behaviorism 101 (ronnekafrasergreen.wordpress.com)
Not until fairly recently has corruption been recognized as a valid topic within the social sciences, perhaps partly because it’s not easily verified. Also, shrewd researchers wishing to avoid repercussions in an imperfect world may know when it’s best to keep quiet.
Corruption most often involves bribery and abuses of legitimate authority.¹ In business and government corruption may take place between as few as two people or among a relatively small number or insiders. Some examples in government would be employing a less qualified person than others or closing a business deal as a result of clandestine social and/or economic connections. In business, examples would be market collusion and all types of fraud involving more than one person.
Extreme conspiracy theorists contend that a so-called ‘culture of fear’ is purposefully orchestrated by inherently deceptive governments in order to legitimize wars and bolster certain markets. Along these lines, some believe that corruption has permeated Western culture to a degree formerly associated with so-called third and second world countries. But again, proof is usually hard to find and, most likely, always will be.
Within psychology and especially theology, the term corruption refers to specific individuals or groups whenever an action is deemed morally degrading by another group claiming moral authority. In some circles of Eastern and Western mystical theology corrupt acts are said to “pollute” the individual soul (or in Buddhism, to attract negative skandhas).
These two ideas of corruption – the social vs. the psychological and theological – may at first seem separate. But on closer inspection, they’re arguably connected. As Jesus puts it in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit.” True, Christ is talking about true and false religious prophets in this passage, but it seems fair to generalize this idea to all aspects of life.
So what does this mean for the average person in our imperfect world? Even the upright schoolteacher or respected academic has probably photocopied material that is under copyright. And many decent folks made cassette tapes of their favorite albums back in the day.
The answer to this question has spawned a lot of debate in philosophy and theology about ethics, and clever thinkers have come up with a range of ideas from “situational ethics” to “necessary evil” to try to grapple with the realities of imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.
Moreover, in sociology and economics were hear arguments about the alleged positive aspects of crime–for instance, crime is said to be good for anti-crime businesses and services (e.g. anti-virus software), as well as for neutral market areas (e.g. the old cassette tape). And even the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that a limited amount of crime was good for society because it helped to define boundaries for acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, this awareness strengthening society as a whole.² But ultimately, it seems only God can know what’s right and wrong, this also being one of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 7:1).
¹ For a good list of these potential abuses, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption.
² For a good discussion on Durkheim’s view, see http://misssrobinson.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/how-do-functionalists-explain-crime
Corruption - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/entries/corruption)
Transparency International (transparency.org)
- ‘Good governance vital to fight graft in society’ (arabtimesonline.com)
- (Video) Study names Chicago most corrupt city in United States (nalert.blogspot.com)
- OpBerlusconi: Anonymous Launches Campaign Against Italian Government – Video (news.softpedia.com)
- Watch Video as Protesters storm Nigeria Ministry of Justice over Corruption (dailygistxtra.com)
- Corruption and Political Parties (anaksisahbom.wordpress.com)
- Pakistan tries new way of tackling corruption (miamiherald.com)
- Punjab tries new way of tackling corruption (dawn.com)
- Ghana’s defence sector corrupt – TI (ghanabusinessnews.com)
- TI reports defense sector corruption (fcpablog.com)
- Political Corruption (towardchange.wordpress.com)
Controlled dreaming (also called conscious or lucid dreaming)¹ is a controversial technique based on shamanic traditions in which one allegedly creates or has a conscious effect on the content of a dream.
This apparently requires a degree of consciousness not readily available to most. Some say they control their dreams simply as a pleasurable or novel activity. Others believe they enter into a Jungian-style collective unconscious in a systematic manner, hoping to influence conditions in the everyday, observable world with which the collective unconscious, they argue, is intimately connected.²
There is some debate as to whether controlled dreaming is just another term for the alleged phenomenon of astral projection. Richard Craze suggest that the two differ, not just conceptually but physiologically.
The evidence, fragmentary as it is, from EEG readings seems to indicate that the two experiences are different. Lucid dreaming is usually accompanied by REM, delta waves and slowed heart beat and respiratory rates identical with normal paradoxical sleep. OOBEs [out of body experiences] are usually accompanied by NREM, an absence of delta waves indicating that the subject is not asleep, an increase in beta waves indicating that the subject is awake, increased pulse and respiratory rates indicating arousal of some sort, and bodily activity. Physiologically the two effects are quite different.³
¹ Lucid dreaming minimally means you are simply aware that you are dreaming. It may or may not involve some degree of control over the dream content.
² Adam DreamHealer claims there’s scientific evidence that “sending healing intentions changes the physiology of someone at a distance.” Although he is not talking about healing others while dreaming, per se, he does postulate the same kind of interconnectedness that would be required for healing at a distance. http://www.dreamhealer.com
³ Richard Craze, Astral Projection, London: Headway – Hodder & Stoughton, 1996, p. 26.
- Meaning of Dreams (legendofanomad.com)
- Did You Know?! 7 Cool Facts About Dreams (jtm71.wordpress.com)
- Take a Trip Outside of Yourself with Astral Projection (jtm71.wordpress.com)
- I Had A Dream… (Omniverse Part 2) (rjnielsen.wordpress.com)
- DVD Ultimate Secrets of Astral Travel (paneandov2012.com)
- Lucid Dreaming and Mental Illness (realitysandwich.com)
- Lucid Dreaming: The Barrier (thesoloist1.wordpress.com)
- Modifying an EEG headset for lucid dreaming (hackaday.com)
- Lucid Dreams (picturesinlivingcolor.wordpress.com)
Compensation is a psychological term that was first introduced by Alfred Adler in Study of Organ Inferiority and Its Physical Compensation (1907).
Adler understood compensation in terms of underlying feelings of inferiority. In order to cope with the pain of feeling inferior, the psyche develops beliefs at the opposite end of the psychological spectrum. That is, it ‘compensates’ by feeling superior to other people. Hence the now familiar idea of the inferiority-superiority complex.
In 1907 Carl Gustav Jung notes the pathogenic complex posses a quantum of libido which grants it a degree of autonomy that is opposed to conscious will. Though this dynamic has a pathological cast, it conveys the essence of what Jung termed compensation; namely, the capacity of the unconscious to influence consciousness.¹
However, Jung wouldn’t name compensation as such until 1914.
In “The Importance of the Unconscious in Psychopathology” (1914), he introduced the idea, saying, “the principal function of the unconscious is to effect a compensation and to produce a balance. All extreme conscious tendencies are softened and toned down through a counter-impulse in the unconscious.”²
We can see that Jung’s view of compensation, as compared to Adler’s, is geared more toward the idea that the psyche strives to achieve balance and integration.
In fact, Jung believed the psyche has a natural tendency toward balance and integration. If a particular attitude becomes extreme, Jung believed that therapy and close attention to dreams could help to amplify repressed or underdeveloped psychological contents.
On several occasions Jung says that his own particular brand of therapy is essential to this process. And he believed that he had successfully analyzed himself in this regard. But, at the same time, Jung didn’t try to sell potential clients on his views. If an ardent churchgoer, for example, was satisfied with what Jung may have taken as a skewed perspective, Jung would let the person be. Apparently Jung only intervened when clients’ old systems and attitudes lead to neurosis (or psychosis) and help was requested.
This latter claim might, however, be a bit exaggerated, in keeping with the tendency of some Jungians to elevate Jung as some kind of new prophet for modern times. There are also accounts where Jung was quite brash and bold, surprising and even shocking his clients. Perhaps they had asked for his help. But whether or not he was, at times, playing the the ‘wise guru’ and on a bit of a power trip remains open to debate.³
³ Although married to Emma Jung, it seems Carl had sex with at least two of his clients, Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, which certainly wouldn’t wash in psychiatry today. See » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung#Marriage
From his considerable study of world myth and religion, Jung came to the conclusion that this collective data is cross-cultural. In fact, he didn’t just see the collective unconscious in myth and religion. He saw universally recognizable motifs among dreams, myth, religion, the arts and architecture. One leading example he provides is the mandala. For Jung, the circular shape of the mandala represents the potentially limitless self.
Jung calls these hypothesized patterns of human existence archetypes.¹ Existing in a larger time frame than most people’s daily awareness, the archetypes of the collective unconscious apparently connect the past, present and future.
Jung speaks to the arbitrary nature of the term collective unconscious. Towards the end of his career he writes that he rendered essentially spiritual ideas in scientific-sounding language for the sake of professional and societal legitimacy. So this, in a sense, makes him something of a postmodern thinker way before the term became popular.
Because he was, in part, doing a sell job, his insistence on the bio-genetic base of the collective unconscious seems confusing to some, especially when he says:
The unconscious has no time. There is no trouble about time in the unconscious. Part of our psyche is not in time and not in space. They are only an illusion, time and space, and so in a certain part of our psyche, time does not exist at all.²
Could a timeless psyche be entirely biological? Perhaps Jung was saying that, although grounded in the body, the archetypes exhibit or resonate with a spiritual component. That is, a bio-genetic ground is necessary for the interplay of body and spirit.
What About Sigmund Freud and the Unconscious?
Freud and Jung’s views about the unconscious differ, but not so much as many believe. Some pop psychologists and New Age gurus quickly dismiss Freud’s ideas, unaware that his model of the unconscious also contains collective elements.
As we’ve seen in the above, Jung describes the archetype as a component of mankind’s psychological substratum—the collective unconscious. Freud similarly spoke of phylogenetic “schemata” and “prototypes.” And borrowing from ancient Greek and Jewish literature, Freud also devised the “Oedipus complex,” a “primal father” and likened the shadowy contents of the unconscious to archaeological ruins.
In addition, late in his career Freud revised his libido theory to include the general ideas of eros (life instinct) and thanatos (death instinct). Because Freud maintained that the fundamental aspects of the unconscious are universal, aspects of his model of the self, like Jung’s, point to a collective unconscious.³ And not only that. Freud, himself, said that Jung introduced nothing new with the idea of the collective unconscious. He wrote that the “content of the unconscious is collective anyhow.”4
¹ Jung’s notion of the archetypes borrows from ideas previously found in anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion and theology. The term archetype is traceable to St. Augustine, 354-430 CE.
² C. G. Jung Collected Works vol. 18, para. 684, cited in “Time and Space” at http://www.fundacion-jung.com.ar/ingles/citas.htm.
³ Michael V. Adams illustrates this point in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, (ed.) Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 101.
4 Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, p. 209, cited in R. J. Lifton with Eric Olson (eds.), Explorations in Psychohistory: The Wellfleet Papers, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1974 p. 90.
- Living in a world of symbolism (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- The quest for individuation: a Jungian looks at Matthew Arnold’s “The Buried Life” (brimmings.com)
- Jung today: An interview with Dr. John Ryan Haule (humanisticpaganism.com)
- Asheville Jung Center Works to Advance the Psychology of Carl Jung (virtual-strategy.com)
- Psychoanalytical Theory – Sigmund Freud (lcdcexamreview.wordpress.com)
- DVD Review – Archetype of the UFO (epages.wordpress.com)
- The Self – God’s window between pantheistic Taoism and Catholic personal god (stottilien.wordpress.com)
- Carl Jung quotes to ponder: (stephencmonahan.wordpress.com)
- The Creative Psyche: Carl Jung and the Unconscious Mind (songsandwordsandthoughts.wordpress.com)
The censor is a psychological mechanism hypothesized by Sigmund Freud in which threatening or socially inappropriate dream material is toned down. Freud describes the censor through the analogy of professional writing.
To be effective, media writers must consider their audience. If words are too strident or suggestive, an editor rejects or possibly edits an article for publication.
With regard to dreams, Freud believed the censor acts like a newspaper editor. The censor disguises an unconscious wish symbolized in a dream. The stronger the prohibition of the wish by the ego, superego or conscience, the more it will be distorted in the dream, or in a series of dreams.
Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) is worth quoting at length here:
A similar difficulty confronts the political writer who has disagreeable truths to tell those in authority. If he presents them undisguised, the authorities will suppress his words…A writer must beware of censorship, and on its account he must soften and distort expression of his opinion…The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching the disguise and the more ingenious too may be the means employed for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning. The fact that the phenomena of censorship and of dream-distortion correspond down to their smallest details justifies us in presuming that they are similarly determined.¹
However, Freud’s analogy might not hold up in the 21st century because it assumes a political writer is concerned with telling the truth and not just with making a living, stomping on an opponent, or winning an election.
As for the idea of the censor itself, it assumes that the brain (and person) works like software filters, merely distorting hidden desires before they reach consciousness. The idea that dreams could be symbolic because they point to something far greater than mundane reality is never considered. Why? Well, Freud was a reductionist atheist. So for most of his life he saw just about everything from a sexual, materialist and conceptual bias, which for spiritually biased people is not entirely wrong but definitely incomplete.
¹ Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) trans. James Strachey, London: Pelican, 1976, pp. 223-224.
- Cathexis (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Use of Dreams in Therapy (healnowtherapyhypnosis.blogspot.com)
- Women. (askinsaneelaine.com)
- Freud Philosophy (trinadlambert.com)
- Superego – Psychology Definition of the Week (psychology.about.com)
- Review: ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at the San Jose Rep (mercurynews.com)
- C.G. Jung: “Student Years”; “Sigmund Freud”; “Confrontations with the Unconscious” (adamcmadison.wordpress.com)
- Steve Rushin: Fraud’s Embarrassment-Dream of Nakedness describes Yanks’ failure (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Why We Love Music–and Freud Despised It (psychologytoday.com)
The term catharsis has deep literary roots, and goes back to Plato and Aristotle.¹ In everyday contemporary usage an experience is called “cathartic” if it helps us release a good deal of pent up emotions. Usually some kind of enhanced intellectual understanding follows.
Catharsis is also used in the arts with much the same meaning, where some dramatic performance – be it theatrical, visual, poetic or musical – compels us to release feelings, this usually followed by some insight into ourselves or into life in general and the human experience.
Today, the term crops up time and again in the arts and music.
¹ See this good discussion, “Plato and Aristotle on Tragedy” about the complexities of catharsis: http://classics.uc.edu/~johnson/tragedy/plato&aristotle.html
- Catharsis and Stream of Consciousness (vampjezzc.wordpress.com)
- Giving Flaws to Your Characters: Writing as Catharsis (writingreadingandlife.wordpress.com)
- The Catharsis (razorcandy.net)
- Aristo ! (timelessbits.wordpress.com)
- A Stressful Catharsis (imthatkay.wordpress.com)
- Need for Catharsis (dragonintuitive.com)
In psychoanalysis, Charles Rycroft says cathexis is a term coined by Sigmund Freud‘s English translators to indicate an “investment” of libidinal (sexual) energy that attaches to an internal object, representation or mental structure.¹ Some years later, Rycroft’s assertion has been expanded on in Wikipedia:
Once inside the head, so to speak, the libidinal energy can transfer from one mental structure to another, much like troops positioning around a battlefield.
According to Freud’s theory, cathected energy may attach to one mental process in order to repress another. Sooner or later there’s a build up of energy. This results in psychological dysfunction, or more positively in sublimation, where the energy is redirected toward some socially acceptable outlet (such as creating artwork).
Object cathexis refers to mental energy invested in an external object instead of the self. It should be noted that Freud’s use of the term “object” includes people. “Object” for Freud simply means a recipient of instinctual drives. So an object can be inside one’s own head or outside in the environment.
Also of note is how Freud never considers the possibility that pent up libidinal energy could be redirected to the spiritual life. On this score, many saints and mystics attest to the importance of celibacy. Without it, they say, their spiritual work (e.g. intercession) just can’t get done. Many go even further, describing chastity not as a kind of unavoidable necessity but as a great gift and virtue. This positive attitude lead St. Frances de Sales to say
Chastity is the lily among virtues and makes men almost equal to angels.³
Sadly, many people still on a materialistic level of consciousness find this difficult to understand. As a result, some predominantly spiritual people may suffer ridicule and persecution, even by their apparently religious peers. Even more sad, it seems that some potential spiritual sensitives are, themselves, duped by the status quo viewpoint. So instead of flowering into sainthood, they may end up in psychiatric wards.
Related Posts » Abreaction
¹ Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 16.
³ Cited in The Voice of the Saints, ed. Francis W. Johnston, Tan Books, 1986 , p. 55.
- Displacement (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Dreams (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Century of the Self (pulsemedia.org)
- Review: ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at the San Jose Rep (mercurynews.com)
- Quiz – Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development (psychology.about.com)
- Sigmund Freud my Quest for Peace (sexymomma884.wordpress.com)
- Freud Philosophy (trinadlambert.com)
- What is the libidinal economy of collective sovereignty? (jdeanicite.typepad.com)
- Freud & Jung in “A Dangerous Method” (psychologytoday.com)
Like sublimation, this involves a redirection of mental energy but with displacement the original impulse may be socially acceptable, whereas with sublimation the original impulse is socially unacceptable.
Displacement may occur in dreams when one image stands for another. Or it may occur in a simple substitution of one activity or person for another. When it’s linked with sublimation, displacement might result in humor where the unspeakable is spoken, if in a veiled manner.
Although displacement is usually described as a primary process (the primitive, unconscious part of the psyche that doesn’t follow strict rules about space and time), when it merges with conscious activity it also becomes a secondary process (the newer part of the mind concerned with logic, order and daytime reality). Examples of displacement as a primary and secondary process would be daydreaming, creative acts, and emotional thoughts.¹
¹ Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. Penguin, 1972, pp. 35, 124-125. It should be noted that not everyone accepts Freud’s view of primary and secondary processes and, moreover, that the two are essentially at odds with one another.
- Defense Mechanism (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- A country on the couch (mindhacks.com)
- Link Between Freud’s Unconscious Conflicts And Conscious Anxiety Disorder Symptoms Shown, Lending Empirical Support To Psychoanalysis (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Perceptions are not Always Correct (psychologyrebel.wordpress.com)
- Freud’s theory of unconscious conflict linked to anxiety symptoms in new U-M brain research (eurekalert.org)
- Neuroscience Study Supports Freud’s View of Anxiety (psychcentral.com)
- The Freudian Fallacy (wariscrime.com)
- Why I’m A Freudian, and What That Means (theholydark.wordpress.com)
- Defense Mechanism (socyberty.com)