Saturday, December 16, 2017

About the book "The Brain Defense" by Kevin Davis.

In this book journalist Kevin Davis makes a very detailed research that questions many of the traditional assumptions about free will and legal responsabilities that have traditionally ruled the criteria used in court rooms to determine the extent of guilt and especially the amount of punishment (and/or therapy, or rehabilitation) that defendants with "broken brains" really deserve.

All this in view of a new breaking factor in the interpretation of human behavior: the use of neuroscientific data in trials.

Human Behavior is the subject to which I have been devoting my interest and study during several years now, and thus I immediately sensed the importance of reading this book.

With the advance of the technology available to study the living brain, like fMRI and PET Scanning, among other tests, we are at the beginning of an era that will, some day, allow us to get a very detailed picture of what is going on in a brain and whether this is a healthy (or "normal") brain or a pathological one, and if this distinction is a valid excuse in legal terms.  We are still quite far from a thorough and detailed analysis capacity, and this has been made evident in court rooms, as Davis tells us in his book, in the words of several experts that are well aware of the limitations of the available info, that is still not enough to fully explain behavior in individual cases. On the contrary, it has led to some abuse in terms of trying to over apply neuroscientific data in as many cases as possible.

Notwithstanding these limitations, the importance of brain study can not be ignored, as it will be considered more each day in every aspect of human behavior analysis, surely not restricted to court room instances.

Up to now, to declare a defendant not guilty for a severe mental disorder has been restricted to the psychiatric realm, and only in the past few years has this new approach been used in court rooms, claiming that the organic study of a brain also has a place in the explanation of the criminal conduct. As I have stated before, despite its modest contribution to trial outcomes, this is just the beginning.

In his book, Kevin Davis makes a detailed analysis of  Herbert Weinstein´s case, a man that killed his wife in a sudden anger reaction. With no previous violent behavior whatsoever, Weinstein was diagnosed with the presence of a huge cyst in the frontal lobe of his brain, which might have had some participation in a diminished auto control capacity, and thus might explain to some extent his extreme reaction.

Davis  also depicts another very important growing body of evidence regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that affects people who sustain repeated impacts in the head, such as boxers and american football players, that have been analysed both in vivo and post mortem, and where a very important neurological damage has been established. Famous players that have gone into very violent behaviors that have led them to stand trials, have been studied and found to have severe organic alterations in their brains.

Kevin Davis book "The Brain Defense" is a fundamental contribution to place in the minds of all of us, a relevant and trascendent subject, the importance of organic brain disfunction, as main cause or at least participant factor in the triggering of violent behavior, and places a big question in the appropiate interpretation of "full free will" and responsability of defendants.

My interest in the real determinants of human behavior, subject about which I have written several articles and chapters both in spanish and english, and that can be linked from this blog, goes well beyond the law and court room environment, but with no doubt Kevin Davis contribution with this book will be of primary relevance, for all its implications, present and future.

My congratulations for a great work!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Some clarifications on the concept of variability. Chapter 5.

We have said that every human being is unique and unrepeatable, and that it is even possible to detect differences in the reactions and behavior of identical twins, as small as these may be, because they can be easier to detect than physical differences.

The above is a consequence of the embryological development of every human being, for reasons that we still do not clearly understand, but that are related to the mechanisms of  interpretation and organic development  based on genetic information. There are variations that produce not only differences in physical traits, but also the conformation, and therefore the expressions in behavior, induced by the primary and secondary brain.

In the primary brain, differences in its preprogramming that will characterize it in all its tendencies and innnate reactions, and in the secondary brain, the final capacity that it will have to acquire knowledge, analytical capability and cognitive skills, and to be able to control to more or less extent the influence of the primary brain, or be controlled by it.

Indeed, as we have already said (Chapter 4) with respect to the primary brain, it is pre-programmed with a series of innate tendencies. Here, we must point out that this does not occur in a simple scheme of existence or non-existence of certain tendencies such as to violence, submission, deceit, etc., but that all of them will be always present, but can have varying degrees of intensity, from very weak, to very strong, on each individual.

That is, it is a quantitative,  not qualitative, problem.

We all have some degree, greater or lesser, of all tendencies. For example, we all have the tendency to help another person when he or she needs it, but this tendency can be of great intensity, or of medium or minimal intensity, in any of all possible degrees of that spectrum. Thus, each primary brain will express, each in a different degree, all possible tendencies, but some may be so intense that they will be extremely visible, strongly characterizing that person, while others may be so weak that might seem non existant.

It is also possible that a person has no strong tendency at all, neither negative nor positive. If that primary brain comes in tandem  with a not very brilliant secondary brain, we will have a more or less anodyne person, who will never be outstanding or prominent.

So, we can have an infinite number of possible profiles characterizing the primary brain of each person, depending on the relative strength of each trend. In this way, on the specific profile of tendencies that each person has, all different from person to person, we have the origin of the enormous variability we can see.

This must be associated to the other component, the secondary brain, which will also participate by modifying the general profile of each person , thus adding an important multiplier factor of variability.

This secondary brain also exhibits an enormous variability in its own development and capacity of influence on the primary brain, depending on its maximum attainable intelligence, (which seems genetically determined) and the experience and enrichment experimented in its contact with the environment.

Thus, a high quality education and the inculcation of positive values, will be very important elements, capable of generating a solid moral conscience, which can reinforce the ability of the person to counteract with varying degrees of success the harmful and negative tendencies, when they come preprogrammed with intensity, in their primary brain.

A moral conscience of great strength is produced by the association of a powerful secondary brain in intelligence, experience and education, with a primary brain in which the preprogramming of personal protection and that of the clan or tribe prevails over the preprogramming of the most damaging and destructive tendencies.

In short, the ability to counteract the most negative and damaging tendencies will depend on the relative intensity of the positive and negative tendencies of the primary brain, and the secondary brain's strength.

We can then understand the enormous range of possible conformations that can exist in any primary-secondary cerebral binomial, there are infinite profiles, each with greater or lesser differences.

At the same time, in all those cases where a set of the same tendencies appears to be more clearly determined, and in which they have a relative similar strength, we begin to find certain characteristic human types, that shoud be soon subject of study in this work.

Without pretending to overtake the due order in the elaboration of this fascinating theory, we can, on the basis of all ideas mentioned above, see the transcendent importance for every society to have high quality educational systems, and priorization of positive values and protection over negative and destructive tendencies.

It is about the development and strengthening of the secondary brain where we have better possibilities to intervene, since it is clear that on the primary brain we are less  likely to have influence, not only because we are technologically limited for that, but also because, if it was possible, we might invade a very dangerous field of intervention on the very essence of human nature, with unpredictable consequences.

May 2008

Jorge Lizama León.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Human Behavior, Chapter 4

At this point, and using the ideas presented in previous chapters, we can begin to outline a more elaborate scheme of what the gross organization of the human  mind might be, related to the factors that determine and/or affect decisions, and therefore participate in the behavior of each individual.

Up to now, these approaches are limited to a theoretical basis where they integrate the incomplete scientific information available today, the empirical observation of human behavior,  and pure reasoning, since we have not yet complete information or a technology capable of studying the human brain functions in accurate detail at the neuronal level.

This work aims to propose a different, more logical and less idealized alternative, as to why the human being behaves as he does in the real world, often in a selfish, cruel, violent and dehumanized way, and in others, with such an altruistic and generous dedication, for the benefit of others.

To recapitulate, let us remember that in our theory the human being has, from a functional point of view, not one, but two brains, each from different evolutionary origin and time: the primary brain, more similar and comparable to the one of other mammals, and the secondary brain, or neocerebrum, which is the one that distinguishes us from them, and gives us  the high human characteristics and capabilities, which make us unique in the animal kingdom.

It is neither possible nor desirable to attempt a precise functional and anatomical characterization of both brains, on the one hand because we do not have the necessary technology,  and on the other, because through its thousands of years of evolution, it is very likely that in the human brain there has been occuring modifications in the assignment of functions to zones or structures that originally had different purposes. This is coupled with the enormous number of inter-zonal associations, characterized by complex systems of both positive and negative feedback between them.

Notwithstanding this, it is clear that the secondary brain is based mainly (though not exclusively) on the large cortical mantle of both hemispheres.

In a less precise distribution, the primary brain  includes more primitive brain areas from the evolutionary point of view: among others, brain stem, midbrain, thalamus, limbic system, and primitive cortical areas, through all of which it interconnects densely with the secondary brain.

We have said that the interaction of both brains is especially complex and not without many imperfections (chapter 3), to the point that each of these brains (or processors) can in many cases suggest or stimulate the individual to take totally opposite decisions and actions in the face of a given situation, thus generating conditions that explain many of the conflicts, sometimes very serious, that characterize people, and which historically have tried to be explained as manifestations of illness, insanity, neurosis, psychopathy, etc. (Famous in human history have been numerous cases of "vital contradictions").

A transcendent question has sought to be unveiled by many thinkers throughout human history: is it man at birth a blank slate, capable of absolutely conforming to his upbringing, education, and, in general, to all the influence of the environment where he lives? Or is it, on the contrary, a being that already comes pre-molded, predestined to have certain behavioral characteristics and traits that will accompany him all his life?

There have been authors who have been inclined to each of these options, although without doubt the first one is the one that more support "of the scholars" has had through history.

As we continue with our analysis, we can see that both positions have elements of truth, and that the definitive explanation, which until now seemed so difficult to achieve, is much simpler to understand if we study the problem from the point of view of our double brain scheme, the primary-secondary brain binomial.

Our primary brain comes pre-molded (hardwired), with lots of information and pre-programmed responses (just like other animals).

On the other hand, our secondary brain starts essentially "blank", prepared both to incorporate information from the internal (our own organism), and external environment, and to develop a series of capacities.

Thus, the human being brings in his primary processor or primary brain a program, (comes "wired", "pre-programmed", brings a "chip"), genetically codified, including a lot of  information, reflexes and reactions ready for execution, some very simple and others more elaborate, to respond to a myriad of situations, some of them vital, that he could face during its existence.

In this respect the human being does not differ essentially from other animals, such as tigers, dogs, sheep, eagles, etc., which also bring their own programming, which allows them, without having to be "taught", to recognize which enemies are dangerous, which food is appropriate or not, how and when to develop walking, running, flying, etc.

We must note from now on, as was pointed out in previous chapters, and as a fact of the utmost importance, that has a direct relation with the genetic information of  each individual and with the embryological systems that participate in the generation of his brain(s), that this pre-programming is characterized by a similar general basis in all members of the same species, but at the same time contains great variability from one individual to another, thus determining,  both for animals and for humans, significant differences in the responses (behavior) of these individuals to the same stimulus, as well as the perception they have of each other, and indeed, of themselves and the world in which they are immersed.

This variability is indeed enormous, probably much greater than the variability of physical traits, since it is clearly expressed in cases of identical twins, who are easier to distinguish by their behavior and typical reactions than by their physical characteristics.

Moreover, it is precisely because of the great variability of the configuration of the primary-secondary cerebral binomial that it is so difficult to characterize human beings on the basis of a single pattern of behavior. To the extent that all individuals are unique and unrepeatable, it is impossible to characterize them only based on rigid patterns: there are as many configurations as individuals, and each configuration generates more or less different behaviors.

This does not mean, however, that just as there are physically alike human beings, there can not be behaviorally similar and groupable individuals, who, despite having differences, can share very marked traits that are quite similar.

This happens, for example, with all those people who present psychopathic traits originated in similar tendencies, a subject with which we will dwell later.

Thus, both in humans and in animals, certain characteristics of behavior may be distinguished very early, including those that differentiate an individual from another or others, such as, for example, primary features as courage or cowardice, recklessness, tendency to domination or submission, to exercise or to appropriate more or less eagerly of certain rights, to the use and control of territory, feeding, etc.

But at the same time, and unlike those animals, human beings have developed in their evolution this second brain (secondary processor), which is "prepared to incorporate and structure a great amount of information", and therefore has an enormous capacity of learning and subsequent performance, that is developed and refined as the individual grows and relates to the environment, through his 3 most distinctive and powerful tools: memory, imagination and language, which are extensively used for its analytical capacity.

The secondary brain, which unlike other mammals has only reached this very high development capacity in human beings, is nourished by information and experience from several sources:

from the primary brain, (which is what makes it "feel from the heart ", in the words of literarians and other artists), and from the external environment, through the sense organs.

All data is received, integrated, analyzed and processed by both brains, although in the case of the primary brain in an unconscious and / or preconscious way, while the reception of information and its analysis by the secondary brain constitute a very important part of consciousness (and simultaneously self-consciousness with enormous recursive capacity).

All this information received, and capable of being consciously analyzed by the secondary brain, has been the subject of a series of processes of great complexity, about which today there is much more ignorance than certainty, processes in which different and numerous zones have participated, that communicate and feedback with each other, both positively and negatively, through complex neural networks.

As we have said before, the final behavior of the individual will be determined by the complex interaction of both brains, a phenomenon that we will try to characterize next.

An essential element in our theory is to recognize that the interaction between both brains, by the very fact that the secondary brain has the ability to adapt to the current world, while the primary brain brings a preprogramming intended to favor the survival of the individual in conditions of very primitive relation with the environment, (including especially the other living beings), is an interaction that often results very conflictive.

Thus, the primary brain can stimulate the individual to take actions totally opposite to those suggested by the secondary brain, which has "learned" to recognize as the most convenient, practical and appropriate behaviors, all what we consider "normal" in our modern and civilized world.

In this way we can start from the premise that any act or behavior of an individual can be a response to the command of his primary brain (especially when it is more instinctive and emotional, preconcious or totally unconscious - even totally irrational), or his secondary brain, when it is more reflexive and analytical. And it can also be a "mixed" product, originated in the more or less balanced influence of both.

We then place in the primary brain the fundamental preprogramming of our mammalian species, which takes care of everything that is more "instinctive", and in the secondary brain, everything that is more rational.

The Affective Filter.

Along with this, and due to the existence of powerful drives or tendencies, which we will see in more detail below, our primary brain constitutes a true "filter" through which we "feel" the world, both interior and external, and which gives us the basis of our "tastes," "vocations," and "innate values" (which are not necessarily "socially correct" - see Chapter 2).

Thus, our primary brain comes pre-programmed with a series of innate "tendencies" that will be characteristic of each individual, which can be felt with enormous intensity, and that are able to determine our destiny dramatically, depending on their strength and orientation.

Thus, these tendencies will have the ability to determine the life of a person, especially in all those cases where they are very strong, being able to lead the individual through a meritorious and successful path if they are positive, or through a very negative path if they are more contrary to the "common good" and what is "socially accepted".

We include here a list of several of those tendencies that we characterize as innate and unavoidable, in a conception that is totally opposite to the usual and more common interpretation that has been made (and continues to be made) through human history, and which relates them more with "goodness", "virtue", "evil" and / or "vice or sin".

Free will?

These tendencies have the capacity to influence, often decisively, even against what rationality (secondary brain) recommends, in the performing of certain acts that analyzed coldly by an observer can appear as absolutely "incomprehensible" and " inexplicable".

This means that, in many cases, a certain behavior is "forced by a tendency imposed by the primary brain", and, therefore, is not product of a completely "autonomous, free and rational" decision on the part of the individual.

This is a consideration of great transcendence in the interpretation of human behavior.

Moreover, in many cases, and contrary to what has historically been accepted, it is often the case that the most rational part of the individual (secondary brain) not only fails, though he may try, to determine propper behavior, when he "opposes" the drives coming from the primary brain, but can even reach the point of "being dominated and put to the service" of this primary brain, for the achievement of purposes that the latter presents as inevitable imperatives.(eg cases of methodical and elaborately designed, planned , and executed acts of vengeance).

Thus, we consider as a fact that the primary brain can dominate over the secondary brain, and we assign to the existence of very powerful tendencies, which are pre-programmed in the primary brain, the cause of all the more instinctive and even irrational behaviors. Among these, there are a series of behaviors that characterize certain individuals, among which the most outstanding are those that are contrary to the "social order" normally accepted as correct and adequate.

We can mention as examples of these tendencies:

The tendency to exert violence and / or threat to obtain certain results, effects or benefits.

The tendency to use deception and / or simulation for the same purpose.

The tendency to obtain and hold great power and domination over others.

The tendency to possess great wealth, in territories, in goods, and money.

The more or less preferred and more or less exclusionary tendency to heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, among the most prevalent sexual inclinations.

The tendency to religiousness as a fundamental element of moral guidance, support for our fears and the unknown, and that allows us to "understand and accept the inexplicable."

The tendency to suffer intense feelings of guilt, circumstance that weakens us and makes us "manageable".

The tendency to help, to collaborate, to defend (and / or save) others.

The tendency to insecurity and fear.

The tendency to submission.

The tendency to be reckless, courageous, leader.

The tendency to idealization, and to the self-convincement that these idealizations are or could be real.

(It is more comforting to think that what one wants most is what really exists, even if it is not so, another weakness of which some unscrupulous ones use in their favor, those characterized by some of the tendencies mentioned above, and which exist in all fields of human activity).

The concern (or lack of) of maintaining an adequate image in front of the others, resulting, in certain cases, the need to hide our true feelings and / or thinking.

The tendency to feel (or not feel) naturally as "own", values and principles that defend the integrity of individuals and societies, to the point of being (or not being) individuals naturally inclined towards respect for human rights, justice , honor, equality of opportunities, the right to life, dignified death, etc.

(From this we deduce that even the moral, religious and political position of each individual are determined, or at least greatly influenced, by the primary brain).

As we said before, this set of tendencies, according to the intensity of each, produce a very characteristic "configuration" in each person, distinguishing that individual from others. (This configurations constitute a special subject in a future chapter).

The Tribe.

It is important to emphasize the fact that there is also a preprogrammed set of inclinations aimed at protecting the immediate collective of the individual (those with whom he relates more directly), which have been crucial and determinant in the ability to survive of the human race, and have probably been originated and established very early in the evolutionary process of hominids. They are characterized by the fact that individuals generally "know and understand" them, regardless of how much they "feel them like theirs."

Thus, there is a preprogramming probably established in the most evolved part of the primary brain, if not in the transition area that gave rise to the secondary brain (primitive cortex), consisting of a set of tendencies that have as main goal the protection of the community more or less immediate to which each individual belongs (family, clan, tribe, etc.).

These tendencies imply the concept of the "common good" and a certain "moral order", key elements for the survival of that group, and on which all its members must at least appear before others as genuinely committed.

If the rest does not trust the "loyalty" of a certain member, the group characterizes that individual as potentially dangerous, and eventually deserving to be separated from the community or tribe, with the loss of rights and guarantees that that belonging implies.

Of course, and depending on the behavior of that individual, and the seriousness of his "betrayal," he may become worthy of proportional punishment, including death.

From the point of view of the individual, he who intuitively and / or consciously understands the importance of this concept will always try to appear very committed to the common good, whether he feels it genuinely or not, and will strive to maintain an image that shows (or not) his true feelings and / or thinking. Along with this, if he always appears to be loyal to the group, he says the right things, and appears to behave appropriately, and tends to emphasize more the positive than the negative aspects of those around him, will be granted with a lot of success and popularity (emotional intelligence).

Thus, and as a consequence of this fundamental preprogramming, we continue and will continue to experience values such as loyalty, solidarity, and altruism as the most important for mankind.

Based on this concepts, we can understand the origin of the set of "social values" that characterize our life in community.

The Modern Processor.

On the other hand, along with the "feelings" we experience in our existence from our primary brain, there is our "thinking", which originates primarily in our secondary brain.

These two influences do not occur in a totally pure and separate form, since our "consciousness" probably comes from a complex interaction of both brains, to the point that we do not normally discriminate in a precise way which is weighing more in the evaluation that we make of any specific situation.

However, if we do a more directed and attentive exercise of analysis, using our secondary brain (on which we have more "control"), we understand that in general everything that comes from the primary brain is characterized by a strong emotional component, which we "receive" already more or less elaborated in our conscience and which is of clear pre-conscious or unconscious origin.

We must therefore include in our primary brain everything that seems to "reach us from the heart," "the irrational".  "I feel I am in love," "I hate this person".

While everything that is more analytical, resulting from a more conscious evaluation process, based on experience, on acquired knowledge and skills, is what comes from our secondary brain.

("Joining this business may not really benefit me," "if I do this I want so much, I might be catched and fall into the hands of justice," etc.).

In this way, it is in our secondary brain, "our rational side", where our most analytical capacity, our powerful capacity for learning and inventiveness reside.

It is also where we analyze and value our moral conscience, and where, therefore, we perceive all the conflicts that produces in us to understand as "inconvenient, inadequate, or morally reproachable those thoughts", those "unconfessed desires" that we can feel. (Coming from our primary brain).

Who Wins?

However, the fact that a person brings certain pre-programmed tendencies into his or her primary brain, even if they are very strong and contrary to the protection and defense of human rights, it does not automatically mean that these tendencies will be expressed without no limit.

On the contrary, as we have already said, there are different levels capable of opposing them, with different degree of success, according to the particular "configuration" that each "brain binomial" (primary-secondary brain) reaches in the different stages of the life of the individual.

To the purest tendencies, especially if they are "negative", those "unconfessed appetites" will oppose to a greater or lesser extent varied factors, that if powerful enough, might be able to block them from actually being performed.

Among these factors we must, of course, include our "moral conscience."

This moral conscience can become a true "building" of greater or lesser strength, which has been built based on a series of ingredients that are integrated to conform it.

First, the codification existing in the primary brain itself for the protection of the clan or tribe (which can reach only the immediate environment or be more widespread), immediate or extended family group, neighborhood, community, country, interests group, fans of a sports club, etc.), which in each individual, due to the variability that we have exposed before, can be of moderate strength, or very strong, or very weak.

Second, from the secondary brain, by the series of social norms "learned" as part of family rearing and school education, and from the influence and pressure of both the people in our immediate environment, and through the media like newspapers, radio, television, etc.

Third, from the moral convincement developed that a person can achieve from the positive elements that his religion provides. (Which unfortunately are often mixed with negative elements).

The moral conscience is added as a factor that discourages the concretion of the most negative tendencies, the fear of rejection and the reaction that the "environment" can exert against the person, capable of producing in practice a punishment that can be both moral and physical .

In the evaluation of the risk of this rejection and potential punishment, the secondary brain intervenes directly, based on a rational analysis, to which ingredients are added from the primary brain, like the tendency to recklessness, courage, defiance, arrogance, etc. , which according to their respective intensity are also able to finally tilt the balance in the sense of unleashing that "appetite" or not.
In addition to the above, we should considerate the possiblity that under the influence of both brains, these "unconfessable tendencies" can be taken into practice, if there is a certainty of being able to do so in a more or less secret or reserved way.

The social rejection and reaction can come from different sources, depending on the age of the offender and the nature and seriousness of the offense: from the parents and the immediate family environment, from the peers themselves, from the wider community if the person is very well-known and / or the fault is very serious, from the earthly justice, from the divine justice, etc.

Thus, the person can live an existence in which his brains permanently struggle with each other, producing more or less tension in the individual, as these opposing forces collide, the most basic tendency, when it is contrary to the social and moral order, versus the moral conscience and the fear of the consequences of its concretion.

In this contest, the possibility that these tendencies are expressed or not will depend on the relative strength of both brains, and on the circumstantial dynamics of a given moment, which may make some of them stronger than the others.

Should we be optimistic about the future?

Regardless of how pessimistic or optimistic we are about the strengths and weaknesses of the human species, it is an undeniable fact that our secondary brain has been made over time, through generations, increasingly stronger and more developed if compared to the primary brain. Therefore, mankind is becoming, in many parts of the world, more humane and civilized.

Nevertheless, it is also a fact that we must continue to coexist for a long time with the important share of suffering caused by the behavior of all those whose primary brains prevail too much over their secondary brains, unleashing harmful behaviors for themselves and for those around them, especially in situations of marked social inequality, huge differences in living standards, high inequality of opportunity (the only remedy in the medium and long term is the availability of good education for all) , and at the same time in permissive environments that do not adequately discourage reprehensible, harmful, and / or downright criminal behavior.

Regarding the implications of this, and the necessary changes in the educational, preventive and repressive systems that human society must implement, if we truly want to decrease the incidence of abuse, violence, crime, and frauds of all kinds, we will dedicate at least one future chapter, to the transcendent subject of delinquency.

Stay tuned ;)

* This theoretical proposition has been conceived by me, based on pure reflection, for several years now. Only recently has come to me information about the work by Paul MacLean and his theory of the triple brain (The Triune Brain). Although I have read some references and comments on this theory, which seems to include concepts that are very similar to mine in terms of the probable existence of competition and conflict between these brains, which would enjoy different degrees of autonomy and independence, I do not wish to study it in detail, in order to continue to elaborate my own theory without being exposed to influence from that work.

Jorge Lizama León.

Santiago, April 2008.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Free Will.

The free will concept is central to any human behaviour theory. Our pretended free will is very relative. As humans we struggle between our tendencies (desires, drives, that are more or less secret according to social acceptance), and our rational capacity of evaluating which is the best choice we can make in a given circumstance. Some times we make a very thoughtful choice, but others, especially in very emotional or stressing ocasions, we make choices that we may deeply regret later.
In this struggle we are choosing between two main "suggestions" for responding, one commanded by our primary brain (instinctive) and the other by our secondary brain (rational). The more stressful circumstances are, the more predominant our primary brain will get.
As the behavior we finally decide will be the result of this struggle, which can be more or less intense and/or stressed according to circumstances, we can logicaly conclude that there are a lot of instances when there is no full free will available for us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Human Behavior, Chapter 3

Since the remote times of the initial steps in the transition from the hominid to the human, since those times in which language, spoken first, and written later, started to appear, and after that, during all our known history, human beings have thought, both in the mundane as in the scientific interpretation, that we have one brain, far superior than that of animals, be it that this brain is the product of a privileged course of evolution, or the final result of Gods creation.
If we support this last option, we assume that if God has been capable of creating not only man, but all great things of the universe and nature, it is logical to think that our brain, (the most powerful and advanced of all animal kingdom) is the best that God could create.
If we are more supportive of the evolutionary theories, we accept that it is the result of a harmonic development from a “primitive” model, to this “last” model, that has great intelectual capacities.
At the same time, we all can see that in our behavior we are extremely imperfect, both in our individual and collective conduct (wrong decisions, conflicts of many orders, great deals of suffering, profound feelings of guilt, crimes, wars, etc, that characterize today mans life, in the same way it has been through all known history).
Here we face a big inconsequence: why man, who has acquired the best brain in the animal kingdom, who has been able to modify nature, travel to outer space, developing an impressive advance in science and technology, at the same time, keeps behaving in a lot of senses as the most fierce predator, violent, jealous and “inhumane”?.
The most traditional and simplistic explanation to this has been to think that we have a “good” and a “bad” side, that we are at the same time sheep and wolves, and that this is why we are capable of the most altruistic sacrifices and at the same time of the most degrading atrocities.
About this, numerous philosophers, psychoanalysts, scientists, theologists, etc., have produced a great number of theories to explain this inconsequence.
But, what would happen if we change absolutely our approach to this problem, and put to the question what up to now was an obvious assumption, by not accepting as a fact that our brain is so “perfect”, maybe because of a “technical design or construction-development issue”?
A very suggestive possibility is that maybe in the human brain there is not one, but, simultaneously functioning, two brains, not perfectly integrated.
This is a lot more easily conceived from an evolutionary point of view. Since we share a great number of common characteristics with the rest of the animals, especially with the mammals, group to which we belong, it is only natural to accept that we have a brain that, at least, has all the capacities common to them.
We have, aside from that, the superior intelect that difference us, as humans are capable of things that any other animal simply can not do.
For a long time now, it has been generally accepted that, as evolution has advanced, on top of the original mammal brain, there has been a proggressive developement of a very important cortex layer that would be the responsible of the more abstract and elaborate thinking capacity, thus giving rise to language, spoken first and written afterwords.
Agriculture would be a concrete example of an activity that needed this extra capacity to be mastered, signaling yet another fact that differenciated humans from the rest of the mammals.
At the same time, it has been universally accepted that this evoluted brain has integrated harmonically all its capacities, both the primitive as the modern ones.
But, what if this was not really the case?
Can it be that our evolution was “imperfect”, in the sense that the coexistence of the primitive brain and newly acquired capacities have remained inharmonical, or even overtly conflictive?
This possibility is a lot more logical as we try to interpretate the behavioral reality, both as individuals and as social human beings throughout his history.

Thus we would have, at the same time, inside our brain, ways to “see and sense reality” that are complex and contradictory, and our actions can be the product of decisions that have been thoroughly meditated and planned, or of decisions that seem to “appear by themselves”, that lead us to unmeditated actions that we can profoundly regret when it is too late.
We can more easily understand this if we think of it as the consequence of our internal (intracerebral) conflict, and that when we act we are following the influence (orders) that come or from our primtive or from our modern brain, or even we can end taking strange decisions that are the product of the combined influence of both. Some other times our internal conflict is such that we simply are not capable of deciding any course of action.
With all the precedent considerations, we can move over from this basic set of concepts, over which we can start building this motivating “New Theory Of Human Behavior”.

We can start then, by imagining that the human brain integrates, functionally, 2 brains, that, to be in accordance with our modern world we can call “processors”, interlinked, but each from a different origin, and comprising different features and characteristics. Then, we can name them “Primary and Secondary” Processors.

The Primary Processor (Archaic) is related especially with the most primitive areas in the evolutive development of the brain, and is similar to that of animals.
Its main features are:
a. It relates especially with instincts and emotions, thus its expressions affect mainly the individuals “feelings”.
b. It influences powerfully our “interpretation” of the world (in a way that is unique to each of us), so that it generates the basis of our preferences, opinions, values and drives (tendencies). These drives can be of an infinit degree of intensity and orientation in each person, up to the point that in many cases they can be absolutely contrary to what is socially accepted, common weal and rationality.
c.Includes a very important and solid preprogramming, that is transmitted through generations, being capable of generating automatic responses in which there is no participation, or can even defy the rational judgement of the individual (Part that as we will see, corresponds to the Secondary Processor).
  1. Being linked to the most basic instincts, it is in charge of processing information and generating responses to situations that can be very dangerous and/or stressing (survival instinct, escape or attack when being threatened, sexual instinct and its orientation, triggering of love, hate, exaltation, shame, pleasure, pain, preconscious evaluation of situations and other persons, among a very large etcetera).
e. Is very automatized, and fast reacting, capable to respond in fractions of a second, and works mainly in the pre-concious or un-conciosus part of the individuals mind.
f. it has the capacity of exerting an intense influene over the Secondary Processor, up to the point of modulating its function. This influence is not clear and patent, given the pre-concious quality of the Primary Processor.
g. It relates to the “emotional intelligence” of the individual.
h. It often generates behaviors that can be partially or totally opposite to those suggested by the Secondary Processor, in relation to a determined circumstance.

  1. The Secondary Processor is related to the newer part of the brain from the evolutionary point of view, (Neo Cerebrum, Neo Cortex), and its functional field relates to the most elaborate and abstract mental processes. (The least developed part in animals). Its main features are:

a. I t is expressed mainly in the persons “thinking”.
b. It is not pre-programmed, rather, its a system thats starts “from scratch”, at birth, and develops incorporating information from the external and internal environment.
Although the Secondary Processor is capable of influencing the Primary Processor, this capacity is normally less powerful than the contrary.
      1. It relates mainly with the human conciousness, sustains the capacity of abstract thinking, rich imagination, concepts of space and time, and the analytic anticipation of future events, and the detailed analysis of past memories.
        d. It gives the individual the possibility of being “auto-concious”, and thus to realize his own existance.
        e. It is slower in its function compared to the primary processor.
f. Its function is at all times modulated by the primary processor.
g. It relates to what is understood as “Pure or Applied Inteligence”.
h. It can suggest courses of action partially or totally opposed to those generated “instictively” by the primary processor, situation that may cause intense conflict to the person.

The interaction of this 2 processors (brains), often opposed and conflictive, would be the base of human behavior, that in a lot of ocasions appears to be very hard to understand.
The unique features of each of these processors would be dependant on the genetic information each of us has, and the anatomic, functional and behavioral expressions, that is also unique to each of us.
This appears to be true even in the case of siblings that have been raised in the same family environment, by the same parents. Thus, the environmental influence in the conformation of the personality of each person would be only partial, because that influence would be being exerted in each case (each person) over a unique and unrepeatable terrain.
We can say, at this point, that the precedent scheme can be useful as a base or vertebral column to advance elaborating our theory about the “real” determinants of human behavior.
Due to the fact that present technology is not capable to help us understand the intimate aspects of the brain function, we will have to wait for its progress, so that , in time, it can be possible to add more scientific foundations to this theoretical elaborations, that are based mainly in reflexive analysis and on the limited scientific data available today.
During the following years, all this rationally intended analysis will be either confirmed or proved wrong by the forthcoming scientific and technologic advance, that will keep growing in a faster pace each day.
Starting in the next chapter, besides applying this model to concrete situations of human life that may appear irrational and very difficult to understand, I will begin to add more elements to interpretate them, with the help of the related work of philosophers and scientists, old and contemporary, whose ideas I have been devoted to review during the last year, and will continue to do in the future.

Jorge Lizama León, Santiago, april 2011
(originally published in spanish in december, 2007).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Human Behavior, Chapter 2

Each person perceives and analyses the world in his own and unique way.
This is the true origin of preferred tastes and opinions. It is as if each one of us was born with a filter, that makes us sense and analyse “reality” in a particular way, different and impossible to compare with that of others.
There is no doubt that personal experience influences us, modulating our appreciations, but this doesent change the fact that our personal way of feeling, both of our internal and external “world”, ends up being the most important factor in determining our perception and our conciousness, and, consequently, influencing our conduct in a very important degree.
This “filter” has its origin in the unique conformation and function of the brain, and other organs of each person.
This particular organic conformation is determined in its origin by the genetic information that each person has inherited. Nevertheless, for reasons that we still dont fully understand, given the limited advance of scientific knowledge available in these subjects, even when the genetic information is very alike or even identical (monozygous twins), it seems that the organic result always has differences.
Traditionally, a lot of importance has been given to the influence of the environment in the conformation of the character, that adds to the influence of the “nature” of each person, to build up the “full personality” of an individual.
Some scientific or pseudocientific schools of thought have stated that it is possible, if you start “indoctrinating and training” a child from very early, to influence his physical and mental development to a point that will accomplish the goal of producing whatever you desire, for example outstanding artists, soldiers, judges, etc.
I can not oppose enough to this way of thinking. This obviously has never been accomplished with any “previously unselected” group of children, and has, on the contrary, inflicted terrible torments and psychological trauma to the victims of these experiments.
Everything seems to imply that the “filter” each of us is born with is the most determining factor of our personality and potentialities.
A relevant factor is that this filter seems to be very stable throughout each persons lifetime, with a very limited capacity of substantial change.
Popular knowledge has some very typical remarks, one of which is the characterization of a person , in a recurring exercise that produces a special satisfaction. An example can be something like this one: “I already know what kind of individual this person is, he is absolutely dishonest, be careful with him, because if you let him, he will take advantage of you. And dont believe him if he tells you he has changed, for this people never change”.
This typical negative characterization of someone has probably been stated millions of times along human history, and we all have probably heard something similar more than once.
On top of the “true nature” of each individual, people normally tend to maintain an “adequatete appearence” to others. The degree of concern about maintainig this “good image” seems to be also genetically determined, being very important for some, and less for others.
For many people, as long as the good image they present to others is maintained, it is of secondary importance to respect principles and values, because they priorize decisions that aim to specific, practical and utilitarian goals or benefits.
For others, their principles and values are of so relevant importance that they respect them at all costs, even to the point of risking their lives, in extreme circumstances.
From these points of view, people can be categorized with more or less ease, for example, persons that are clearly honest or dishonest, straightforward or ambiguous, transparent or crooked, and can be difficult to categorize when they hide their true feelings and intentions, especially if their instinctive drives are not morally, socially and/or legally accepted.
Beyond the greater or lesser consequence between the “thinking” and the “acting”, in an enormous variablity that makes the analysis of human behavior very difficult, and at the same time much more interesting, it seems that the determinants that participate in decision making have always a very important instinctive and unconcious component. The influence of this unconcious factor seems to be bigger the more stressing, compelling or threatening a situation is.
Thus, in extreme situations as those seen in earthquakes, floods, fires, car accidents, muggings, etc, we can see the most instictively “pure” reactions, that can be expressed as reckless, heroic, altruistic, selfish, coward behaviors, among many others.
What is expressed in these cases are the most dominant tendencies (drives) of an individual, that are unique to him and different from those of others.
In this extreme situations, especially if total chaos is present, many people that in “normal” conditions would behave only in a socially accepted way, “sense” the opportunity to unleash all their hidden and contained drives, and behave in a way that is absolutely abusive and/or harmful to others.
At this point we are facing a subject of great importance: which tendencies and behaviors should be considered “normal, socially adequate, natural, healthy, pathological, irrational, unacceptable”, etc?
Which is the origin of these tendencies, and what amount of control has an individual to decide whether to follow or not his tendencies and instincts, when and how much to refrain if they are socially unaccepted and /or legally forbidden, and what is the degree of responsability he has on his final conduct, are questions of great relevance.
Based on the concept of absolute free will, any person will be found fully responsible when his discernment is established as adequate by some specialists who examine him, and find no signs of insanity or other severe mental illness.
He is capable to differentiate good from bad, he can be judged and punished”.
What would happen if from our analysis we begin to discover that humans are not “so free” to evaluate and decide about any given situation?
What would happen if in human knowledge it begins to be accepted that tendencies, motivations and instinctive drives, especially those that can be extremely intense and compelling, like sexual, religious, or referred to justice and human rights, or to gambling or to the use of drugs, among many others, have all a genetic and cerebral (organic) origin, over which people dont have absolute control, and that they can not always reject or avoid even if that is their rational will?
If this was the case, should we still consider our present educational and judicial systems, among many others, the most appropiate?
Could we continue assuming our present crime prevention and rehabilitation programs, and the protection schemes of potential victims as the most appropiate, through the view of this new interpretation of the human conduct?
As we continue advancing in the research of brain function as direct cause of human conduct, work that is only possible through the technology starting to be available in this 21st century, we must be prepared to start a whole new analysis and explanation of the motivations and determinants of human behavior.
The amount of information already available is enormous, and all the research carried out on these subjects by thousands of scientists throughout the world are opening new paths each day.
I expect that through all this advance human beings will be able to accomplish a more objective sense of reality, more free of myths, with better quality of life for all, including a better protection for both potential aggressors and potential victims.
Note: this is a translation of the original second article on this subject published by me in spanish, in july 2006, at
Jorge Lizama León.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Theory on Human Behavior, Chapter 1.

"What differences us from animals is our rational will, our capacity to differenciate and prefer good over evil".
"Animals dont act motivated by bad intentions, humans do".

I have heard and read these two ideas, obviously antagonic, several times along my lifetime, and they have always called on my attention. 

I have asked myself several times: In human behavior, which is the last factor in decision making, his rationality, or his animal instinct? Are these factors contributing differently in different circumstances?

The concepts of good and bad are connatural to human beings.

They are profoundly rooted in all aspects of social life, along our history on earth, and throughout all cultures. The concepts of justice, rights and responsabilities, appropiate social behavior, etc , are tought to children from very early in their lives, with the purpose of raising them in a way that will produce people that, ideally, will respect and make respect these good ways of life, for the benefit of each one of them and society as a whole.

Religions, on their part, are also based in a very strong valoric structure, and promote behavior towards good and against evil, and at all times encourage their followers towards the path of virtue, and, if possible, very far from the path of sin, promising different types of rewards for those who respect their commandments, and punishment for the others.

As we can see, there is a very important valoric foundation in the different societys, that aims to achieve a certain order, both in individual and social behavior, that is necessary because although we may be naturaly inclined to good, we dont always follow it.

Are we not, then, so naturally inclined towards good and right?

The fear of human punishment (courts of law and jail) and divine punishment, final trial and different types of hell, according to each religion, are an important factor to disuade many people who could be "tempted" to incline towards evil or the illegal, and it is a known fact that some humans are capable of the most terrible atrocities when no law or order prevails.

Even when coercitive systems exist, and law and order is enforced, there is a variable number of people that go for the abusive, the illegal, and trespass others rights. And they are more concerned about their conduct not being revealed to society than to refrain, and of course, very concerned of evading the punishments that they could deserve.

Why is it that there are assasins, rapists, pedofiles, thiefs, swindlers, unfaithful husbands, driving psycopaths, wealth pretenders, etc, among those many "less inclined" to the good and right?

What makes that in a wealthy and high society family, suddenly appears a "black sheep", with extreme revolutionary ideas, that could take him even to risk his own life in following his quest? 

Why, in the opposite side, are there people born in very poor and deprived families, who feel very comfortable in absolutely unequal societys, join right wing parties and support powerful economic groups? 

Up to the second half of the 20th century, psychiatry was a medical speciality that studied “mental illness” and “mental disorders” through an almost purely psychological perspective, rather than an organic or biological one. Many different psychiatric schools appeard, most of which studied their patients with a purely mental approach and designed their therapies using only empiric criteria, which lead to select different therapeutic tools, that could include psychotherapy, electroshock, tranquilizers, depressant or stimulant drugs, according to the diagnosis of each patient and the effects that the psychiatrist wanted to achieve. 

Each day more, with the approach of the 21st century and the development of neuropsychiatry and all the highly technological tools that have come to contribute to neuroscience, more scientists and doctors have recognized the importance of studying the organic substrate of mental illness, both at the systemic and brain levels. This is so because each day it appears harder to believe that there can coexist a healthy brain with an ill mind.

All the precedent considerations, and the questions that come along with them, have been suggesting me, in a progressively stronger way, the need to search for a theoric alternative that can achieve a better and more rational explanation for this dilemma: why things happen the way we see them day by day, and, in doing so, make more understandable the apparent inconsequences that characterize human life, some of which have been presented here.

It is my belief today that not only physical characteristics of an individual are determined genetically, but that the achievable IQ, and the psychological drives and tendencies of each person also have a genetic origin.

Thus, genetics could not only determine the appearence, size, strength, resistance to illness of a person, but also his drives towards human values. Sense of justice, responsabillity, respect for the rights of others, honesty, audacity, sexual preferences, political positioning, religiousness, etc, would all, among many others, have a genetic origin, while the participation of the environment would be of lesser importance than what is normally accepted.

This theory has the potential virtue of allowing us to advance in the understanding of many facts that havent been, up to now, fully explained by science or religion, but, at the same time, weakens the strength of concepts like good and bad as pure and undeniable entities in which we have traditionally based our valoric structure, along with our so far unchallenged “absolute free will”, concept that today appears to me as beatiful and idealistic as untrue.

As the enormous advance in DNA study goes on, and as the possibility of approaching the fully understanding of the intimate mechanisms of brain function comes nearer, a new path is being opened: that of studying our genetic codes not only to explain our organic constitution, towards the understanding and cure of illness, but also the study of genetic patterns linked to cerebral and behavioral patterns. The immense perspective of this can not be fully imagined right now, but we can certainly begin to dream…and get concerned about its implications.

Jorge Lizama León.

January, 2011, Santiago, Chile.

Note: this is a translation of the original first article on this subject published by me in spanish, in july 2006, at where it is still available.