viernes, 15 de abril de 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 given 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 out 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).

martes, 22 de febrero de 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.

miércoles, 26 de enero de 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 posssibility 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.