Saturday, April 24, 2010

Look-Out For The "Blind-Side" Divorce

Look-out For The Blind-Side Divorce

My client is depressed and discheveled: He or she is in a lot of shock and pain. I have seen this situation over and over again for 30 years.

The person tells me that they "never saw it coming" and now, suddenly, their mate's "mind is made-up" and they are leaving. All too often there is little to be done except help the blind-sided individual cope as effectively as they can.

There are many reasons for the blind-side break-up or divorce.

One frequent reason is that the departing loved one has found someone else to love. Sometimes the blindsided one did the same thing. Occasionally this is because someone has issues with loyalty. More often the dying relationship had an affair because it had been dying for years, it had grown increasingly empty and one (or both) did nothing to save it.

Often, what has happened is that one or both members of a couple (married or not)have stopped making the other person a priority in their lives, they stopped telling and showing, in countless ways, how special the other person is and how much they love them. They have stopped being friends and taking time to plan fun things and play together. These things can happen to a once good relatinship for many reasons.

Finally, there is mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse/addiction, and physical or emotional abuse.

The fact is that loving and caring feelings and emotions in a relationship can wither and die-out if not fed and nurtured. This degenerative process can progress beyond the point where many people are unwilling to work to repair their relationship.

Fail to deal effectively with any of these problems and growing resentment, anger and disgust, along with the belief that nothing will ever change, can destroy your relationship. This process is often slow and insidious and it can take years to develop.

Look for signs of trouble and talk them over. Listen to feedback from trusted friends and loved-ones. Act earlier rather than later, acting earlier is symbolic of your love, acting too late is frequently symbolic of fear and dependency. Seek the assistance of a Ph.D. level psychologist experienced in relationship counseling. Personality testing is often very helpful to this process.

Look-out for the blind-side divorce and the great damage it can do to families and their children.

God Bless, Dr. Tom

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Operant Behavior

Our Operant Behavior

In some ways operant behaviors are the most important of all of our behaviors. We will therefore discuss operant behavior first. A good general way to identify which of our many behaviors is operant is to identify its physiological roots. Operant behavior is influenced by our central nervous system (our brain and spinal chord) and it is executed by thinking and/or by moving. This may sound simple, but of course, it is not. We use movement to talk, write, send email, to make and rear children, and to make war, etc. Movements require the use our skeletal (striped) muscles, which involves so much of our operant behavior.

The Simple Contingency

A simple contingency (con-tin-gin-see) only specifies that one thing must happen (a specific behavior) before another thing happens (a consequence). It includes only a behavior and a consequence.

So, for example, if you want the door to open, you must turn the knob and pull or push. If you want a home loan you must select a mortgage company and make-out an application. The door is likely to open and the loan likely to be granted, contingent upon your doing the appropriate behavior. Similarly, a child may learn to make a polite request because that gets him what he wants. Or, a child may learn to throw a temper tantrum because that gets him what he wants.

A more complicated contingency involves three separate things. This is called the three-term-contingency and it involves 1. the situation or events that happen before a behavior, 2. the behavior, and 2. the consequence. Operant behavior takes place in the real world in countless fluid ways. But all operant behavior can easily be seen in this before, behavior, and after context. From birth to death we are immersed in a universe of three-term-contingencies. Again, the three parts to the world of our operant thoughts and actions are.

1. The stimuli or cues from our environment that precede our actions.

2. Our specific behaviors or actions in the presence of those stimuli or cues.

3. The consequences of our actions that may strengthen or weaken the probability that we will do those actions again in the future.

Human operant behavior changes as its physical and social environment changes and as the consequences of behavior change. We should not miss the fact that normally the most skilled sailors live by the sea, the best trackers and hunters live in the forest, and the best mountain climbers live in the mountains. When people in these environments behave effectively they are rewarded: they eat well and prosper. If they fail to do so, they may perish.

It took a detailed scientific analysis, based upon E. L. Thorndike’s (1987) Law of Effect, to understand and appreciate how the environment shapes our behavior into complex bundles of actions that are both common among most everyone and also those that are unique to each of us. The law of effect relates to operant behavior and, as you may recall, it simply states that consequences control operant behavior.

Dr. Tom 4/21/10

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

There are only two kinds of behavior in humans and other animals. One kind of behavior is called Operant Behavior because it “operates”, or acts, on the environment. Most important, operant behavior is controlled by its consequences. Consequences are said to “control” our behavior because they increase (strengthen) or decrease (weaken) the future frequency of the behaviors they follow. Consequences influence our operant behavior probabilistically, not absolutely. For example, a child who is praised for helping with a chore, is more likely to help others in the future. A child who is allowed to push another child down and take their toy, is more likely to be aggressive to others in the future.

The only other kind of behavior is Respondent Behavior. The word respondent means that these behaviors are reflexive responses to specific stimuli. Common examples of our respondent behavior are being startled by a loud noise, snapping our had away from a hot flame, or salivating when we put food in our mouths.

As you will see, these two apparently simple kinds of behavior, and they ways they can be learned, are of huge importance to the lives of fellow citizens and to our socioculture.

Dr. Tom 4/20/10

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our Own High Risk

Our Own High Risk

Whenever we overlook the roll of the natural principles of psychology in shaping the behavior of our citizens and our culture, we do so at our own high risk.

Stand-by for the principles!

Dr. Tom 4/19/10

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top-Down Influences on Culture

Top-Down Influences on Culture

Of course, bottom-up influences are only part of the picture. There are also very powerful top-down influences on our population’s behavior as various levels of our government adopt laws and rules that can strongly affect, even regulate, how people behave to each other. Some examples of top-down influences are the profound growth of government control, increasing taxes and the legalization of pornography, gambling, marijuana (under the pretext of medical applications) and a media that increasingly attacks traditional family and religious values and showcases antisocial behavior through its many venues.

What happens in our culture when top-down influences evolve that are in strong conflict with traditional bottom up influences; or, when subcultures bring their own dramatically different top-down and bottom-up forces into our existing socioculture? What happens to families and the future citizens that they produce when science and technology alter the physical, social and moral environment dramatic ways? How do these environmental changes impact the principles of psychology that shape the ways in which we and our children see, feel and behave toward each other?

These are only some of the “big picture” concerns that need our closest attention. It is good to mention these major issues now, because these are the ones we must attempt to answer in the end. With some of these larger issues in mind, we can be on the look-out for the smaller (seemingly insignificant) factors that may be powerfully related to big and very important cultural outcomes.

We will return to these big picture concerns in due time. But, in order to understand the larger dynamics of cultural change, we must first understand a few key principles of psychology and how they powerfully influence the behavior of individuals within a population.

Dr. Tom 4/18/10


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bottom-up Influences on Culture

Bottom-Up Influences on Culture

Psychology has traditionally studied countless environmental influences on the behavior of individuals. In recent decades some psychologists have started to analyze ways in which principles of individual and group behavior can lead to cultural changes. For example, how hundreds of thousands of people raise their children will have a far-reaching impact upon the future collective behavior of our population.

Changes in the ways that these children grow to behave amongst other people will influence their perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behavior for better or worse. The summation of these influences which constantly swirl through our population is a big part of the cultural changes that we all experience.

A clear, though sad, example of such bottom-up cultural change is the child born in a ghetto to a single unemployed drug addicted mother. Such a child will likely suffer neglect, abuse, drug addiction, school failure, gang membership, and engage in violent crimes against others. This is a tragedy for the child and for all others who’s lives his behavior will influence (family, social workers, teachers, police, medical personnel, victims, and those who work in our court systems, penial employees, and victims). What we fail to see is that it is also a tragedy for the various institutions that employ these workers that are increasingly overwhelmed and we tax payers who are required to pay more of our hard-earned income to keep these institutions solvent.

A far more desirable bottom-up cultural influence would be a mother and father who are committed and loving mates and parents. These parents have children that they can afford to raise under healthy conditions. They identify and agree upon their childrearing goals, set appropriate limits for their child’s behavior and use humane and effective methods to teach their children the many skills and abilities needed to live well and do good things with their lives. These parents will provide teaching consequences to their children, but they will also understand that their children will watch them and imitate their actions. Therefore, they too will seek to live well and do good things with their lives and for their children in order to “show them the way”. They generally show kind, courteous, encouraging and loving behavior to their children, to each other and to others. All of this makes it likely that these children will grow to treat their own children and others in similar ways.

The parents in this positive example will also protect their children from the toxic effects of our entertainment media which showcase profanity, drugs, sex, violence and other irresponsible lifestyles. When children repeatedly witness these damaging behaviors, they are prone to imitate them with bad effects for both them and society.

From moment to moment, in any society, such individual “grass-roots” bottom-up human events are occurring by the billions. Without question, the behavior patterns learned by children who’s behavior is shaped by parents, families and their communities become a major influence in the evolution of our whole culture.

Dr. Tom 4/17/10

Friday, April 16, 2010



The powerful truth that B. F. Skinner has tried to tell us is that our most enduring and significant problems are a result of our own behavior. The solutions to these problems are in our understanding and wise use of well-known scientifically validated principles that determine our behavior. These historically ignored principles can be found in the science of psychology.

The following is a quote of B. F. Skinner from his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity.

In trying to solve the terrifying problems that face us in the world today, we naturally turn to the things we do best. We play from strength, and our strength is science and technology. To contain a population explosion we look for better methods of birth control. Threatened by a nuclear holocaust, we build bigger deterrent forces and anti-ballistic-missile systems. We try to stave off world famine with new foods and better ways of growing them. Improved sanitation and medicine will, we hope, control disease, better housing and transportation will solve the problems of the ghettos, and new ways of reducing or disposing of waste will stop the pollution of the environment. We can point to remarkable achievements in all these fields, and it is not surprising that we should try to extend them. But things grow steadily worse, and it is disheartening to find that technology itself is increasingly at fault. Sanitation and medicine have made the problems of population more acute, war has acquired a new horror with the invention of nuclear weapons, and the affluent pursuit of happiness is largely responsible for pollution. As Darlington has said, ‘Every new source from which man has increased his power on the earth has been used to diminish the prospects of his successors.’ All his progress has been made at the expense of damage to his environment which he cannot repair and could not foresee.

Whether or not he could have foreseen the damage, man must repair it or all is lost. And he can do so if he will recognize the nature of the difficulty. The application of the physical and biological sciences alone will not solve our problems because the solutions lie in another field. Better contraceptives will control population only if people use them. New weapons may offset new defenses and vice versa, but a nuclear holocaust can be prevented only if the conditions under which nations make war can be changed. New methods of agriculture and medicine will not help if they are not practiced, and housing is a matter not only of buildings and cities but of how people live. Overcrowding can be corrected only by inducing people not to crowd, and the environment will continue to deteriorate until polluting practices are abandoned.

In short, we need to make vast changes in human behavior, and we cannot make them with the help of nothing more than physics or biology, no matter how hard we try.

End Skinner Quote.

Dr. Tom 4/16/10

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Some individuals show an extreme preoccupation with rules, order, organization, schedules, and doing things the correct way. In fact, they often become so wrapped up in the details of their perfectionism that they lose sight of the main goal or purpose and fail to complete their tasks. They may become excessively dedicated to their work, they often do not have time for friends and leisure. Other personality features include being overly conscientious and inflexible in their views of morality, ethics and values. Individuals with this disorder often rather formal and cool in their relationships with others and so they frequently are not comfortable in social situations. They also tend to be humorless and critical of other’s and they tend to think that no one else can do a job as well as they can. Therefore, they have trouble delegating work. When they take on a demanding task they frequently retreat into the details of the project to such a degree that they may be unable to make timely progress. Other personality characteristics include hoarding useless possessions, miserliness with money, and rigidity and stubbornness.

A representative example

A couple sought marriage counseling because the wife complained about her husband’s need to always be in control. The therapist found him to be a very serious and reserved individual who was uncomfortable talking about his feelings. The wife complained that even small changes in plans upset him, he was angered over the normal messiness and disarray caused by the play of their three young children. The wife praised him for the way he kept the lawn, bushes, patio, garage, cars, and all things that he was “in charge of”, but was frustrated and angered that he was constantly critical of her and “nagging” about the ways she managed her part of the partnership. He complained that the meals not always on time, the bathrooms were unsanitary, the kid’s hair was not right, there were spots on the dishes, there was dust, and much more. Friends and relatives also saw her husband as being way too critical and worried about details. It was clear that the wife was not a poor housekeeper or mother.

There was constant tension between she and her husband over such details and she correctly surmised that she could never please him no matter how she tried. She reported that they were growing less loving to each other and worried that the children were being affected by there deteriorating relationship.

In therapy, the husband launched one complaint after another and was irritated at the therapist whenever he attempted to portray his home life as being common to families deep into child rearing. He stubbornly refused to consider that any of his criticisms were unjustified.

The prognosis for any significant change in this troubled relationship was poor.

Possible Causes

It has long been thought that the excessive concerns for neatness and orderliness must have been caused by overly ridged and punishing methods of toilet training children, who then adopted these demanding standards for the rest of their lives. Frankly, many psychologists consider this to be a gross oversimplification of the problem. I share this view.

While exact causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are unknown, it seems most likely that they reside in an interaction of modeling and imitation, rewards (reinforcement) and punishment, and perhaps there are even biological determinants which will someday be identified.

I have often observed that Obsessive compulsive individuals have also come from homes in which there has been intense fear and anxiety related to abuse, nasty divorces, or other tragedies. From this perspective, the great control that these individuals attempt to impose upon their world would appear to be a defense against the anxiety produced by things beyond their control.

Neither the husband or the wife wanted a divorce. But, regrettably, with the passing years of continued conflict the likelihood of a divorce would increase for this family.

This example further illustrates that the mechanisms and effects of bad behavioral contagion can be subtle and far reaching.

Dr. Tom, 4/8/10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with Histrionic Disorder often act as though they were “on stage” performing for a large audience. They are theatrical in the ways that they exaggerate their emotions, use drama, and use exaggerated speech. The exaggerated emotions of this personality type were once named Hysterical Personality Disorder. These individuals may dress in ways that make their physical appearance the focus of everyone’s attention. They are uncomfortable when they lose the attention of other’s and they may react in sexually suggestive and provocative ways to remain “center stage”. Others around them may initially see these behaviors as attractive, exciting or charming. However, histrionic behavior patterns make it difficult to maintain close and enduring relationships. After a time, the over-exaggerated happy and excited or profoundly upset and sad emotions become intolerable to many others. They often come to see such emotional displays as shallow and manipulative. This leads to chronic relationship problems.

A Representative Example

She was very beautiful young woman who shined and sparkled in every way. She was a bleach blond, with heavy make-up, lots of jewelry, and she dressed in short dresses with plunging neck lines. She also had the ability to move into a social setting and “take over the spotlight”. She was witty, charming, entertaining, and she had and infectious laugh that enlivened happy social occasions. The lady had a special ability to make a man think that she was attracted to him and that she was “available” to him. She “never met a stranger”, and was never at a loss for words.

The lady in question was married to her third husband who was very jealous of her flirtatious ways with other men. He did his best to satisfy her extravagant wants and desires, but she always wanted more. He did his best to raise his step son, but the boy was oppositional and defiant to him, as he treated his mother the same way. This ladies husband found his family life to be in constant conflict and turmoil.

If the husband took exception to her dramatic or flirtatious behaviors, she was “deeply wounded” and her anger at him could last for days. She was as extreme in her upset as she was in her joy and happiness.

The marriage ended when her husband found out that she had been arranging to meet a lover (another married man)when she was away on business trips.

Possible Causes

Histrionic personality disorder is thought to be caused by emotionally cold and over-controlling parents who have caused their children to feel unloved and fearful of abandonment. These kinds of early experiences are thought, for many, to lead to extremely high needs for attention and nurturance from others in adult life. It is thought that by creating situations in which they play the role of a victim, in some form of crisis, these individuals are able to manipulate others into supporting and caring for them. Histrionic behavior patterns are thought to be a defense against a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. At other times they are extremely skilled at using different methods to remain the center of attention.

The spread of psychological problems within a population resulting from Histrionic personality disorders can occur through the ways in which these individuals treat their children. In the example above, the son became frustrated, angry and oppositional towards not only his mother and step father, but also all other adults. The series of divorces that this woman experienced was not only harmful to her son and her extended family, but also to her husbands, their families, and any children that the husband may have brought to his new marriage. Also, in the example above, the woman had an afair with another married man which threatens to be a destructive force in that family.

Dr. Tom 4/7/10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Behavioral Contagion of Psychological Problems

Behavioral Contagion of Psychological Problems

Brice Petgen wrote:

I have been studying quite a bit about personality disorders this semester. It is rather fortuitous that your blog entries have been what they have been recently. The more I learn the more I come to the realization that personality disorders are really disorders based on, and developed from, interpersonal relations. There is no pill that can alleviate these disorders. They only “fix” I see is a therapeutic approach with a strong relational basis. We, as therapists, must gain the trust of our client. We must create the environment in which the client can display these deficits in interpersonal relations. At that point we must address the deficits or distortions. CBT and behavioral techniques can be quite useful then to challenge the views and meanings that underlie the issue. Plus quite a bit of insight from the client is required. But that becomes the most difficult, due to the fact that the client generally does not see a problem. In essence we are attempting to help the client change who they are as a person. Now that is quite a bit of heavy lifting.

Dr. Tom wrote:

Yes, Brice, the concept of behavioral contagion is nicely illustrated using the personality disorders. You are correct that therapy with those who suffer from Personality Disorders is “heavy lifting” for both the therapist and the client. In fact, the message of behavioral contagion is that the only winning way to deal with the increasing spread of behavioral/emotional problems within a population is through prevention. Perhaps you recall the ol’ nursery rhyme, “All of the kings men and all of the kings horses couldn’t put poor Humpty Dumpty together again”. That is to say, all of the therapists that we could possibly field cannot stem the flow of Americans with psychological problems. The name of the game must be the prevention of psychological disorders…When it comes to “people raising”, doing it right the first time around is what must be done. That will require some major changes in our American socioculture. And that really is some “heavy lifting”!

Thanks for your thoughtful reply Brice.

Dr. Tom 4/6/10

Monday, April 5, 2010

Behavoral Contagion: Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent Personality Disorder

We all depend upon others. Indeed, to be socially connected to others is to be interdependent with them. But individuals diagnosed with dependent personality disorder show a near total reliance upon others who make almost all of their major and minor decisions for them, to bolster their self-esteem, and to care for their child-like needs. These individuals strongly feel that they cannot manage their own lives (though they may be capable), they are unable to assert their personal needs in a relationship, and they are desperate to hang-on to those on whom they depend---no matter what. As a result, such individuals lack the ability to manage their own lives and behave as a fully functional adult. Such individuals dread separation from those who they let run their lives, they are often depressed, and can suffer from suicidal thinking. They will often do degrading things in order not to lose the ones they depend on.

All of these features can worsen if they feel they are going to be abandoned by their care-taker (parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, or spouse). As a result, these individuals often suffer emotional and physical abuse at the hands of others, and they may tolerate emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of their children by those upon whom they are pathologically dependent.

If separated from those who they depend upon, they are likely to quickly “latch-on” to another dependent relationship to avoid feelings of intense anxiety and fear.

Representative Examples

It is not hard to identify examples of dependent personality disorder. These problems are most prevalent in women, but they can and do occur in men.

I recall the shocking media pictures from several decades ago, of wife and mother who had been beaten for many years by her husband, a successful New York attorney. Her face was shockingly disfigured by the chronic beatings she had endured.

To compound this tragedy, the mother also allowed her husband to beat her young daughter. This couple was prosecuted when an autopsy of their dead child revealed broken bones dating back to her earliest years of life.

A woman with three children sought the help of a therapist to extricate her and her children from an abusive marriage. The man had beat her repeatedly in front of her children, had held them all at gun point threatening to kill them. The therapist worked diligently to get this woman to take action: providing the phone number of the local women's shelter, prompting to call and talk to the professionals there, and to make the necessary plans to leave her home in a safe manner to gain refuge at the woman's shelter. The woman withdrew from therapy and stayed with this man.

Possible Causes

Dependent personality disorder has traditionally been thought to result from a lack of loving care during the first year or so of life. This could lead to a desperate life-long search for care and nurturance. As with so many other personality disorders, parental separation, loss, or rejection have often been implicated. Some theorists suggest that opposite causes of parental over-protectiveness and over-involvement in their children's lives could yield the same excessive dependency needs in later life. Behavioral explanations suggest that parents may actually reward (reinforce) extreme dependence in their children and punish their efforts at independence by withdrawing their love and support. It is also possible that some parents show their own dependency problems and their children come to imitate their dependent behaviors.

Dr. Tom 4/5/10

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

When well-developed scientific evidence is in support of the world’s great religious teachings about desirable moral and ethical human conduct: That is a very important observation.

With regard to human behavior and its consequences for both individuals and their sociocultures, in the material world, the great religions and the principles of behavioral psychology appear to be in very close accord. What appears to drive successful evolution at all levels of existence is selection by consequences.

Science is a method for understanding our universe. If one happens to believe that God created us and our universe, they may also conclude that a true science of behavior is a God-Given aid in the quest to discover God's Truths about how to approximate Heaven on earth.

If you not happen to believe that God created us and our universe then you may still contemplate paragraph one and two of this writing and do the best you can alone, or with the help of others.

God’s Blessings to you on and your loved ones.

Dr. Tom, Easter 2010

Written 11/30/07, Edited 2006 and 4/4/10

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder can become isolated from other people in a way that looks superficially similar to the schizoid personality type.

The big difference is that the schizoid really does not want, or feel, the need to have a relationship with anyone. They are content in their state of relative social isolation. The avoidant individual is actually lonely, unhappy, and desirous of close and loving relationships. But, after seeking and acheiving a relationship with someone, they thenbegin to withdraw from it. This process may repeat itself many times, and is likely to destroy marriages, romantic relationshops and friendships.

What appears to stand in their way of achieving lasting intimacy is their fear of criticism, fear of appearing inadequate, and fear of being rejected by those who with whom they wish to be close. These individuals withdraw from relationships because and they are uncomfortable with psychological intimacy and they fear shame, ridicule, and failure. They struggle to overcome feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, but they are inhibited and become isolated by these feelings.

If someone with these avoidant tendencies does find the courage to enter an intimate relationship with someone, they are apt to vacillate in and out of it until the relationship is destroyed. These anxieties about inadequacy are pervasive and they can inhibit other social, vocational, recreational and educational opportunities. Through it all, those with avoidant personality features feel lonely and unfulfilled.

A Representative Example

A handsome, bright, and articulate man in his thirties once sought counseling because of his distress in a relationship with his fiancee. His chief complaint was that she was the perfect woman for him, but “he could not help doing the things that damaged their relationship” and made it less likely that they would ever marry.

He would purposefully be late for their various dates and other events. He would not call for long periods of time and at other times would be quiet and cool in their relationship for reasons that he could not understand. At other times he would “pull himself together” and be especially attentive and caring to her, before he slipped into another cycle of avoidance of intimacy. The man was deeply distressed and perplexed by his inability to form a lasting intimate relationship a woman and he recounted many such failed attempts in the past with other girlfriends. Not only was he very unhappy, but so were the ones that he attempted to have relationships with.

Possible Causes

Therapists have found that individuals showing avoidant personality symptoms often were shamed and ridiculed by parents, who were highly critical and who did not showed much love and affection. It is thought that children so treated are in danger of “internalizing” (believing that such treatment reflects their true nature) and then continuing this treatment of themselves in their own thinking.

Many clinicians also think that this culture’s high rates of divorce can traumatize children into fearing such outcomes in their own lives if they attempt to have close and enduring relationships with others. In fact, this appeared to be the case with the man described above. The divorce of his parents was an exceedingly painful loss for him and (as typical of children) he had feared that he might have had something to do with it, hence his feelings of being flawed and inferior in some ways.

This is another example of bad behavioral contagion. There are conditions under which divorce is advisable such as abuse, chronic addiction, or chronic infidelity. However, I believe that divorce is very bad for the children involved and some of the effects are fairly subtle.

Often the tendency of young adults to remain single longer than in the past, and to divorce at alarmingly high rates, is attributed to various socio-economic factors,. The spread of relationship insecurities within our population, now called Avoidant Personality Disorder, contributes to this trend and it self-propagates through the mechanisms of behavioral contagion.

Dr. Tom 4/3/10

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pornography Is Bad For America

Pornography Is Bad For America

The following is a copy of a post that I did some time ago. I represent it here because I know that not many of those who view my current posts are likely to search back through my history of postings. I also represent it because a friend and former colleague has asked my opinion on a matter related to pornography and its effects upon culture.

My last, deep and comprehensive, analysis of the research literature on the effects of pornography was published 12 years ago. I spent two years on this project, almost exclusively and will not be able to match that effort again at this time. I am certain that there are new findings that will support and that will not support my conclusions. I am certain that, as in my previous analysis of the data available, philosophy and politics has biased many of the findings and opinions.

As a psychologist, my own assessment is not just based upon the research findings however. It was, and remains, based upon the principles/laws that underly Social Learning Theory, Operant Conditioning and Respondent Conditioning of humans and other animals. These principles, laws, and learning mechanisms predict that certain response tendencies will emerge from repeatedly pairing orgasms with a particular class of stimuli. Within this process new patterns of sexual arousal can be learned, new thoughts and images can become very frequent, new patterns of behavior can be fantasized, and new patterns of sexual behavior will become more likely. The conditionability of the consumer of pornography is especially heightened during puberty, but is present for many years.

The depictions in modern pornography include, children and young teens ( simulated or real), homosexuals, groups, aggression, torture, disfiguration, feces and urine, and animals, to name only a few categories.

Given what I have learned about human conditioning and learning over the past 47 years of study and observation (36 years as a professor and a concurrent 30 years as a psychotherapist), there is no way that flooding a population (children included) with the vivid pornographic depictions listed above will not produce an increased rate of human sexual actions that are harmful to a large number of individuals involved, in many different ways, and to their socioculture.

I have added an interesting post (following my own) from another source, to update my own post with more current observations of the many ways that problems produced by the porn industry can affect peoples lives. This posting will follow my own.

Yes, there is research and opinion to suggest no harm from the infusion of pornography into various cultures. I simply do not believe it.

My original posting follows:

It is so popular and comfortable to say that “whatever consenting adults choose to do is okay”. But there are consequences beyond what consenting adults choose to do, when they do “it” publicly. The same can also be said about some of the things that consenting adults do in private.

The hard reality is that many of our newly granted sexual freedoms (illegal less than one life-time ago) are severely damaging everyone, especially our young adults and children. These new sexual freedoms must therefore damaging our culture: How could it be otherwise?

As a psychologist, I have frequently witnessed the devastating effects of the scientifically flawed conclusions of President Johnson’s Committee on Pornography which recommended the legalization of pornography in 1970. In 1986 President Reagan’s Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography concluded that the earlier Commission’s findings of no relation between pornography and antisocial behavior was “starkly obsolete”. We now know much more about the effects of pornographic sexual stimulation upon humans than we did in 1970. What has been learned explains much of our sex-related human suffering and loss brought by a series of ignorant and irresponsible Court decisions mandating a nation-wide torrent of dramatically explicit pornography.

The following is a brief summary of scientific research findings about the effects of pornography viewing upon human thoughts, emotions, and behavior that I have previously published [Mawhinney, V.T. (1998). Behavior and Social Issues, 8, 2, 159-193].

1. Violent portrayals of sex can increase sexual aggression in the viewer. Graphic sexual violence is common in XXX and R-rated films rented by adults and teens from neighborhood video rental stores.
2. Much of pornography depicts women in grossly disrespected, exploited, and/ or sexually abused rolls. I am stunned by the absence of outrage among Women’s Liberation organizations.
3. The millions who masturbate while viewing the deviant sexual displays that flood the internet (teens and kids, urine and defecation, pain and torture, and sex with animals, etc.) are auto-erotically conditioning their own increased appetite for such portrayals. The same is true of any genre of pornography.
4. Both violent and nonviolent sexual portrayals can increase aggression in men when some other impulse-control impairing event is added such as drugs, alcohol, or frustration.
5. Commonly depicted rape scenes in which females finally acquiesce, and enjoy the sex, perpetuates the idea that female pleasure is a common outcome of forced sex.
6. Viewing rape depictions can reduce the estimated seriousness of such assaults for both men and woman and the severity of the punishment that they recommend for the rapist.
7. Viewing pornography can cause the viewer to overestimate the commonality of the sexual activities observed. It can also increase the viewers expectations that such behavior will occur in their own relationships with others and that others will probably be willing participants.
8. Viewing pornography “primes” the observer to think about sex more often and this increases the probability of sexual behavior.
9. Watching attractive male and female sexual models in pornography can reduce the viewer’s judgement of the attractiveness of their own mate, increasing dissatisfaction.
10. Pornography was a very small industry in the early 1960’s. By the mid-1990’s its revenues had grown to over 10 billion dollars per year. One recent estimate places this nation’s annual “mainstreamed” pornography earnings at about 56 billion dollars. The legalization of pornography has stimulated monumental new business growth and very substantial new revenues for our predatory government.

The longer-term consequences of our incompetent sexual experiment are unprecedented personal and financial costs for increased illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, rapes, child molestations, sexual infidelity in relationships and increased divorce rates. The flood of pornography is a significant partial determinant of all of these painful events. I submit that this is not “new found freedom”, it is a deadly form of social chaos.

And what about our local strip clubs? The mixture of sexual stimulation, tension, alcohol, and frustration in a testosterone “saturated” local strip club frequently ends in physical brutality, violence, and death. Only the naive are surprised and shocked.

Do you really think a community gains more from these sex clubs than it loses? The costs to a city’s reputation are incalculable. The financial losses will be enormous. Consider the costs to law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, and to our judicial and penal system. This “little object lesson” is an example of bad behavioral contagion. It is the spread of damaging behavior patterns within our lives, in large part, caused by the drug and sex practices that are encouraged by our own socioculture.

Of course one can make the First Amendment argument. But our founding fathers could never have dreamed that the meaning of “freedom of expression” would be so distorted to inflict an avalanche of pornography upon this nation. Many of us, born and raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, felt very free indeed: We enjoyed freedom from the culture-wide pornography related human misery that now enslaves us all.

What do our children learn from all of this? And how many of us care anymore? It saddens me to say this, but each generation appears to be breeding a next generation that is increasingly more troubled than the one before. Our addiction to pornography is a large part of this problem. If you think that this culture’s sex, drugs, violence, and other impulse-control problems are bad now—just wait. There is much worse to come.

What can be done? The mark of emotionally healthy individuals and cultures is their ability to deny immediate gratification to achieve long-term rewards. All across this great nation, good citizens and their good governments must do all that they can to reverse our cultural sexual addiction contagion— and we must do it very soon. Eliminating the recreational sex industry within your own communities is a step in the right direction.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 11/08/09

This is a slight revision of an article that I published in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune approximately 9 years ago.

Dr. Tom, 4/1/10