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Unread June 4th, 2006, 04:26 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Implications of Somatic Behavior Choice

Somatic Behavior Choice is the hypothesis that behavior choice is mediated by a resolution of emotional forces in our minds - and not by intellect directly.

Intellect can participate in bahavior decisions but is not always called on for that purpose. When it is called upon it provides an emotional marker proportional to the confidence we feel for a particular logical solution, while we hold the conclusion in working memory. But, that marker must be strong enough, or be in concert with the other emotional forces impinging on a behavior decision - for it to prevail. i.e. our logical conclusions must compete with other, more primitive sources of emotion, for the control of our behavior.

One of the most important implications of Somatic Behavior Choice is that we often do not follow our reason when making important decisions. This should seem obvious to any observer of human behavior. Yet, due to the prevailing cognicentric view of human behavior choice, we vehemently deny this. (People even get mad at me when I suggest this might be the case.) When someone does something obviously stupid, or when they disagree with us about something important, we accuse them of not thinking properly or we like to say they do not possess critical thinking skills. When we do something stupid we say, "What was I thinking?"

These are not cases of persons losing their minds or lacking critical thinking skills. These are most likely cases where other emotional forces simply were stronger than the emotional markers from their logical conclusions. This can happen when a person doesn't have much confidence in a logical conclusion - such as when it is a very difficuly logical problem or when there is not enough data to have a lot of conficence in a conclusion. Or, it can happen even when one's logical confidence is high, but opposing emotions from other brain regions, like from instincts or beliefs, are very strong.

A source of very strong emotions for our behavior decisions is our personal belief system. Beliefs are things we learn about the world and integrate into our identity. They are arranged in a hierarchy with the strongest beliefs, those at the top that express the kind of person we believe ourselves to be and want others to recognize us as, commonly generating emotions strong enough to overpower almost any logical conclusion we might have.

For a vivid example, it seems that some American GI's in Iraq don't have too much problem with killing Iraqi civilians - because they hold the very strong identity belief that they are there to seek revenge for Iraq's role in 9/11. Revenge is an act of retribution for an assault on one's identity - or being. It is found in human nature as a preventative for such egregious acts in the future. It's effectiveness depends on others knowing that it (the revengeful act) happened.

An article in todays Guardian bears this out: Article The first paragraph:
American veterans of the war in Iraq have described a culture of casual violence, revenge and prejudice against Iraqi civilians that has made the killing of innocent bystanders a common occurrence.
There is no requirement that our beliefs be rational. This belief (that Iraq had something to do with 9/11) defies logic, yet it provides such powerful emotions for their behavior decisions that they can kill innocent civilians and not feel that they have done anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with their logic as I'm sure they know it makes no logical sense. After they return from the emotionally charged reality of combat, they will feel the guilt that their reason will place on them - and they will suffer for that - as many GI's still suffer now for things that happened in Viet Nam.

It is my premise that such strong identity-based emotions are responsible for much of the tragedy in human affairs. Little progress will be made in reducing the widespread violence of war and crime in the world and the unhappiness that causes to millions - until we accept the determinative role that emotions from brain regions other than intellect play in human behavior choices. This can not happen as long as we incorrectly insist that behavior choice is an intellectual process - that just by "thinking correctly" people will make good behavior choices - or that education alone will produce wise or moral behavior.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; June 4th, 2006 at 05:45 PM.
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