A General Theory of Behaviour IV: Entrainment, Rhythm and Synchronicity

The fourth part in a series about A General Theory of Behaviour. I examine homeostasis, synchronicity and circadian systems in the regulation of arousal, behaviour and sociality.


                                                  

This is a beautifully engineered system where homeostatic and circadian influences at multiple levels are integrated to permit optimal integration of mediators in the internal milieu and external world.

Silver and LeSauter, 2008, p. 272

WHAT IS ENTRAINMENT?

Flashing fireflies, singing cicadas, parading flamingos, murmurating starlings, marching soldiers, chanting sports fans, and crowd participation at rock concerts – all have something in common. To varying degrees, they have  ‘got rhythm’ –  a shared, synchronized, irresistible rhythm of entrainment.

Entrainment is manifested by an endogenous rhythm that is synchronized with an external cycle such as the light-dark cycle with the result that both oscillations converge towards the same frequency. Behavioural entrainment involves a dynamic coupling of behaviour and brain activity between two or more individuals, which may include ‘mirroring’ [1] or other forms of coordinated joint action. In this post I examine the contribution of entrainment, rhythm and synchrony to individual and social behaviour.

Entrainment is a biological construct borrowed from classical mechanics. It is alleged that, in 1666, the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens noticed that when two pendulum clocks are set on the same flexible surface, they eventually become synchronized. This interesting phenomenon has been observed with many kinds of devices and also in living organisms that exhibit rhythmic behaviour with a periodic oscillation. Two necessary conditions for rhythmic synchronicity to qualify as entrainment are: (i) at least two autonomous oscillating systems must be present; and (ii) the two systems must interact.  The first condition, autonomy, differentiates entrainment from resonance, an increase in an object’s natural frequency amplitude following exposure to another object with a similar frequency. The oscillations of a resonating system cease when the influence of the original impulse emitting system is removed while an entrained oscillation continues.

Over hundreds of millions of years in an environment that changes dramatically over every 24-hour cycle, evolution has produced universal rhythms throughout the plant and animal kingdoms such that each organism’s biochemistry, physiology, and behaviour are organized in diurnal cycles. Many circadian rhythms are persistent even in the absence of the normal diurnal cues of night and day or temperature changes, e.g. while living in caves.  Such demonstrations are interpreted as reflecting the operation of an internal biological clock or clocks. The circadian clock system serves as a biological ‘alerter’ that lets us know when significant events are due to happen.

Principle V (Entrainment): The internal CLOCK controls physiological and behavioural processes in synchrony with regular changes in the environment.[2]

Figure 2Figure 1. The circadian clock and disease. Relationships and interactions between the circadian clock and disease may either be direct or indirect via behaviour and/or sleep (for description of arrow numbers see main text). Social schedules exert their influence on physiology mainly via behaviour (arrow S). The regular daily changes in the environment that the clock uses for its synchronisation (entrainment) to the 24-h world are indicated by arrow Z. Reproduced with permission from The Circadian Clock and Human Health’ by Till Roenneberg & Martha Merrow (2016).

The light-dark (LD) cycle is the most reliable of the external signals enabling entrainment[3] and is referred to as a zeitgeber (i.e. time-giver). LD information is perceived by mammals with retinal photoreceptors and conveyed directly to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, where it entrains oscillators in what is regarded as the master clock of the organism [4]. Other cyclic inputs, such as temperature, noise, social cues, or fixed mealtimes, also can act as entraining and predictive agents, although usually to a less reliable extent than LD.

An entrainable circadian clock is present in the SCN during fetal development and the maternal circadian system coordinates the phase of the fetal clock to environmental lighting conditions. Even before birth, the organism is entrained to the LD cycle.[5]

Having a CLOCK system is advantageous for predicting and preparing for important events.  When food is available only for a limited time each day, it has been observed that rats increase their locomotor activity 2 to 4 hours before the onset of food availability [6]. Similar anticipatory behaviour occurs in other mammals, and in birds, accompanied by increases in body temperature, adrenal secretion of corticosterone, gastrointestinal motility, and activity of digestive enzymes.[7]

It has been proposed that a common design principle applies to the CLOCK in all organisms, from bacteria to humans, and that the circadian clock has existed for at least 2.5 billion years.[8]  The predictive mechanism in which physiology and behaviour are ‘tuned’ to the timing of external events allows a competitive advantage.

CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS

A zeitgeber can entrain or synchronize an organism’s biological rhythms to the 24-hour LD cycle and 12-month seasonal cycle. Normal circadian rhythms depend upon zeitgebers. When zeitgebers are absent, for example, when a person is placed in a cave or a windowless room, an endogenous rhythm with a period close to that of the Earth’s rotation is provided.

The human CLOCK system consists of a ‘master clock’ in the SCN of the hypothalamus and secondary clocks in different bodily organs. The endocrine system regulates the circadian rhythm and sleep/waking cycle by producing regular hormone releases. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland under the control of the central circadian pacemaker in the SCN. Melatonin production is low in the light of day and high during the dark of night when it induces and supports sleep. Melatonin supplementation can be used for the treatment of winter depression, sleep disorders, and as a therapy for epilepsy.

Precise estimates of the periods of endogenous circadian rhythms of melatonin, core body temperature, and cortisol in healthy individuals show that the period of the human circadian clock averages 24.18 hours.[9] Cell-autonomous clocks consist of a ‘transcription–translation-based auto-regulatory feedback loop’.[10]

The coupling of internal and external changes by entrainment enables the organism to predict environmental changes. In humans, the circadian rhythm of melatonin production by the pineal gland and of core body temperature are good markers of circadian rhythms when collected under constant conditions. These markers are closely associated with the circadian component of the sleep-wake rhythm as well as with the circadian variation in neurobehavioural performance. [11]

Body temperature reflects predominantly the CLOCK and neurobehavioral functions are affected by a sleep pressure homeostasis which increases with time awake and may contribute to the phase delay through interaction with the circadian clock. Neurobehavioral functions usually show a circadian decline at night as is observed in CBT, but they continue their decline after CBT begins to rise, making the subsequent 2–6 hour period (clock time approximately 0600–1000) a zone of maximum vulnerability to loss of alertness and to performance failure.[12]

Sleep homeostatic pressure is produced by the SLEEP-REF, which is indexed behaviourally by intensified feelings of sleepiness that occur the longer the time we are awake. Sleep pressure automatically increases during wakefulness and declines during sleep and the feeling of sleepiness that it generates enables us to keep our wake-sleep balance in equilibrium. To some degree sleep pressure can be placed under voluntary control. We can force ourselves to remain awake when there is a strong reason to do so. In addition to subjective sleepiness, sleep homeostatic pressure is indicated by electroencephalographic (EEG) slow wave activity (SWA), which is prominent early in sleep but decreases over the course of sleep.  We return to sleep homeostasis in a later post.

Millions of years of evolution have equipped living organisms with two versatile systems that are designed to fine-tune tasks of daily living such as eating, drinking, eliminating, mating and sleeping, with the outside environment. By entraining essential activities to environmental zeitgebers, the CLOCK schedules the servicing of daily needs at optimal and non-overlapping times. In parallel, the REF provides corrective responses to the organism’s continuously changing needs including any unexpected challenges that may come over the horizon.  These two complementary systems seamlessly regulate the waking-sleeping cycle and integrate the internal milieu with the contingencies of the proximal world.[13] The CLOCK and REF systems successfully moderate levels of alertness enabling behaviour to be controlled and executed in a coordinated and coherent manner. To quote Silver and LeSauter (2009):  “This is a beautifully engineered system where homeostatic and circadian influences at multiple levels are integrated to permit optimal integration of mediators in the internal milieu and external world” (p. 272).

 AFFECTIVE AND SOCIAL ENTRAINMENT

As if the advantages of the CLOCK and REF were not already enough, they also provide a fringe benefits. The most important is that they are responsible for a lot pure, unadulterated fun. When people share stories, singing, dancing, ceremonies, rituals and rites of passage, they experience special feelings of joy, social cohesion and fulfilment.

Principle VI (Coalescence): Entrainment and synchronicity occur in shared activity to create cooperation, cohesion and social bonding.

Behavioural entrainment and synchronization in movement, vocalization or beat enable people to match their actions in timing and rhythm and it is this synchronized form of matching that seems to be most beneficial to enjoyment.[14] Many types of joint action transition naturally towards synchrony such as smiling, laughing, cheering, dancing, marching, drumming, stamping, clapping, singing and chanting are all aspects of sociality that contain elements of synchonicity and/or rhythm. When Ed Sheeran packs a stadium of fifty thousand fans and invites them to sing along with him, they absolutely love it and come back for more.  Other social behaviours carried out on a reciprocal basis such as conversation, reciting, poetry reading, playing musical instruments in a band or orchestra involve similar levels of shared appreciation of timing and rhythm: The universality of synchronised action across time and space suggests an evolutionary advantage. Apart from having fun, synchronised shared action offers the advantage of increased social cohesion. [AP 014].

Synchrony in all of these types of group performance involves sharing of intentionality in the deliberate production of rhythmic joint actions.[15]  Reinforcement of synchrony by the building of trust and cooperation flows from the group performance of music, chanting, drumming or dance and cooperative actions are reinforced by increasing levels of synchrony.  Indigenous music and dance facilitates synchrony and strengthens cooperative action and social cohesion.[16] Enjoyment of music and dance as performers or observers is universal to human beings. [AP 015].

When individuals participate in musical performances, even only as observers, any form of  joint action involves affective entrainment.[17]  More seems to be going on here than simply temporal entrainment because there is a strong affective tone. [18]  Group drumming is known to produce endocrinal and immunological responses that indicate relief of stress.[19]

Affective entrainment of rhythm and beat are associated with interpersonal bonding initiated by the pleasure of moving the body to music and keeping in time with others. The affective components of entrainment are  associated with temporal synchronization creating a ‘groove’ which carries a sense of affiliation.[20] This shared trance-like enjoyment can lead to ‘manic’ form of appreciation such as occurred with the “Beatle-mania” of the 1960s.[21]

 

 

Jackson et al. investigated the effects of synchrony and physiological arousal on cohesion and cooperation in large naturalistic groups.[22]  They manipulated the synchronous and physiologically arousing affordances of a group marching task within a sports stadium with large samples of strangers.  Participants’ subsequent movement, grouping, and cooperation were observed via a camera hidden in the stadium’s roof. Synchrony and arousal both showed main effects, predicting larger groups, tighter clustering, and more cooperative behaviour. Synchrony and arousal among participants in cultural rituals strengthen social cohesion. [AP 016].

The origins of social-affective entrainment appear in early-life musical and rhythmic interactions between infants and caregivers e.g., rocking of the cradle, rhythmic ‘baby talk’ and singing of lullabies.  When individuals exchange information reciprocally about each other’s mental processes, alignments unfold over time and space, creating a special form of social interaction, an intrinsically shared activity.[23] Alignment of words, thoughts, bodily postures and movements are all forms of “social entrainment” that can produce increases in positive affect, social cohesion and bonding. [AP 017].

Social entrainment can be detected at many levels both physical to the mental.  Gallotti, Fairhurst and Frith argue that interacting individuals are dynamically coupled. When people participate in cultural events such as concerts, plays and operas, alignment is detected in brain activity of the participants. Socio-affective entrainment involves continuous mutual adaptation, complementarity, reciprocity and a division of labour including leader–follower roles.[24] As we shall see, social forms of entrainment conspire to bond people together. Cultural events such as concerts, plays and operas, there is an alignment both in brain activity and behaviour of the participants.  [AP 018].

CONCLUSIONS:

  • An entrained circadian CLOCK, which is universal to living organisms, synchronizes internal physiology and external behavior with the light-dark cycle and other zeitgebers.
  • The predictive CLOCK and reactive REF coordinate behaviour and physiology, including continuous modulation of alertness, waking and sleep.
  • Socio-affective entrainment synchronizes shared cultural activities and reinforces social cohesion and bonding.

REFERENCES:

[1] Mirroring occurs when one member of a couple does the same thing as the other member, at the same time.

[2] For simplicity’s sake, we will call the ‘internal circadian clock system’ the ‘CLOCK’.

[3] Entrainment can be understood as a form of classical conditioning.

[4] Stokkan, K. A., Yamazaki, S., Tei, H., Sakaki, Y., & Menaker, M. (2001). Entrainment of the circadian clock in the liver by feeding. Science291(5503), 490-493.

[5] Reppert, S. M., & Schwartz, W. J. (1983). Maternal coordination of the fetal biological clock in utero. Science220(4600), 969-971.

[6] Mistlberger, R. E., & Rechtschaffen, A. (1984). Recovery of anticipatory activity to restricted feeding in rats with ventromedial hypothalamic lesions. Physiology & behavior33(2), 227-235.

[7] A conservation project at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in Zimbabwe provides meat to vultures every day at 1 o’clock. Dozens of vultures roost nearby for a few hours every day before feeding time.

[8] Loudon, A. S. (2012). Circadian biology: a 2.5 billion year old clock. Current Biology22(14), R570-R571.

[9] Czeisler, C. A., Duffy, J. F., Shanahan, T. L., Brown, E. N., Mitchell, J. F., Rimmer, D. W., … & Dijk, D. J. (1999). Stability, precision, and near-24-hour period of the human circadian pacemaker. Science284(5423), 2177-2181.

[10] Takahashi, J. S. (2016). Transcriptional architecture of the mammalian circadian clock. Nature Reviews Genetics.

[11] Cajochen, C., Chellappa, S., & Schmidt, C. (2010). What keeps us awake?—the role of clocks and hourglasses, light, and melatonin. In International review of neurobiology (Vol. 93, pp. 57-90). Academic Press.

[12] Goel, N., Basner, M., Rao, H., & Dinges, D. F. (2013). Circadian rhythms, sleep deprivation, and human performance. In Progress in molecular biology and translational science (Vol. 119, pp. 155-190). Academic Press.

[13] Silver, R., & LeSauter, J. (2008). Circadian and homeostatic factors in arousal. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1129(1), 263-274.

[14] Reddish, P., Fischer, R., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Let’s dance together: Synchrony, shared intentionality and cooperation. PLoS ONE, 8(8), e71182. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0071182.

[15] Reddish et al. (2013) experimentally examined the importance of shared intentionality in reinforcing cooperation from group synchrony.

[16] Mogan, Fischer and Bulbulia (2017) meta-analyzed 42 studies of synchrony effects on: (1) prosocial behaviour, (2) perceived social bonding, (2) social cognition, and (3) positive affect. Synchronous actions affected all four domains and synchrony in larger groups increased prosocial behaviour and positive affect, but did not influence synchrony effects on perceived social bonding and social cognition. See: Mogan, R., Fischer, R., & Bulbulia, J. A. (2017). To be in synchrony or not? A meta-analysis of synchrony’s effects on behaviour, perception, cognition and affect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology72, 13-20.

[17] Musical entrainment appears in different species within the animal kingdom, e.g. synchronization to a beat in a sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita eleonora). Schachner, A., Brady, T. F., Pepperberg, I. M., & Hauser, M. D. (2009). Spontaneous motor entrainment to music in multiple vocal mimicking species. Current Biology, 19(10), 831-836).

[18] Phillips-Silver, J., & Keller, P. (2012). Searching for roots of entrainment and joint action in early musical interactions. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 6, 26.

[19] Bittman, B. B., Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., Westengard, J., Simonton, O. C., Pappas, J., & Ninehouser, M. (2001). Composite effects of group drumming music therapy on modulation of neuroendocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Alternative therapies in health and medicine7(1), 38.

[20] Janata, P., Tomic, S. T., and Haberman, J. (2012). Sensorimotor coupling in music and the Psychology of the groove. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 141, 54–75. This study suggested that perceptions of ‘being in the groove’ depend on a strong underlying beat, feeling a part of the music, and wanting to move with the beat.

[21] Like the Beatles, the fans of Franz Lisz, the Hungarian pianist, are claimed to have displayed ‘mania’.

[22] Jackson, J. C., Jong, J., Bilkey, D., Whitehouse, H., Zollmann, S., McNaughton, C., & Halberstadt, J. (2018). Synchrony and Physiological Arousal Increase Cohesion and Cooperation in Large Naturalistic Groups. Scientific reports8(1), 127.

[23] Gallotti, M., Fairhurst, M. T., & Frith, C. D. (2017). Alignment in social interactions. Consciousness and cognition48, 253-261.

[24] Hasson, U., & Frith, C. D. (2016). Mirroring and beyond: coupled dynamics as a generalized framework for modelling social interactions. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B371(1693), 20150366.

A General Theory of Behaviour III: Homeostasis, Balance and Stability

This post describes homeostasis as a fundamental principle in behaviour and motivation.


The fixity of the milieu supposes a perfection of the organism such that the external variations are at each instant compensated for and equilibrated…. All of the vital mechanisms, however varied they may be, have always one goal, to maintain the uniformity of the conditions of life in the internal environment…. The stability of the internal environment is the condition for the free and independent life.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878)

What is homeostasis? 

Sixty-one years after Bernard (1865) wrote about the ‘internal milieu’, Walter B. Cannon (1926) coined the term ‘homeostasis’.[1]  Then, 16 years later, psychobiologist Curt Richter (1942) expanded the homeostasis idea to include behavioural or ‘ total organism regulators’ in the context of feeding.[2]  From this viewpoint, ‘external’ behaviours that are responses to environmental stimuli lie on a continuum with ‘internal’ physiological events. For Richter, behaviour includes all aspects of feeding necessary to maintain the internal environment. Bernard, Cannon and Richter all focused on a purely physiological form of homeostasis, ‘H[Φ]’. I wish to convince the reader that the idea of the ‘external milieu’, the proximal world of socio-physical action, is equally important.

A General Theory of Behaviour (AGTB) extends homeostasis to all forms of behaviour. Psychological homeostasis can be explained in two stages, starting with the classic version of homeostasis in Physiology, H[Φ], followed by the operating features of its psychological sister, H[Ψ].  The essential features are illustrated in Figure 2.1.

Screen Shot 2020-03-12 at 11.27.44.pngFigure 2.1 Upper panel: A representation of Physiological (Type I) Homeostasis (H[Φ]). Adapted from Modell et al. (2015). Lower panel: A representation of Psychological (Type II) Homeostasis (H[Ψ]).

To be counted as homeostasis, H[Φ], a system is required to have five features:

  1. It must contain a sensor that measures the value of the regulated variable.
  2. It must contain a mechanism for establishing the “normal range” of values for the regulated variable. In the model shown in Figure 2.1, this mechanism is represented by the “Set point Y”.[3]
  3. It must contain an “error detector” that compares the signal being transmitted by the sensor (representing the actual value of the regulated variable) with the set range. The result of this comparison is an error signal that is interpreted by the controller.
  4. The controller interprets the error signal and determines the value of the outputs of the effectors.
  1. The effectors are those elements that determine the value of the regulated variable. The effectors may not be the same for upward and downward changes in the regulated variable.

Identical  principles apply to Psychological (Type II) Homeostasis (H[Ψ] with two notable differences (Figure 2.1, lower panel). In Psychological Homeostasis, there are two sets of effectors, inward and outward, and the conceptual boundary between the internal and external environments lies between the controller and the outward effectors of the somatic nervous system, i.e. the muscles that control speech and action.  Furthermore, Psychological Homeostasis operates with intention, purpose, and desire.

The individual organism extends its ability to thrive in nature with Type II homeostasis. Self-extension by niche construction creates zones of safety, one of the primary goals of Type II homeostasis. Niche construction amplifies the organism’s ability to occupy and control the environment proximally and distally. The use of tools for hunting, weapons for aggression, fire for cooking, domestication of animals, the use of language, money, goods for trade and commodification, agriculture, science, technology, engineering, medicine, culture, music literature and social media are all methods of expanding and projecting niches of safety, well-being and control. Individual ownership of assets such as land, buildings, companies, stocks and shares reflect a universal need to extend occupation, power and control but these possessions do not necessarily increase the subjective well-being of the owner [AP 007].

Initiated by the brain and other organs, homeostasis of either type can often act in anticipatory or predictive mode. One principal function of any conscious system is  prediction of rewards and dangers. A simple example is the pre-prandial secretion of insulin, ghrelin and other hormones that enable the consumption of a larger nutrient load with minimal postprandial homeostatic consequences. When a meal containing carbohydrates is to be consumed, a variety of hormones is secreted by the gut that elicit the secretion of insulin from the pancreas before the blood sugar level has actually started to rise. The blood sugar level starts lowering in anticipation of the influx of glucose from the gut into the blood. This has the effect of blunting the blood glucose concentration spike that would otherwise occur. Daily variations in dietary potassium intake are compensated by anticipative adjustments of renal potassium excretion capacity. That urinary potassium excretion is rhythmic and largely independent on feeding and activity patterns indicates that this homeostatic mechanism behaves predictively.[4]

Similar principles operate in Type II homeostasis acting together with the brain as a “prediction machine”. When we anticipate a pleasant event such as a birthday party, there is a preparatory ‘glow’ which can change one’s mood in a positive direction, or thinking about an impending visit to the dentist may be likely to produce feelings of anxiety, or the receipt of a prescription of medicines from one’s physician may lead to improvements in symptoms, even before the medicines are taken.

At societal level, anticipation enables rational mitigation, e.g. anticipation of demographic changes influences policy, threat from hostile countries influences expenditure on defence, and the threat of a new epidemic influences programmes of prevention. [AP 008].

Homeostasis involves several interacting processes in a causal network.  A homeostatic adjustment in one process necessitates a compensatory adjustment in one or more of the other interacting processes.  To illustrate this situation, consider what happens in phosphate homeostasis (Figure 2.2). Many REF-behaviours that we shall refer to are isomorphic with the 4-process structure in Figure 2.2.[5]  However, in nature there is no restriction on the number of interconnected processes and any process can belong to multiple homeostatic networks.

Screen Shot 2020-03-12 at 11.29.41.png

Figure 2.2 Phosphate homeostasis. A decrease in the serum phosphorus level causes a decrease in FGF23 and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. Increase in serum phosphorus leads to opposite changes. Calcitriol increases serum phosphorus and FGF23, while it decreases PTH. Increase in FGF23 leads to decrease in PTH and calcitriol levels. PTH increases calcitriol and FGF23 levels. Reproduced from Jagtap et al. (2012)[6] with permission.

Homeostasis never rests. It is continuous, comprehensive and thorough. With each round of the REF, all of the major processes in a network are reset to maintain stability of the whole system. The REF process goes through a continuous series of ‘reset’ cycles each of which stabilizes the system until the next occasion one of the processes falls outside its set range and another reset is required.[7]

Processes in Type II homeostasis may vary along quantitative axes or they can have discrete categorical values. For example, values, beliefs, preferences and goals can have discrete values, as does the state of sleep or waking.

Any change in a categorical process involves change throughout the network to which is belongs. [AP 009].

Such changes may be rapid, in the millisecond range, e.g. a changed preference from chocolate chip cookie flavoured ice cream to Madagascar vanilla that may occurs an instant after arriving at the ice-cream kiosk. At the other end of the spectrum of importance, in buying a new apartment, the final choice might also occur in the instant the preferred option is first sighted. Or the decision could take months or years even though it is of precious little consequence, e.g. deciding that one is a republican rather than a monarchist, or it may never occur because we simply do not care one way or the other. These considerations lead to a surprising proposition that:

The speed of a decision is independent of its subjective utility [AP 010].

One objective of A General Theory of Behaviour is to explain the relevance of the REF system to Psychology.  We know already that the regulation of action is guided by three fundamental systems: (i) the brain and central nervous system (CNS), (ii) the endocrine system (ES) and (iii) the immune system (IS). It is proposed in A General Theory that, as a ‘meta-system’ of homeostatic control, these systems collectively govern both physiology and behaviour using the two types of homeostasis, H[Φ] and H[Ψ], respectively. We can understand how this might be possible in light of a recently discovered ‘central homeostatic network’.

THE CENTRAL HOMEOSTATIC NETWORK

Recent analyses of the CNS have explored new methods for discovering cortical and subcortical networks in the brain’s anatomical connectivity termed the ‘connectome’. These studies of the connectome are revolutionary in showing that the CNS is at once both more complex and more simple that previously assumed. Let me explain why.

Regions of interest (ROI) are observed as coherent fluctuations in neural activity at rest as well as distributed patterns of activation or ‘networks’.  A network is any set of pairwise relationships between the elements of a system—formally represented in graph theory as ‘edges’ linking ‘nodes’. Neurobiological networks occur at different organizational levels from cell-specific regulatory pathways inside neurones to interactions between systems of cortical areas and subcortical nuclei. Architectures which support cognition, affect and action are normally found at the highest level of analysis.[8]  In a landmark study, Brian Edlow and his colleagues investigated the limbic and forebrain structures that form the ‘Central Homeostatic Network’.[9] The Central Homeostatic Network (CHN) plays a major role in autonomic, respiratory, neuroendocrine, emotional, immune, and cognitive adaptations to stress. Collectively, these forebrain structures include the limbic system close to the hypothalamus with strong mono- and/or oligo-synaptic connectivity to one another, and shared participation in homeostasis. Homeostatic forebrain nodes receive sensory information concerning extrinsic threats and interoceptive information from the brainstem, resulting in arousal, attention and vigilance during waking, and visceral and somatic motor defences.

There is complexity here but a well-organized complexity. CHN connectogram shows all six brainstem seed nuclei are interconnected with all seven limbic forebrain target sites, but with markedly different streamline probabilities (SPs) (Figure 2.3).  The SP measures the probability of a streamline connecting a seed ROI and target ROI, but does not reflect the strength of the neuroanatomic connection. To ensure that the target ROI size was not the only factor contributing to the SP, Edlow and colleagues verified that the SP measurements were derived from anatomically plausible pathways from animal or other studies of subcortical pathways in the human brain.

Screen Shot 2020-03-12 at 11.31.52.png

Figure 2.3.  The connectogram of the human Central Homeostatic Network (CHN). Brainstem seed nodes are displayed on the outside of the connectogram and limbic forebrain target nodes at its center. Connectivity is represented quantitatively, with line thickness being proportional to the streamline probabilities for each dyad. Brainstem seed nodes consist of 7 structures as follows:  the hippocampus (Hypo); amygdala (Amg); subiculum (Sub); entorhinal cortex (Ent); superior temporal gyrus (anterior) (STGa); superior temporal gyrus (posterior) (STGp); and insula (Ins).  Connectogram lines go to the brainstem nucleus of origin: dorsal raphe DR; median raphe MR; locus coeruleus, LC; paragigantocellularis lateralis, PGCL; caudal raphe, CR; vagal complex, VC. Reproduced in slightly adapted form by permission from Edlow, McNab, Witzel & Kinney (2016).

Brian Edlow’s group study findings suggest that H[Φ] is mediated by ascending and descending interconnections between brainstem nuclei and forebrain regions, which together regulate autonomic, respiratory, and arousal responses to stress.  The limbic system has been regarded as the neuroanatomic substrate of ‘emotion’, but its role in the regulation of homeostasis is also now being recognized, and the limbic system has been added to the central autonomic network of “flight, fight or freeze”.  Edlow et al. concluded as follows: “connectivity between forebrain and caudal brainstem regions that participate in the regulation of homeostasis in the human brain. These nodes and connections form, we propose, a CHN because its nodes not only regulate autonomic functions such as ‘‘fight or flight’’ and arousal (e.g., median and dorsal raphe, and locus coeruleus) but also non-autonomic homeostatic functions such as respiration (i.e., PGCL) and regulation of emotion/affect (e.g. amygdala)” (Edlow et al., op cit., p. 196).  This study supports the idea that interconnected brainstem and forebrain nodes form an integrated Central Homeostatic Network in the human brain. To put this in the simplest terms, the forebrain is involved in homeostatic regulation of both autonomic (Type I) and non-autonomic (Type II) human responses to disturbances of equilibrium. These observations demonstrate that the forebrain provides a common central mechanism for both types of homeostasis, H[Φ] and H[Ψ].

Principle III (Communality): Homeostasis of Types I and II are controlled by a single executive controller in the forebrain.

That the forebrain evolved to control both types of homeostasis, inside the body and in outwardly directed behaviour, supports our contention that homeostasis is a unifying concept across Biology and Psychology. Everything we know about the executive role of the forebrain in action planning and decision-making suggests that this must indeed be the case. Why have two control systems when only one is necessary? The simplicity is beautiful.

HOMEOSTASIS A UNIFYING PRINCIPLE 

In the Epilogue to ‘The Wisdom of the Body’, Walter Cannon inquired whether there are any general principles of homeostasis acting across industrial, domestic and social forms of organization? He suggested that the homeostasis of individual humans is dependent on ‘social homoeostasis’ via cooperation within communities. He talks analogously of the system of distribution of goods in society as a stream: “Thus the products of farm and factory, of mine and forest, are borne to and fro. But it is permissible to take goods out of the stream only if goods of equivalent value are put back in…Money and credit, therefore, become integral parts of the fluid matrix of society” (p. 314). He believed that “steady states in society as a whole and steady states in its members are closely linked.” (p. 324).[10]

Compared to more economically stable societies, societies in steep economic growth or decline are expected to have a relatively high prevalence of mental illness  [AP 011].

Compared to more egalitarian societies, societies with high levels of inequality are expected to have a relatively high prevalence of mental illness  [AP 012].

Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1968)[11] was critical of these externally directed, social forms of homeostasis (Type II). He did not support the idea that homeostasis could be applied to spontaneous activities, processes whose goal is not reduction but building up of tensions, growth, development, creation, and in human activities which are non-utilitarian. There are good reasons to think that von Bertalanffy was wrong.  The reach of homeostasis extends well beyond Physiology into many realms of Psychology and even into Society as a whole.  H[Φ] and H[Ψ] serve identical stabilizing functions internally in the body and externally in socio-physical interactions of behaviour respectively. With Cannon, we accept that “steady states in society as a whole and steady states in its members are closely linked.”  H[Φ] and H[Ψ] exist in a complementary relationship of mutual support. It could not be otherwise.

Principle IV (Steady Stable State): Homeostasis Type II serves the same function for Behaviour as Homeostasis Type I serves for Physiology: the production of a stable and steady state.

According to this principle, behaviour produced by most people most of the time is intended to generally calm ‘waves of unrest’ rather than to make the waves larger, to reduce conflict and to produce cooperation, safety and stability. People with high levels of self-control tend to create social stability and have more, and longer-lasting,  friendships than people with relatively low levels of self-control. [AP 013].

Individual set ranges for any particular process vary across people and are not the same for all individuals. Individual set ranges are based on unique interactions of genetics, epigenetics and early infant experience.  Set ranges may be changed in a few specific disorders and individual differences exist in the rate and extent of the reset following perturbations to equilibrium. The General Theory carries the expectation of wide individual differences across time and space in set ranges, rates of reset, and adaptations over time.

CONCLUSIONS:

1) All behaviour involves Type II homeostasis, which strives for a stable and steady state

in the socio-physical world.

2) A single executive controller in the forebrain regulates both type of homeostasis.

3) Individual set ranges are based on genetics, epigenetics and early infant experience. They are normally fixed, changing only with major disorders of function.

REFERENCES:

[1] Cannon, W.B. (1926). Physiological regulation of normal states: some tentative postulates concerning biological homeostatics. In A. Pettit. A Charles Richet : ses amis, ses collègues, ses élèves. Paris: Les Éditions Médicales. p. 91.

[2] Richter, C. P. (1942). Increased dextrose appetite of normal rats treated with insulin. American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content135(3), 781-787.

[3] It is accepted that so-called ‘set points’ are really ‘set ranges’, e.g. the “normal” human body temperature is a range from 97°F (36.1°C) to 99°F (37.2°C). We use the terms ‘set point’ and ‘set range’ interchangeably.

[4] Moore-Ede, M. C., & Herd, J. A. (1977). Renal electrolyte circadian rhythms: independence from feeding and activity patterns. American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology232(2), F128-F135.

[5] Unless stated otherwise, an arrow in any diagram in this book represents a causal effect.

[6] Jagtap, V. S., Sarathi, V., Lila, A. R., Bandgar, T., Menon, P., & Shah, N. S. (2012). Hypophosphatemic rickets. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism16(2), 177.

[7] The term ‘homeorhesis’, meaning a stabilized flow, has also been proposed because reference sets are liable to change. The terms “allostasis” and “heterostasis,” are overlapping with “homeostasis” but are not generally adopted. See: Day, TA (2005). Defining Stress as a Prelude to Mapping Its Neurocircuitry: No Help from Allostasis, Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 29, 1195–1200.

[8] Petersen, S.E.  & Sporns, O. (2015) Brain networks and cognitive architectures. Neuron 88, 207 – 219.

[9] Edlow, B. L., McNab, J. A., Witzel, T., & Kinney, H. C. (2016). The structural connectome of the human central homeostatic network. Brain connectivity6(3), 187-200.

[10] Evidently this is the opinion of one of Bill Gates who holds that foreign aid helps to stabilize the developing world and thereby the security and stability of the USA. See: http://time.com/4704550/bill-gates-cutting-foreign-aid-makes-america-less-safe/

[11] Von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General system theory. New York.  See p. 210.

 

A General Theory of Behaviour II: Restructured Hierarchy of Needs

This second post on A General Theory of Behaviour (AGTB) incorporates an amended form of Abraham Maslow’s (1943) motivational needs hierarchy described by Douglas T. Kenrick and colleagues  to which AGTB has added the process of Type II homeostasis.


 

Modifying Maslow

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was best known for the foundation of humanistic psychology and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

A brief introduction to Maslow’s needs hierarchy  is here.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was a landmark publication for its ability to account for so many aspects of behaviour. The first level of the original Maslow hierarchy – Immediate Physiological Needs – already incorporates homeostasis (Type I).

AGTB inserts Psychological Homeostasis (homeostasis Type II) to give the hierarchy more explanatory power.

In discussing the second level for “Safety Needs”, Maslow states:

“The safety needs.—If the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needs, which we may categorize roughly as the safety needs. All that has been said of the physiological needs is equally true, although in lesser degree, of these desires. The organism may equally well be wholly dominated by them. They may serve as the almost exclusive organizers of behaviour, recruiting all the capacities of the organism in their service, and we may then fairly describe the whole organism as a safety-seeking mechanism.” (p.376).

In describing this in detail, Maslow turned to the needs of children for a predictable, orderly world, a world which is reliable, safe and predictable:

“Another indication of the child’s need for safety is his preference for some kind of undisrupted routine or rhythm. He seems to want a predictable, orderly world. For instance, injustice, unfairness, or inconsistency in the parents seems to make a child feel anxious and unsafe. This attitude may be not so much because of the injustice per se or any particular pains involved, but rather because this treatment threatens to make the world look unreliable, or unsafe, or unpredictable. Young children seem to thrive better under a system which has at least a skeletal outline of rigidity, in which there is a schedule of a kind, some sort of routine, something that can be counted upon, not only for the present but also far into the future. Perhaps one could express this more accurately by saying that the child needs an organized world rather than an unorganized or unstructured one.”  (p. 377)

Maslow specifically links safety with ‘stability’:

“we can perceive the expressions of safety needs only in such phenomena as, for instance, the common preference for a job with tenure and protection, the desire for a savings account, and for insurance of various kinds (medical, dental, unemployment, disability, old age). Other broader aspects of the attempt to seek safety and stability in the world are seen in the very common preference for familiar rather than unfamiliar things, or for the known rather than the unknown.”(p. 379).

Maslow’s bracketing of safety with stability connects the needs pyramid with Type II homeostasis. It is noted that, in the amended pyramid, “Safety Needs” has been relabelled as “Self-Protection”. Thus all motives above level I are part and parcel of the striving for stability and equilibrium that is the function of homeostasis Type II. (Figure 1).

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 15.00.28Figure 1. The Hierarchy of Fundamental Human Needs. This figure integrates ideas from life-history development with Maslow’s needs hierarchy. This scheme adds reproductive goals, in the order they are likely to first appear developmentally. The model also depicts the later developing goal systems as overlapping with, rather than completely replacing, earlier developing systems. Once a goal system has developed, its activation is triggered whenever relevant environmental cues are salient. Type I homeostasis operates at level 1. All motives from self-protection at level 2 and above engage Type II homeostasis.  This figure is from Kenrick, Griskevicius, Neuberg and Schaller (2010).

Principle II (Needs Hierarchy)

The newly amended Hierarchy leads to Principle II (Needs Hierarchy) of AGTB, which states:

AGTB Principle II (Needs Hierarchy): In the hierarchy of needs, Physiological Homeostasis Type I is active at level I (Immediate Physiological Needs) and Psychological Homeostasis Type II is active at all higher levels from II (Self-Protection) to level VI (Parenting).

 As priorities shift from lower to higher in the hierarchy we see a progression in developmental priority as each individual matures.  In fact, it is possible to apply the motivational hierarchy at three different levels of analysis: evolutionary function, developmental sequencing, and current cognitive priority (the proximate level). In agreement with Douglas T. Kenrick et al. (2010), the basic foundational structure of Maslow’s pyramid, buttressed with a few architectural extensions, remains perfectly valid.  Need satisfaction is allowed to be a goal at more than one level simultaneously. In light of the amended pyramid, three auxiliary propositions are stated as follows:

Individuals unable to meet their immediate physiological needs at level I of the hierarchy are at a disadvantage in meeting needs at higher levels in the hierarchy. [Auxiliary Proposition, AP, 004].

People with unmet needs for self-protection (level 2) are at a disadvantage in meeting their needs for affiliation (level 3). [AP 005].

In general, people with higher than average unmet needs at any level (n) are at a disadvantage in meeting higher level needs at levels n+m. [AP 006].

The universality of Abraham Maslow’s original needs hierarchy is supported by a survey of well-being across 123 countries. Louis Tay and Ed Diener (2011) examined the fulfilment of needs and subjective well-being (SWB), including life evaluation, positive feelings, and negative feelings.[2] Need fulfilment was consistently associated with SWB across all world regions. Type II homeostasis defined within the General Theory provides a close fit to the natural striving of conscious organisms for security, stability and well-being, described in later chapters. The needs hierarchy amended by Douglas T. Kenrick et al. (2010) is expected to be a close fit to nature.

CONCLUSIONS:

  • Behaviour is at root an expression of Type II homeostasis. The ‘Reset Equilibrium Function’ (REF) operates in all conscious organisms with purpose, desire and intentionality.
  • When equilibrium is disturbed, the REF strives to reset psychological processes to equilibrium.
  • In the hierarchy of needs, Type I Homeostasis strives to satisfy Physiological Needs at level 1. Type II Homeostasis strives to satisfy all remaining developmental needs.

Reference

Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010). Renovating the pyramid of needs: Contemporary extensions built upon ancient foundations. Perspectives on psychological science5(3), 292-314.

Investigating the Paranormal: Part II

Parascience has so far failed to produce a single repeatable finding and, until it does, will continue to be viewed as an incoherent collection of belief systems steeped in fantasy, illusion and error.

Originally appeared in Nature Vol. 320, 13 March 1986, pp. 119-124. 
The first part of this article is here.

Psychological Factors

Many factors of a psychological nature foster paranormal beliefs and make them a common feature of human thinking and behaviour. Our cultural traditions are steeped in religion and magic, many features of which lend themselves to belief in supernatural agencies. Scientific thinking is a recent departure in human history and scientific ideas have had little time to affect the magical thinking from which science itself evolved.

Sociologist D. O’Keefe argues that paranormal research has evolved from within the traditions of magic which themselves evolved from religion51. The current occult revival is seen as a reaction to the excessive rationalism which many perceive in science. O’Keefe argues that religion created the ‘cloud-cuckoo land’ in which magic, and thence the paranormal, can flourish. Yet scientists are often ill-prepared to provide the necessary counterbalancing rational account of the paranormal. Against this background of magi co-religious entrenchment, there are some extra psychological processes that make paranormal beliefs an inevitable characteristic of human consciousness and thinking.

Mental Imagery

A mental image is a quasi-perceptual experience in the absence of an objective stimulus. There are huge individual differences in the reported vividness and controllability of images. In Western cultures 1-5% of the population appears regularly to experience fantasies which seem as real as actual events even though they are entirely fictional52. Such individuals often experience vivid, uncontrollable ‘eidetic’ images of almost hallucinatory quality53, are highly suggestible and can be easily hypnotized52. They report more putatively paranormal experiences, such as telepathy, precognition, ghosts and out-of-the-body experiences. While mental imagery has a large number of practical uses in thinking, memory and problem solving, it can also occur in altered states of consciousness in which the normal level of lucidity is no longer present53.

Research conducted a century ago by E. Gurney and F. W. H. Myers described 27 cases of ‘spirit communication’ from deceased persons54. Eighteen of the apparitions occurred in sleep-related states normally associated with highly vivid and autonomous images which are easily mistaken for reality. The remaining cases occurred in subjects who were fully awake and these could easily have been structural eidetic images stimulated by thought-processes of the daydreaming kind53. H. Sidgwick noted that 9.9% of 17,000 subjects had experienced at least one vivid visual, auditory or tactile image of a living being or object while completely awake55. The appearance of ghosts is shaped by cultural expectancies and beliefs about what a ghost should look like56. Mental images can be easily misinterpreted in terms of pre-existing beliefs57.

Expectancy

Otherwise known as mental set, expectancy provides the framework within which we organize new experience. Human cognition is not a simple copying process but entails a constructive striving or ‘effort after meaning’. What we experience is often more a confirmation of belief than a matter of plain fact. Beliefs are not automatically updated by the best evidence available, but have an active life of their own and fight tenaciously for their own survival. They tell us what to read, what to listen to, who to trust and how to rationalize contrary information4,5,57.

Selective exposure protects beliefs from more dramatic forms of contradiction. When the mentalist U. Geller visited the city of Dunedin in New Zealand there were seven different opportunities to obtain information abut his alleged psychic abilities: four media interviews, two newspaper stories and one stage performance. Of 17 subjects who, before Geller’s visit, were already ‘believers’ 15 selected three or more of the available exposures. Of 20 ‘non-believers’, only 10 selected as many as three exposures (X2(1) = 6.13; P<0.02).

A further problem is that when we are exposed to relevant information, our opinion revisions are often less than optimal, and we act like conservative Bayesians58, with a confirmation bias59. In a recent ‘ESP’ demonstration to a class of 226 psychology students, presented as an exercise in observation, I performed five mentalists’s tricks consisting of: (I) correctly naming a colour written out of sight; (2) correctly transmitting a colour name to a volunteer who, like me, had not previously seen it; (3) helping a volunteer correctly to read messages sealed inside envelopes or to appear to transmit messages to me; (4) producing bent keys which I had not previously touched; and (5) moving or stopping the hands of a watch in a mysterious manner.

Although at no time did I claim to be psychic, 90% of the class stated that I had demonstrated psychic ability. When the results from subjects who had previously been classified as ‘believers’ and ‘sceptics’ were analysed separately, 79% of believers thought at least three of the five effects were psychic compared with only 43% of sceptics (P < 0.001).

Naturally, we often encounter information that is unexpected or ambiguous. In such instances, there is a second line of defence: the data can be selectively perceived or even misperceived so that they still appear to support our beliefs by ‘subjective validation’4. One illustration of this powerful cognitive defence in the context of ESP research is the strong conviction that one has successfully viewed a complex target site by ESP in a remote-viewing experiment even when one is completely wrong (Fig. 2).

There are many now-classic examples of subjective validation: the prophecies of the Delphic Oracle and Nostradamus60, the discovery of N-rays61, phlogiston, Vulcan, the canals on Mars, flying saucers, Freud’s interpretation of dreams, prejudice, faith-healing, the placebo effect, bone pointing and the ‘evil eye’. Beliefs of all kinds tend to be self-perpetuating.

Coincidences

Psi phenomena consist of an experience, image or thought matched by some other similar experience, image or thought. Collections of such coincidences have been published by A. Koestler62, L. Rhine,63 and others based on the assumption that odd-matches of events cannot occur purely by chance.

Probability theory shows that an event which is improbable over a short run can become highly probable over the long run. If five coins are tossed all at once on a single occasion the probability of obtaining five heads is 2 -5 or approximately 0.03. If the coin tossing is repeated 100 times the probability of five heads somewhere in the series is approximately 0.96.

The principle of the long run is easy to grasp in simple situations but much less visible in the more chaotic world of spontaneous human experience. Calculation shows how easily Koestler could obtain his 40-plus odd-match anecdotes. Assuming that in an ordinary day a person can recall 100 distinct events, there are 100Cor 4,950 pairs of events per day. Odd-matches can be remembered for years, perhaps 10 yr or 3,650 days. If Koestler knew 1,000 people, he could draw upon a total pool of 4,950 x 3,650 x 1,000, or more than 18 x 109 pairs of events. That Koestler obtained 40 striking odd-matches seems hardly surprising.

Koestler’s fallacy (see ref. 4) is certainly not unique to him, although he was one of a small group of analysts who wanted to make a scientific revolution out of it. The fallacy is widespread and several biases contribute to it. First, we notice and remember odd-matches. Second, we do not notice non-matches. This triggers the short-run illusion that makes the oddmatch seem improbable. Third, we are normally poor estimators of probabilities, especially for combinations of events.

Unseen Causes

Another class of psychic-looking experiences is generated by invisible chains of cause and effect which bias the probabilities away from chance levels. Failure to randomize target stimuli properly in ESP experiments is a good example of this. Thus, Tart reported a successful ESP experiment in which his subjects learned to score above chance in guessing which of 10 digits was displayed by an apparatus in another room following the presentation of feedback)4. The random number generator mistakenly avoided using the same digit twice in succession, a bias which is matched by the pervasive ‘gambler’s fallacy’. When Tart removed this bias, the ‘ESP’ also disappeared65.

Another unseen factor, used by illusionists, is the ‘population stereotype’. The performer ‘sends a message to the audience, saying “I am thinking of a number between 1 and 50, both digits are odd, and different“. Controlled experiments show that the most common response for the 1-50 problem is 37, which accounts for 30-35% of all responses, and the second most common response is 35 (20- 25%)4. If the performer always says he had been thinking of 35 and then changed his mind to 37, at least 50% of the audience will be thinking of the ‘correct’ number.

Human beings never behave randomly. Our experiences contain many culturally shared elements such that particular items are associated with particular verbal contexts. This causes associative networks to be set up and a tendency towards nonrandom, stereotypical responses even when there is freedom to choose.

Other unnoticed causes of putatively psychic effects include subliminal and non-verbal sensory cues66 which may lead to common thought patterns in different people, presenting the illusion of telepathy.

The ‘Will to Believe’

What factors differentiate believer from sceptic? Psychologists down the ages have puzzled over the question of what motivates different world-views and the so-called will to believe. Research conducted by J. Waugh used Kelly’s personal construct theory. In this framework67, people vary in the quality and extent of their investigatory procedures so that, while some may be working to establish an ordered and meaningful world which is not highly predictable or readily explained, others may be content that they already have all the necessary explanatory constructs.

In Kelly’s theory, each individual deals with the world in terms of a hierarchial system of constructs with which people, objects and events are compared, contrasted and predicted. Core constructs have relatively superordinate positions and a large range of convenience while peripheral constructs are relatively subordinate and more easily altered. Waugh compared the personal construct systems of sceptics and believers in the paranormal using a belief questionnaire. Ten subordinate and ten superordinate67constructs were generated using standard procedures and each subject’s constructs were tested for their relative resistance to change and the number of implications entailed by changing the subject’s preferred pole on the 20 constructs and 10 paranormal beliefs (Fig. 3).

Believers’ core constructs were significantly more resistant to change and there was a parallel difference in the number of implications resulting from changes at the superordinate level. Compared with sceptics, believers seem to possess much tighter construct systems in which any change at the core level implies a significantly greater upheaval or threat. Waugh also found that believers had significantly higher neuroticism scores than sceptics (see also ref. 68). These data are congruent with those reported by Zusne and Jones57 who found that believers are less flexible than sceptics when confronted with disconfirming evidence. Content analyses of believers’ construct systems indicate the presence of spiritual, non-materialist constructs at superordinate level. Such core constructs are not easily shaken because they are closed off from empirical considerations and appear to be impermeable to rational persuasion. Hence the feeling of futility experienced in trying to hold rational discussion between believer and sceptic; one could well be arguing about the existence of God. Belief in the paranormal is metaphysical and therefore not subject to the constraints of empirically based science.

Parascience has all the qualities of a magical system while wearing the mantle of science. Until any significant discoveries are made, science can justifiably ignore it, but it is important to say why: parascience is a pseudo-scientific system of untestable beliefs steeped in illusion, error and fraud.

I thank Jerry Andrus, Bob Audley, Ray Hyman, A. R. Jonckheere, Peter McKellar, J. Randi, Christopher Scott, Jean Waugh and many colleagues in CSICOP for useful discussions and information. The late Richard Kammann contributed substantially in the earlier stages of this research.

Notes

  1. Kurtz, P. Skeptical Inquirer 3, 14-32 (1978).
  2. Diaconis. P. Science 201, 131-136 (1978).
  3. Hansel. C. E. M. ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Reevaluation(Prometheus, Buffalo. 1980).
  4. Marks. D. & Kammann, R. The Psychology of the Psychic (Prometheus, Buffalo, 1980).
  5. Alcock. J. E. Parapsychology: Science of Magic? (Pergamon, Oxford, 1981).
  6. Frazier. K. (ed.). Paranormal Borderlands of Science(Prometheus, Buffalo. 1981).
  7. Gardner, M. Science Good Bad and Bogus (Prometheus, Buffalo. 1981).
  8. Randi. J. Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP. Unicorns. and Other Delusions(Prometheus. Buffalo. 1982).
  9. Kurtz. P. Skeptical Inquirer 8, 239-246 (1984).
  10. Frazier. K. (ed.) Science Confronts the Paranormal (Prometheus. Buffalo, 1985).
  11. Kurtz, P. (ed.) A Skeptics Handbook of Parapsychology (Prometheus. Buffalo, 1985).
  12. Bunge, M. Skeptical Inquirer 9, 36-46 (1984).
  13. Tiller, W. A. New Scient. 62, 160-163 (1974).
  14. Pehek, J.O.,Kyler, H.J. & Faust. D. L. Science 194, 263-270 (1976).
  15. Houdini Miracle Mongers and Their Methods (Prometheus, Buffalo, 1981).
  16. Leikind, B. J. & McCarthy, W. J. Skeptical Inquirer 10, 23-34 (1985).
  17. Vogt, E. H. & Hyman, R. Waterwitching USA 2nd edn (Chicago University Press. 1979).
  18. Randi, J Skeptical Inquirer 8, 329-333 (1984).
  19. Martin. M. Skeptical Inquirer 8, 138-140 (1983).
  20. Randi, J. The Magic of Uri Geller (Ballantine, New York, 1975).
  21. Fuller, U. Confessions of a Psychic (Karl Fulves, Box 433, Teaneck, New Jersey, 1975).
  22. Fuller, U. Further Confessions of a Psychic (Karl Fulves, New Jersey, 1980),
  23. Marks, D. &Kammann. R. Zetetic 1(2),9-17 (1977).
  24. Hyman, R. Zeteric 1(2). 18-37 (1977).
  25. Soal, S. G. & Goldney, K. M. Proc.. Soc. psychical Res. 47, 21-150 (1943).
  26. Scott, C. & Haskell, P. Nature 245, 52-54 (1974).
  27. Marwick, B. Proc.. Soc. psychical Res.56, 250-281 (1978).
  28. Hoebens, P. H. Skeptical Inquirer 6, 32-40 (1981).
  29. De Mille, R. Castandeda’s Journey2nd ed (Capra. Santa Barbara, 1978).
  30. Skinner, B. F. Science and Human Behavior (Macmillan, New York, 1953),
  31. Bunge, M. Method, Model and Matter (Reidel, Dordrecht, 1973).
  32. Schmeidler, G. R. & McConnell, R. A. ESP and Personality Patterns (Yale University Press, 1958).
  33. Collins, H. M. & Pinch. T. J. Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1982).
  34. Taylor, J. Superminds: An Inquiry into the Paranormal (Macmillan, London, 1975).
  35. Barratt, W. Proc.. Soc. psychical Res34, 275–297 (1924)..
  36. Rhine, J. B. The Reach of Mind, 209-214 (Sloane. New York, 1947).
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  38. Flew. A. in Science, Pseudo-Science and Society (edsHanen, M. P., Osler, M. J. & Weyant, R. G.) 55-75 (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, 1980).
  39. Cooper. D. E. in Philosophy and Psychical Research (ed. Thakur, S. C.) 59-80 (Allen & Unwin. London, 1976).
  40. Scriven, M. in Philosophy and Psychical Research (ed. Thakur, S. C.) 181-194 (Allen & Unwin. London. 1976).
  41. Wolman, B. J. (ed.) Handbook of Parapsychology (Van Nostrand. New York. 1977).
  42. Beloff, J. Zetetic Scholar 6, 90-94 (1980).
  43. Morris. R. L. J. Am. Soc. psychical Res. 74, 425-443 (1980).
  44. Akers, C. in Advances in Parapsychological Research Vol. 4 (ed. Krippner, S.) 112-164 (McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1984).
  45. Hyman, R. J. Parapsychol. 49, 3-49 (1985).
  46. Targ, R. & Puthoff, H. E. Nature 252, 602-607 (1974).
  47. Marks, D: F. & Kammann, R. Nature 274. 680-681 (1978).
  48. Hyman, R. Skeptical Inquirer 9, 125~ 145 (1984-5).
  49. Tart, C. T.. Puthoff, H. E. & Targ, R. Nature 284. 191 (1980).
  50. Marks, D. F. Skeptical Inquirer 6, 18-29 (1982).
  51. O’ Keefe, D. Stolen Lightning (Robertson, Oxford, 1982).
  52. Wilson, S. C. & Barber, T. X. in Imagery: Current Theory, Research and Application (ed. Sheikh, A. A.) 340-387 (Wiley. New York, 1983).
  53. Marks, D. & McKellar, P. J. mental imagery 6, 1-124 (1982).
  54. Gurney, E. &Myers, F. W. H. Proc. Soc. psychical Res. 5, 403-485 (1889).
  55. Sidgwick, H. Proc. Soc. psychical Res. 10, 25-422 (1894).
  56. Finucane, R. C. Appearances of the Dead (Prometheus, Buffalo. 1985).
  57. Zusne, L. & Jones, W. H. Anomalistic Psychology (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1982).
  58. Edwards, W. in Formal Representation of Human Judgement (ed. Kleinmuntz, B.) 17-52 (Wiley, New York, 1968).
  59. Nisbett, R. & Ross, L. Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Clills. 1980).
  60. Hoebens, P. H. Skeptical Inquirer 7, 38-45 (1982).
  61. Klass, P. J. Zetetic 2, 57-61 (1977).
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View or download original article here.

H J Eysenck’s ‘Unsafe’ Publications Total 148

This post updates the situation regarding publications by Hans J Eysenck that are deemed ‘unsafe’. The 148 publications include 87 publications identified by David F Marks and Roderick D Buchanan and 61 papers in two journals flagged by SAGE Publications on 10 February 2020 (details below).

To date, only fourteen of HJ Eysenck’s 148 suspect papers have been retracted. A list containing  details of 61 of the suspect papers was published more than a year ago.

Why are journals so slow to retract such obviously dubious papers?

Complacent, Complicit Institutions

A large part of the blame lies with King’s College London, where Hans J Eysenck’s Institute is affiliated. The institution has been slow and reluctant to act. KCL conducted a review of Eysenck’s publications but failed to complete the job. A recent editorial with Eysenck’s biographer, Rod D Buchanan, called on KCL to properly complete their review. To date, KCL has given no response.

Equally culpable is the British Psychological Society. The only professional association of psychologists in Britain has refused to do anything at all.  How can the British public feel protected from ‘fake news’ and fraud if the Society responsible for policing psychological practice in the UK sticks its head in the sand?  An utter disgrace!

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Remember that according to HJE, the connection between smoking and cancer was unproven. Moreover cancer and heart disease can be caused by one’s own personality!

Yet the BPS has done nothing to correct these blatant falsehoods.

To this day, the Society continues to bolster up HJE’s flagging reputation.

The Society’s magazine published a letter claiming that this author’s request for an inquiry into H J Eysenck: “…is representative of the very type of smear campaign and witch-hunting which Eysenck was subjected to previously.”

The British Psychological Society’s complicity in Eysenck’s discredited publication record and its refusal to take any action whatsoever is shameful. It is evident that the BPS is more interested in protecting its own than the British public.

Shared responsibility

The responsibility for H J E’s many suspect publications cannot be laid only at Eysenck’s door.  The many co-authors of the long list of suspect publication were required to vouch for the authenticity of the data, analyses and conclusions when the papers were accepted for publication.

Many of the suspect papers were co-authored with well-known figures in the Psychology discipline including HJE’s second wife, Sybil  B.G Eysenck. Other co-authors include professors holding chairs in the University of London, Professors Adrian Furnham,  and Chris Frith at University College London.  Paul Barrett, was co-director with Hans Eysenck of the Biosignal Lab at the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry for 14 years, and currently is Chief Research Scientist at Cognadev (UK and SA), and Professor of Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Another of HJE’s co-authors is Richard Lynn, a former professor of psychology at Ulster University, having had the title withdrawn by the university in 2018, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Mankind Quarterly, which has been described as a “white supremacist journal”. Hans Eysenck’s eugenicist convictions will be the subject of a later post.

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No publications in the two journals founded by HJE have yet been retracted. However, three have been listed in an Expression of Concern: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.109855

In spite of the obvious fraud, the journal Personality and Individual Differences, one of the journals founded by HJE, retracts nothing. PAID cannot bring itself to publicly acknowledge that HJE was a charlatan. Many who signed an expression of concern are Eysenck’s co-authors, including Barrett, referred to above. No conflict of interest there then.

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Full bibliographic details can be found at the Retraction Watch database: 14 retractions and 64 expressions of concern.

Journals Slow to Act

73 items are pending any response by the relevant publishers. The publishers are listed in the KCL enquiry report as follows:

Professor Roger Pearson (Editor) Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies Council for Social and Economic Studies PO Box 34143 Washing DC 20043, USA (1 paper).

Michelle G. Craske (Editor) Behaviour Research and Therapy Department of Psychology University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563 California, USA (4 papers).

Dr Donald Saklofske Personality and Individual Differences Department of Psychology University of Western Ontario Canada (4 papers).

Jaan Valsiner (Editor-in-Chief) Intergrative Psychological and Behavioral Science Department of Psychology Clark University Worcester, MA 01610-1477, USA (1 paper).

Professor Oi Ling Siu (Editor) International Journal of Stress Management WYL201/1 Dorothy Y L Wong Building Department of Applied Psychology Lingnan University Tuen Mun Hong Kong (1 paper).

Werner Strik (Editor) Neuropsychobiology University Hospital of Psychiatry Waldau Page 8 of 9 CH-3000 Bern 60 Switzerland (1 paper).

Adam S. Radomsky (Editor) Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry L-PY 101-4 Psychology Building 7141 Sherbrooke W. Concordia University in Montreal Canada (1 paper).

Timothy R Elliott (Editor) Journal of Clinical Psychology Education & Human Development Texas A&M University 713A Harrington Office Building (2 papers).

How much longer do these journals need to wait?

Two journals published by SAGE have already listed 13 retractions and expressions of concern on 61 papers. Other journals need to follow suit.

Psychological Reports Expression of Concern

https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294120901991

The Journal Editor and SAGE Publishing hereby issue an expression of concern for the following articles:

  1. Eysenck, H. J. (1955). Psychiatric Diagnosis as a Psychological and Statistical Problem. Psychological Reports1(1), 3–17. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1955.1.g.3
  2. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1964). “Acquiescence” Response Set in Personality Inventory Items. Psychological Reports14(2), 513–514. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1964.14.2.513
  3. Eysenck, H. J. (1956). Diagnosis and Measurement: A Reply to Loevinger. Psychological Reports2(3), 117–118. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1956.2.3.117
  4. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Physiological Reactivity to Sensory Stimulation as a Measure of Personality. Psychological Reports20(1), 45–46. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1967.20.1.45
  5. Sartory, G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Strain Differences in Acquisition and Extinction of Fear Responses in Rats. Psychological Reports38(1), 163–187. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.38.1.163
  6. Bruni, P., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Structure of Attitudes—An Italian Sample. Psychological Reports38(3), 956–958. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.38.3.956
  7. Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Structure of Social Attitudes. Psychological Reports39(2), 463–466. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.39.2.463
  8. Eysenck, S. B. G., White, O., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Personality and Mental Illness. Psychological Reports39(3), 1011–1022. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.39.3.1011
  9. Eysenck, H. J. (1958). The Nature of Anxiety and the Factorial Method. Psychological Reports4(2), 453–454. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1958.4.h.453
  10. Hewitt, J. K., Eysenck, H. J., & Eaves, L. J. (1977). Structure of Social Attitudes after Twenty-Five Years: A Replication. Psychological Reports40(1), 183–188. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.40.1.183
  11. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1977). Personality Differences between Prisoners and Controls. Psychological Reports40(3_suppl), 1023–1028. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.40.3c.1023
  12. Eysenck, H. J. (1977). National Differences in Personality as Related to ABO Blood Group Polymorphism. Psychological Reports41(3_suppl), 1257–1258. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.41.3f.1257
  13. Hewitt, J. K., Fulker, D. W., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Effect of Strain and Level of Shock on the Behaviour of Rats in PSI Experiments. Psychological Reports42(3_suppl), 1103–1108. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1978.42.3c.1103
  14. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Impulsiveness and Venturesomeness: Their Position in a Dimensional System of Personality Description. Psychological Reports43(3_suppl), 1247–1255. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1978.43.3f.1247
  15. Eysenck, H. J. (1979). Personality Factors in a Random Sample of the Population. Psychological Reports44(3_suppl), 1023–1027. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1979.44.3c.1023
  16. Eysenck, H. J. (1980). Psychology of the Scientist: XLIV. Sir Cyril Burt: Prominence versus Personality. Psychological Reports46(3), 893–894. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1980.46.3.893
  17. Eysenck, H. J. (1980). Personality, Marital Satisfaction, and Divorce. Psychological Reports47(3_suppl), 1235–1238. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1980.47.3f.1235
  18. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Comments on a Test of the Personality-Satiation-Inhibition Theory. Psychological Reports5(2), 395–396. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.h.395
  19. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and Verbal Conditioning. Psychological Reports5(2), 570–570. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.h.570
  20. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and Problem Solving. Psychological Reports5(3), 592–592. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.3.592
  21. Eysenck, H. J. (1982). The Biological Basis of Cross-Cultural Differences in Personality: Blood Group Antigens. Psychological Reports51(2), 531–540. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1982.51.2.531
  22. Eysenck, H. J. (1987). Comments on “the Orthogonality of Extraversion and Neuroticism Scales.” Psychological Reports61(1), 50–50. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1987.61.1.50
  23. Eysenck, H. J., & Barrett, P. (1993). The Nature of Schizotypy. Psychological Reports73(1), 59–63. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1993.73.1.59
  24. Eysenck, H. J. (1995). Some Comments on the Gough Socialization Scale. Psychological Reports76(1), 298–298. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1995.76.1.298
  25. Eysenck, H. J., Eysenck, S. B. G., & Barrett, P. (1995). Personality Differences According to Gender. Psychological Reports76(3), 711–716. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1995.76.3.711

Perceptual and Motor Skills Expression of Concern

https://doi.org/10.1177/0031512520901993

  1. Frith, C. D., & Eysenck, H. J. (1982). Reminiscence and Learning: One or Many? Perceptual and Motor Skills54(2), 494–494. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1982.54.2.494
  2. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1960). Reminiscence on the Spiral After-Efect as a Function of Length of Rest and Number of Pre-Rest Trials. Perceptual and Motor Skills10(2), 93–94. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.10.2.93
  3. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence, Extraversion and Neuroticism. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(1), 21–22. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.1.21
  4. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence as a Function of Rest, Practice, and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(1), 91-94E. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.1.91
  5. Eysenck, H. J., & Holland, H. (1960). Length of Spiral After-Effect as a Function of Drive. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 129–130. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.129
  6. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence and Post-Rest Increment after Massed Practice. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 221–222. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.221
  7. Holland, H., & Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Spiral After-Effect as a Function of Length of Stimulation. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 228–228. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.228
  8. Lynn, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1961). Tolerance for Pain, Extraversion and Neuroticism. Perceptual and Motor Skills12(2), 161–162. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1961.12.2.161
  9. Costello, C. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1961). Persistence, Personality, and Motivation. Perceptual and Motor Skills12(2), 169–170. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1961.12.2.169
  10. Eysenck, H. J., & Willett, R. A. (1962). Cue Utilization as a Function of Drive: An Experimental Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(1), 229–230. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.1.229
  11. Eysenck, H. J., & Willett, R. A. (1962). Performance and Reminiscence on a Symbol Substitution Task as a Function of Drive. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(2), 389–390. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.2.389
  12. Eysenck, H. J. (1962). Figural After-Effects, Personality, and Inter-Sensory Comparisons. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(2), 405–406. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.2.405
  13. Eysenck, H. J. (1964). Involuntary Rest Pauses in Tapping as a Function of Drive and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills18(1), 173–174. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1964.18.1.173
  14. Eysenck, H. J. (1966). On the Dual Function of Consolidation. Perceptual and Motor Skills22(1), 273–274. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1966.22.1.273
  15. Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Factor-Analytic Study of the Maitland Graves Design Judgment Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills24(1), 73–74. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1967.24.1.73
  16. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Salivary Response to Lemon Juice as a Measure of Introversion. Perceptual and Motor Skills24(3_suppl), 1047–1053. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1967.24.3c.1047
  17. Eysenck, H. J. (1969). A New Theory of Post-Rest Upswing or “Warm-up” in Motor Learning. Perceptual and Motor Skills28(3), 992–994. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1969.28.3.992
  18. Eysenck, H. J. (1970). An Application of the Maitland Graves Design Judgment Test to Professional Artists. Perceptual and Motor Skills30(2), 589–590. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1970.30.2.589
  19. Eysenck, S. B. G., Russell, T., & Eysenck, H. J. (1970). Extraversion, Intelligence, and Ability to Draw a Person. Perceptual and Motor Skills30(3), 925–926. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1970.30.3.925
  20. Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Relation between Intelligence and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills32(2), 637–638. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.32.2.637
  21. Eysenck, H. J., & Iwawaki, S. (1971). Cultural Relativity in Aesthetic Judgments: An Empirical Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills32(3), 817–818. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.32.3.817
  22. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Attitudes to Sex, Personality and LIE Scale Scores. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(1), 216–218. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.1.216
  23. Wilson, G. D., Tunstall, O. A., & Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Individual Differences in Tapping Performance as a Function of Time on the Task. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(2), 375–378. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.2.375
  24. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1971). The Orthogonality of Psychoticism and Neuroticism: A Factorial Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(2), 461–462. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.2.461
  25. Eysenck, H. J. (1972). Preference Judgments for Polygons, Designs, and Drawings. Perceptual and Motor Skills34(2), 396–398. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.34.2.396
  26. Bone, R. N., & Eysenck, H. J. (1972). Extraversion, Field-Dependence, and the Stroop Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills34(3), 873–874. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.34.3.873
  27. Eysenck, H. J., & Soueif, M. (1972). An Empirical Test of the Theory of Sexual Symbolism. Perceptual and Motor Skills35(3), 945–946. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.35.3.945
  28. Allsopp, J. F., & Eysenck, H. J. (1974). Personality as a Determinant of Paired-Associates Learning. Perceptual and Motor Skills39(1), 315–324. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1974.39.1.315
  29. Götz, K. O., Lynn, R., Borisy, A. R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1979). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test: I. Construction and Psychometric Properties. Perceptual and Motor Skills49(3), 795–802. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1979.49.3.795
  30. Iwawaki, S., Eysenck, H. J., & Götz, K. O. (1979). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test (VAST): II. Cross-Cultural Comparison between England and Japan. Perceptual and Motor Skills49(3), 859–862. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1979.49.3.859
  31. Chan, J., Eysenck, H. J., & Götz, K. O. (1980). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test: III. Cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong Children and Adults, and English and Japanese Samples. Perceptual and Motor Skills50(3_suppl), 1325–1326. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1980.50.3c.1325
  32. Frith, C. D., & Eysenck, H. J. (1981). Reminiscence—Psychomotor Learning: A Reply to Coppage and Payne. Perceptual and Motor Skills53(3), 842–842. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1981.53.3.842
  33. Chan, J. W. C., Eysenck, H. J., & Lynn, R. (1991). Reaction Times and Intelligence among Hong Kong Children. Perceptual and Motor Skills72(2), 427–433. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1991.72.2.427
  34. Lynn, R., Chan, J. W. C., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Reaction Times and Intelligence in Chinese and British Children. Perceptual and Motor Skills72(2), 443–452. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1991.72.2.443
  35. Eysenck, H. J., & Furnham, A. (1993). Personality and the Barron-Welsh Art Scale. Perceptual and Motor Skills76(3), 837–838. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1993.76.3.837
  36. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and the Estimation of Time. Perceptual and Motor Skills9(3), 405–406. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1959.9.3.405

CONCLUSION

The list of unsafe publications grows and grows. How many more can there be? And when will the scientific record finally be corrected?

 

 

 

 

 

A reset for Psychology as natural science

A NEW GENERAL THEORY OF BEHAVIOUR
Homeostasis, the state of steady internal conditions, is a well-established principle in living systems. Here I discuss ‘Psychological Homeostasis’, a construct which gives rise to three ‘big ideas’: a new general theory of behaviour; an alternative theory of evolution; and unifying Psychology as part of natural science.

My aim is to persuade you that these ideas have legs. Psychology’s fragmentation and its separation from the natural sciences can – and must – be repaired. Here I offer one way to take this unification project forward.

We are all familiar with the thermostat on the wall that we use to regulate the room temperature. We are also familiar with a process inside the body called ‘physiological homoeostasis’ which controls variables such as our body temperature and fluid balance to keep them within pre-set limits (Cannon, 1929). What is new and less well established is the idea of a ‘Behavioural Thermostat’, a type of psychological homeostasis striving to control the equilibrium and stability of the external environment. Let’s call this concept ‘Homeostasis Type 2’ or ‘HT2’ for short.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HOMEOSTASIS

I wish to argue that Psychological Homeostasis is every bit as important as its physiological counterpart. It is designed to keep everything in the surrounding environment ‘ticking over’, not too ‘hot’ and not too ‘cold’. HT2 is an innate process built to quietly keep everything ‘cushty’ (as Jamie Oliver might put it).

There are several popular idioms about this process: it is said that ‘we don’t like to rock the boat’, ‘cause waves’, ‘ruffle feathers’ or ‘upset the apple cart’. I want to suggest that the HT2 is so indispensably routine that most of us for most of the time simply aren’t aware of its existence. Just as fish don’t know they’re in water, we don’t know we’re in homeostasis. Yet – I wish to argue – all of our behaviour, thinking, and feelings are ultimately controlled by it.

If that sounds a little bit scary, it doesn’t need to be. Homeostasis isn’t a malevolent force, it’s doing good, making our lives easier. HT2 brings multiple forms of help and healing free at the point of delivery, like an in-built NHS. HT2 is one of those rare, ‘good-news’ stories. It’s all about preventing and fixing things before there is a breakdown. If we see an apple cart about to turn over, we stop it from happening. If we see one that’s already overturned, a situation in need of repair, then we set about repairing it. HT2 repairs and ‘resets’ on a routine basis, guiding our behaviour.

I explain why this is possible in my new book A General Theory of Behaviour (Marks, 2018). The General Theory consists of 20 principles and 80 auxiliary propositions that make predictions at individual, social and societal levels.

Admittedly there is ‘nothing new under the sun’, and the theory has links with other motivational theories, especially Conservation of Resources Theory (Hobfoll, 1989). Yet the construct of Psychological Homeostasis as an analogue of its physiological cousin has never been systematically developed. In 1848 German physicist Gustav Fechner used the term Lustprinzip. Fifty years later Sigmund Freud copied this idea with the ‘Pleasure Principle’, which has an almost exact equivalent in Cannon’s concept of homeostasis, which in turn has the goal of tension reduction for the sake of maintaining, or restoring, the inner equilibrium (Marks, 2018, p.40). The General Theory holds that striving for equilibrium is a primary motivation of behaviour, not only pleasure seeking or pain avoidance, as suggested by the Law of Effect.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty – how exactly does Psychological Homeostasis work? Firstly, the theory proposes an internal director (a ‘Reset Equilibrium Function’ or ‘REF’) that strives to keep everything ‘cushty’. If, as Shakespeare viaJaques famously asserts, ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’, actors must each have an internal director. The REF-director guides each individual towards winning rewards and avoiding losses. Individuals can’t win Oscars but they can appear authentic, smooth and convincing to participants and onlookers. The goal of the REF is to strive for the best performance of the actor in balance with, and collaboration from, the other actors in the ‘drama’. By persuasion, recruitment and/or manipulation, gains are maximised and losses minimised in a zero-sum game.

The REF thus directs individual actions, prevents and fixes problems and eliminating barriers before any situation becomes uncontrollable. It helps to make the world livable and as comfortable as possible, an internal fixer and mixer. Wherever we go and whatever we are doing, the REF within us is striving to maintain good family and public relations, and a tolerable balance of safety and stability in our physical and social surroundings. If there are competing drives, conflicts, and inconsistencies pulling the flow of events ‘off balance’, our innate REF system guides us back inside our comfort zones.

THE REF

The REF is triggered whenever a process moves beyond its set point or set range. As a general rule, the majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them.Of course, nobody has the power to win the battle for ‘calm’, ‘balance’ and ‘control’ on every occasion. Inconveniences, mistakes and an occasional calamity raise their ugly heads sooner or later. A measured response is necessary to restore equilibrium and there are certainly different styles and  ‘personalities’ influencing the best way to go about this. Potentially a single action can push a system out of its comfort zone requiring reset. When a process resets, a ‘domino-effect’ tends to occur when other interconnected processes require a reset also.

One drink too many might bring on a sleepless night and an early morning hangover causing a missed meeting and a ticking off from the boss. An angry outburst from one unhappy individual may provoke others and the boss might have to send round an email about the importance of punctuality. It’s all grist to the homeostasis mill. Yet we cannot live without homeostasis, and evolution itself would not have progressed so much in our favour.

AN ALTERNATIVE THEORY OF EVOLUTION

At every level of existence, from the cell to the organism, from the individual to the population, and from the local ecosystem to the entire planet, homeostasis is a driving force towards stability, security and adaptation to change. One way in which homeostasis guides evolution is through niche construction (Lewontin, 1983). Like many other organisms, humans actively adapt the environment, not simply adapt to it. Niche construction alters ecological processes, modifies natural selection and contributes to inheritance (Laland, 2017).  The sweep of niche construction is broad, incorporating many aspects of behaviour including ownership of goods and property, self-decoration and design, and the marking of identity.

The individual organism extends its ability to thrive in nature by using HT2 to build niches. Humans are prolific cultivators of food, clothing, construction materials, fuel, alcohol, drugs, and ornaments. All are forms of self-extension designed to create zones of safety and identity. Classic examples in nature are the dam-building of beavers and the propogation of fruit by bowerbirds for use in sexual display. It has been suggested that male spotted bowerbirds Ptilonorhynchus (Chlamyderamaculata use the fruit of Solanum ellipticum not as food but as components of sexual display. Madden et al. (2012) observed that males indirectly cultivate plants bearing these fruit – the first known cultivation of a non-food item by a non-human species.

Niche construction promotes identity, security and survival, which in some cases (e.g. houses) can be passed to the next generation. I believe that niche construction is homeostatically-driven. To quote J. Scott Turner’s book Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It: ‘Niche construction …[allows] organisms to manipulate environments to suit themselves, essentially constructing their own ecological niches, and so, in some sense controlling the selective milieus they inhabit.’

We humans are prolific niche constructors. Tools, weapons, fire, domestication of animals, language, money, goods, agriculture, science, technology, engineering, medicine, culture, music, literature, the Internet and social media all enhance safety, identity and control. By constructing inhabitable zones of safety, humans have learned to survive in extreme environments such as the polar regions, outer space, on the surface of the moon and there are plans to settle on the planet Mars. When a human habitat is extended with possessions, the possessions themselves become part of personal identity. William James (1890) wrote: ‘a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give him the same emotions’.

Other examples of niche construction as identity-marking include clothing and the beauty industry, and the motor car. Enzo Ferrari, once said: ‘The fact is I don’t drive just to get from A to B. I enjoy feeling the car’s reactions, becoming part of it.’ ‘Becoming part of it’, whether driving to maximise safety or to gain the adrenaline rush of speeding, the feeling of oneness is palpable. Driver and car are as one (Marks, 2018, pp. 66-67).

In producing safety, security and thriving, HT2 and niche construction co-direct adaptive evolution. They provide a second pathway for an adaptive fit between organisms and the environment. I agree with Turner who suggests: ‘homeostasis does not derive from natural selection; it is homeostasis that drives selection.’ And note the down-side to niche construction – niche destruction by climate change. Psychological perspectives on this, ‘the largest social dilemma in history’, are reviewed in a recent article in The Psychologist (Brick and van der Linden, 2018).

UNIFYING PSYCHOLOGY AS PART OF NATURAL SCIENCE

Homeostasis is a reset and repair agent, a DIY specialist. The Psychology Discipline itself is one object in need of an urgent DIY makeover. The General Theory springs into action to bring unity to Psychology as part of natural science.

Psychology claims to be a science, yet there are so many sub-regions, mini-theories and models, and no generally accepted paradigm. Our professional society for psychologists in the UK, the British Psychological Society, is emblematic of the discipline. The extreme diversity of the Society with dozens of divisions, special groups and sections, is an undoubted strength. Yet it is also reveals weakness. Where is the collective vision of our science? We do not have one. We are lacking a backbone.

Commentators suggest that a major redesign of the discipline is long overdue. The majority of psychologists agree that integration is necessary. Fragmentation has been a longstanding and difficult problem. Over more than a century, fragmentation has been called a ‘crisis’. The extreme plight of the discipline has been the subject of a penetrating book, Psychology in Crisis by Brian Hughes, who wrote about it recently in this very magazine.

So I humbly offer my General Theory as a unifying force, both for psychology research currently out there and to drive future study. I argue that the theory can make falsifiable predictions on a vast range of topics, encompassing the whole of Psychology… learning, striving, action, making friends, falling in love, self-control and addiction, surfing the internet, work, sleep and so much more.

I already see published research which chimes with my thinking on the General Theory:

–       Natural field experiment in a public car park found that subjects for whom other drivers stopped were more than twice as likely to extend a similar act to a third party, indicating indirect reciprocity (Mujcic & Leibbrandt, 2018). This mirrors my prediction that we strive to achieve goals while maximising cohesion and cooperation with kith and kin and, at the same time, striving to take away or minimise the suffering and pain of others.

–       Social observational studies find that police officers frequently employ de-escalation tactics, including the ‘respect’ tactic, the ‘human’ tactic and the ‘honest’ tactic, which are associated with a calming of a citizen’s demeanour (Todak & James, 2018). This mirrors my prediction that the majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten local disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them.

–       Studies suggest that the forebrain provides a common central mechanism for both physiological and psychological homeostasis (Edlow et al., 2016). This suggests that, as I propose in my book, homeostasis of both Types I and II is controlled by a single executive controller in the forebrain.

NEXT STEPS

I have given only the briefest taste of what the theory holds. I know these are bold, wide-ranging claims. If you disagree with what I have set out, challenge me. If you find aspects you agree with, join me on this journey. The next steps require investigations aimed at falsification of the General Theory. However long it takes, our broken discipline needs to be put together into one beautiful whole. It needs a backbone.

REFERENCES

Brick, C. and van der Linden, S. (2018). Yawning at the apocalypse. The Psychologist, September, 30-35.

Cannon, W. B. (1929). Organization for physiological homeostasis. Physiological reviews9(3), 399-431.

Edlow, B. L., McNab, J.A., Witzel, T. and Kinney, H.C. (2016). The structural connectome of the human central homeostatic network. Brain Connectivity, 6(3), 187–200.

Marks, David F.. A General Theory of Behaviour (SAGE Swifts) (p. 23). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Hobfoll, S.E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524.

Hughes, B.M. (2018). Psychology in crisis. London: Palgrave.

Hughes, B.M. (2018). Does psychology face and exaggeration crisis? The Psychologist, October, 8-10.

James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Holt and Company. pp. 291–292.

Laland, K.N. (2017). Darwin’s unfinished symphony how culture made the human mind. Princeton, NJ: Printeton University Press.

Lewontin RC (1983). Gene, organism and environment. In: Bendall, D. S. (Ed.). Evolution from molecules to men. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Madden, J. R., Dingle, C., Isden, J., Sparfeld, J., Goldizen, A. W., & Endler, J. A. (2012). Male spotted bowerbirds propagate fruit for use in their sexual display. Current biology22(8), R264-R265.

Marks, D. F. (2018). A General Theory of Behaviour (SAGE Swifts) SAGE Publications.

Mujcic, R., & Leibbrandt, A. (2018). Indirect reciprocity and prosocial behaviour: Evidence from a natural field experiment. The Economic Journal128(611), 1683-1699.

Todak, N. & James, L. (2018). A Systematic Social Observation Study of Police De-Escalation Tactics. Police Quarterly, 1098611118784007.

Turner, J.S. (2017). Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It. New York: HarperCollins.

Personality and Fatal Diseases: Revisiting a Scientific Scandal

During the 1980s and 1990s, Hans J Eysenck conducted a programme of research into the causes, prevention and treatment of fatal diseases in collaboration with one of his protégés, Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. This led to what must be the most astonishing series of findings ever published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature with effect sizes that have never otherwise been encounterered in biomedical research. This article outlines just some of these reported findings and signposts readers to extremely serious scientific and ethical criticisms that were published almost three decades ago. Confidential internal documents that have become available as a result of litigation against tobacco companies provide additional insights into this work. It is suggested that this research programme has led to one of the worst scientific scandals of all time. A call is made for a long overdue formal inquiry.

Read paper at:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1359105318822045

Video Introduction to A General Theory of Behaviour

Psychological Homeostasis

‘An obscure public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’

23rd August 2018

At 30,000 feet on the midday flight from Marseille to Heathrow, I am thinking how to spend the afternoon. Unable to go straight home because an estate agent has arranged a viewing with a potential tenant, how would I fill this time?  I decide to go for lunch at one of my local haunts on the Thames bank, the City Barge.

Set aside for a moment the fact that the estate agent who had arranged the viewing was Chesterton’s, a family firm with connections to the writer GK Chesterton (1874 – 1936), ‘the prince of paradox’.  A few seconds after I made the  decision to go for a pub lunch ‘on the Chiswick bank of the river’, I open my kindle and make a fairly random decision to continue reading ‘The Man Who Was Thursday, a Nightmare by Gilbert K Chesterton (GKC).

I flip over the page to see in stark black and white a description of that very place which, moments previously, I had decided to visit, viz:

“”I think,” said Gregory, with placid irrelevancy, “that we will call a cab.” He gave two long whistles, and a hansom came rattling down the road. The two got into it in silence. Gregory gave through the trap the address of an obscure public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river. The cab whisked itself away again, and in it these two fantastics quitted their fantastic town.”

Coincidence is both puzzling and remarkable, a contiguity of events that appear to have no causal connecting principle between one another. A coincidence that seems to go way beyond the laws of chance can elicit a strong sense of the paranormal. I analyse here the ‘Chiswick Coincidence’ for the light it may shed on anomalistic experience.[1]  The correspondence between the free and voluntary thought of going to the pub on the Chiswick side of the river and Gregory’s choice to do the identical thing is particularly striking. This coincidence, like others that I,  or close family members, have experienced is multi-layered. I discuss here each of these 7 layers.[2]

First layer

The ‘Chiswick Coincidence’ consists of two contiguous elements:

Element 1: My decision to go to the City Barge for lunch (because my flat was being viewed by Chestertons).

Then seconds later:

Element 2:  I read the line ‘an obscure public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’ in the book by GKC.

Thus, the  first layer of coincidence is the fact that the estate agent and the author GKC are members of the same family.

Second layer

The second layer is the fact that the decision to go to the Chiswick riverside pub was followed only a few seconds later by reading a piece of text referring to a ‘public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’. My immediate reaction being “Wow!”, “Whoa!” “WTX!” in no particular order.

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Historical records indicate that The City Barge has existed since 1484 when it was known as ‘The Navigator’s Arms’. Its first appearance in the licensing lists was in 1787 when it was the ‘City Navigation Barge’. As the ‘City Barge’ it was refurbished in 2014.  Historical sources point to at least 5 or 6 pubs on the Chiswick side of the river at the time of GKC’s story. The pub mentioned by GKC could have been any or none of these, perhaps only a figment of GKC’s fluid imagination. Two clues make the City Barge a good candidate however. Photographs of the City Barge from 1910, two years after the publication of TMWWTAN, show Thames barges actually tied up directly outside the City Barge. Also, when the two characters in GKC’s story, Gregory and Syme, leave the pub, they go out by the door and “close to the opening lay a dark dwarfish steam-launch”. This description fits the immediate riverside proximity of The City Barge perfectly.[3]

A kindle is a portable library. Mine is 1.33 GB of books, both fiction and non-fiction – the complete works of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, Joyce, Austen, Pepys, Swift, Zola and much more.  On the date in question, there were 498 works containing 146,817 pages [4]. With 350 words per page, there were around 50 million words on my kindle.  The odds of seeing the words “public-house on the Chiswick bank” on the first page I opened is around one-in-10 million (10-7).

Third layer

I checked my diary for the days immediately following the date of this event (23rd August 2018). My diary says that I would be meeting my publisher Robert Patterson to discuss a new book on Psychology and the Paranormal.. Was I perhaps on the lookout for anomalistic experience at this time? If so, I had been presented with a brilliant example.

Fourth layer

The idea of writing this book meant that I would soon be seeking new material. Although I was at the early stages when this incident happened, I can imagine no more suitable an illustration for a book on anomalous experience than this very incident. Reflecting back on this period, I can see how helpful the coincidence was in resetting my paranormal ‘Belief Barometer’.

Fifth layer

Enter – or, I should say, re-enter – Martin Gardner.  Martin had kindly contributed Forewords to editions of my previous book on ‘psi’ (Marks and Kammann, 1980; Marks, 2000).[6]  Sadly, Martin died in 2010 leaving a huge legacy of 100s of literary and scholarly works with a readership of millions. I have copies of many of Martin’s books including Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (Dover, 1957), Mathematics, Magic and Mystery (Dover, 1956), The Annotated Alice. The Definitive Edition. Lewis Carroll (W W Norton, 2000).

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In researching TMWWTAN I made the discovery that Martin had written a Special Annotated Edition of TMWWTAN (Gardner and Chesterton, Ignatius Press, 1999). Goose bump territory! How very strange. Discovering this Special Annotated Edition seemed enigmatic and enthralling in equal measure. The three-way connection between Gilbert K Chesterton, Martin Gardner and the very book I am writing does not end here.

Sixth layer

As Chesterton noted, “hardly anybody who looked at the title ever seems to have looked at the sub-title; which was “A Nightmare,” and the answer to a good many critical questions” (Autobiography, Kindle Locations 1301-1303). Two key themes of TMWWTAN are free will and evil.  The Chiswick Coincidence triggered a change in my stance from disbelieving skeptic to neutral inquirer.  My eyes were opened to the genius of Gilbert K Chesterton, certainly a special writer and TMWWTAN is no ordinary book. It has been rated as one of the greatest works of 20th century literature. To quote from the American Chesterton Society website (https://www.chesterton.org/who-is-this-guy/):

“Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) cannot be summed up in one sentence. Nor in one paragraph…But rather than waiting to separate the goats from the sheep, let’s just come right out and say it: G.K. Chesterton was the best writer of the 20th century…The reason he was the greatest writer of the 20th century was because he was also the greatest thinker of the 20th century… What was it he defended? He defended “the common man” and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith.”

I was pleasantly surprised to read the above description that GFK defended the “common man”, common sense and the poor, my own values exactly.  Clearly, Gilbert Chesterton also made no secret of the fact that he believed in God, prayer and the afterlife.

Seventh layer

 Like GKC, and he also made no secret of it, Martin Gardner believed in God, prayer and the afterlife. In his autobiography, Martin stated he loved reading “anything by G. K. because of his never-ceasing emotions of wonder and gratitude to God, not only for such complicated things as himself, his wife, and the universe, but for such “tremendous trifles” (as he once called them) as rain, sunlight, flowers, trees, colours, stars, even stones that “shine along the road / That are and cannot be,” (Undiluted Hocus-Pocus.The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, 2013, p. 205).

GKC, together with the Basque philosopher and poet Miguel de Unamuno, were Martin’s two mentors. Martin’s autobiography mentions God no less than 128 times.[7] According to Martin Gardner (2013):

“Just as knowing how a magic trick is done spoils all its wonder, so let us be grateful that wherever science and reason turn they plunge finally into stygian darkness. I am not in the least annoyed because I do not understand time and space, or consciousness, or free will, or evil, or why the universe is made the way it is. I am relieved beyond measure that I do not need to comprehend more than dimly the nature of God or an afterlife. I do not want to be blinded by truths beyond the capacity of my eyes and brain and heart. I am as contented as a Carnap with the absence of rational methods for penetrating ultimate mysteries” (p. 341).

For a lot of different reasons, and in completely unexpected ways, the Chiswick Coincidence opened my eyes.  At a seventh layer, I find that the coincidence revealed another synchronicity: the shared values and beliefs of Martin Gardner, in many ways one of most precious mentors, and a man I could never have met, GKC, the author of the metaphysical thriller TMWWTAN.

Combined Probability of Seven Layers

I give estimates here of the probabilities for each layer followed by a combined probability estimate.

Layer 1: The probability that the estate agent and GKC himself are from a single family is estimated to be 10-3. This estimate takes into account the number of West London estate agencies (500+) and the chance that the agent that I had selected would have a strong familial connection with GKC, the central character in this episode.

Layer 2: The probability that my plan to visit the Chiswick riverside pub would be followed a few seconds later by seeing the words ‘public-house on the Chiswick bank ’on the first page of my kindle is estimated to be 10-7. This estimate takes into account the huge quantity of kindle text (in excess of 50 million words) that I could have selected to read on this occasion.

Layer 3:The probability that on the same visit to London I would be meeting my publisher Robert Patterson to discuss a new book is estimated to be 10-1 . This accords with the frequency of such meetings which is approximately once a year.

Layer 4:Taking into account the fact that no contract for the paranormal book existed at the time, the probability that the Chiswick Coincidence would be useful material for this book is estimated to be 10-1   

Layer 5:Taking into account of the fact that, before this incident, I knew almost nothing about GKC,  the probability that somebody I knew, somebody I regarded as a mentor, somebody who had written forewords to two of my  books, Martin Gardner, would also be somebody who had written a Special Annotated Edition of TMWWTAN is estimated to be 10-4

Layer 6: The probability that lifelong personal values, to defend the “common man”, common sense and the poor, I later discovered to be GFK’s values is estimated to be 10-1 [8].

Layer 7: The synchronicity in values and beliefs between Martin Gardner and Gilbert K Chesterton, author of TMWWTAN, is estimated to be a certainty. Martin loved GKC’s writing and shared his values and beliefs.

In addition, it is necessary to consider the boundary conditions. Sitting on an aeroplane on a short-haul flight, offers a variety of activities, viz: doing nothing, doing a puzzle, watching a film, listening to music, snoozing,  chatting,  looking out of the window, drinking a tea or coffee, reading a non-kindle item (newspaper, magazine or book), or reading a kindle. I estimate the probability that I would have chosen to read my kindle on this occasion as one-in-ten ( 10-1 ).

The combined probability P of the seven synchronicities and the boundary condition is:

P  = 10-3 X  10-7 X  10-1 X  10-1   X  10-4   X 10-1  X 1 X  10-1   = 10-18

= one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000  

i.e. one in one quintillion (a million, million, million) [9]

 These odds are so astronomical in scale, one must consider the possibility of a paranormal explanation. Not to do so would seem irrational and contrary to science.

Explaining the Coincidence

How might this remarkable 7-layered coincidence, together with its impact and meaning, all be explained?  Let’s consider the explanations that are available from each side of the theoretical divide.

Hypothesis 1 – N Theory Explanation: Coincidences are bound to occur every once in a while purely by chance.

From the perspective of N Theory, I give the first type of explanation. The nugget of the Chiswick Coincidence lies within Layer 2:

Event A: choosing by free will to go to the City Barge for lunch.

Event B: choosing by free will to read, only moments later, a story, I would soon discover, that contains an incident about a  ‘public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’.

When considered independently, neither event is in any way extraordinary. Only their near simultaneity appears extraordinary. If I had read the passage a few months, weeks or even days previously or sometime later, I would have noted that I knew just such a place but would not have blinked an eyelid.  Any Londoner is familiar with the experience of coming across familiar places in novels or movies.

It is necessary to consider the possibility of a hidden cause, something that might create the illusion of synchronicity when it isn’t really there. One possibility is that GKC may have been frequently mentioning things in and around Chiswick. In this case the coincidence might not be so odd after all.  It is possible to test this hypothesis relatively easily. It is said that Chesterton was one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. I downloaded the Delphi Collected Works of GK Chesterton onto my kindle. Using the kindle search function I found that there only 7 occurrences of the word “Chiswick” in GKC’s Collected Works. This fact makes the Chiswick Coincidence seem even odder than before.

Another possibility that must be considered is that I had already seen the crucial passage on a previous occasion. This possibility can be safely eliminated for two different reasons. Firstly, if I had already seen this passage, I would already noticed the connection between one of my favourite riverside haunts and GFC’s mention of it. In this case, seeing it for a second time would not have seemed the least bit remarkable. Secondly, a kindle automatically remembers the point reached at a previous reading and obligingly opens the selected book at that page.

The ultimate skeptical explanation is possibly the most accurate. It says that coincidences are just – coincidences!  A coincidence is a coincidence is a coincidence; a random, chance kind of thing. Something similar to the Chiswick Coincidence is occurring with someone somewhere almost every second of the day. When this extremely striking kind of coincidence occurs, it is bound to attract the experiencer’s attention. It is purely the wheels of chance turning and nothing else – once-in-a-blue-moon ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘Father Time’ jump into bed together and another coincidence sucker is born.

Hypothesis 2 – P Theory Explanation: Reverse causality by unconscious reading of the text triggers the decision to visit the pub on the Chiswick side of the river.

What of a paranormal interpretation? It is essential to air all possible explanations and the P Theory warrants a fair hearing.  The two key elements of the Chiswick Coincidence remain :

Event A: deciding by free will to go to the City Barge for lunch.

Event B: deciding by free will to read, only moments later, a story, which contains an incident about a ‘public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’.

What about the possibility of reversed causality such that Event B occurs immediately before Event A.  This P Theory explanation goes like this: I read the part of the story about the Chiswick pub by an unconscious process of clairvoyance, clairvoyantly seeing the text about a ‘public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river’ inside my kindle.  Reading this text at an unconscious level triggers my decision to go to the City Barge for lunch. Afterwards, at a conscious level, when I switch on the kindle and actually read the text, I feel a sense of wonderment and surprise. This is no coincidence at all – reading about the Chiswick pub naturally and logically led to my plan to visit it.

If one is open to psi processes as scientific possibilities, then there should be no problem in accepting the P Theory explanation. In fact the P Theory nails it. If the skeptic demurs that there is no evidence for clairvoyance, unconscious perception or reverse causality and it just cannot be so, the P Theorist might well retort: “Normally, yes, but on this occasion all three happened.” There is no rational way of resolving the matter; which interpretation one accepts rests entirely upon subjective judgement.

Summary and Conclusion

On a homeward journey, involving multiple free choices, a striking coincidence happened. The laws of chance suggest the odds against the Chiswick Coincidence are around one-quintillion-to-one.  Both an ‘N Theory’ interpretation and a ‘P Theory’ interpretation remain logical possibilities. There can be no definitive method of proving which explanation is the correct one. This incertitude requires a neutral stance and a degree of humility about one’s reaction to striking anomalous experience.[11]

My search for a scientific explanation was matched by an equally compelling realisation that there might not be one. Which interpretation is true cannot be decided by reason. Only personal preference –based on one’s a pre-existing bias – allows one to reach a definite conclusion.


Footnotes


[1] I freely acknowledge some readers may well view my ‘Chiswick Coincidence’ with skepticism.  If for no other good reason, ‘One person’s coincidence can be another person’s yawn’; https://wordpress.com/post/coincidences.blog/251

[2] The reader is encouraged to explore personal coincidences using this method of ‘layer analysis’.  Looking for layers of meaning enables one to grasp the full significance of a synchonicity.

[3] The City Barge is a 10-minute drive from Bedford Park, the “queer artificial village” of  ‘Saffron Park’, that features in GKC’s novel.

[4] With the settings on the kindle as they were at that time, there are 4-5 kindle pages to every printed page.

[5] To specify these distributions, a large sample of data points with exact odds values would be required.

[6] Martin Gardner (Foreword to the Second Edition, Marks, 2000) wrote: “It will rank as one of the strongest and best exposés ever directed at the more outlandish claims of parapsychology”(p. 13).

[7] By comparison, Chesterton’s autobiography mentions ‘God’ 62 times.

[8] I share GKC’s values as listed but not his religious beliefs.

[9] A quintillion is cardinal number represented by 1 followed by 18 zeros (US) and by 1 followed by 30 zeros (UK). Here I use the US definition.

[10] I adopt this response from Gardner (2013) The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener (p. 235).

[11] Michael Thalbourne (2006) dismisses skeptical explanations based on chance “as a bottomless pit, able to swallow up each and every coincidence that does not already have a normal explanation.” The fact is, in regard to this coincidence, there is no fool-proof method to say whether the P Theory of the N Theory interpretation is correct. It comes down to making one’s own subjective evaluation.

Psychology and the Paranormal

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Thanks for the visit!

I approach this blog site with a sense of anticipation, wondering where it may lead…

I hope it might lead towards light, new treasure, in the form of new knowledge and theory.  

How can that be, you might well ask ?  Surely, a so-called ‘expert’ must already have an opinion one way or the other about the paranormal? Wrong!

The truth is that I have no fixed ideas about which direction the evidence will lead. 

One thing I do know – it is necessary to step beyond old assumptions, seek new objects of knowledge. 

If we already KNOW the answer, the TRUTH, why would we bother to read, write or even THINK for that matter, because the truth must already be determined, already out there, written by somebody, somewhere and all that would be left to do would be to pick up dead learning.

Believers vs. Disbelievers

It is quickly apparent to any observer that the paranormal field is heavily divided between two armies of believers (so-called ‘sheep’) and skeptics (so-called ‘goats’ who are actually dis-believers) battling it out with no holds barred.

The stakes are high. The fight is not about empirical studies, observations and anecdotes.  The very nature of science, life and reality are being contested.  

There are ‘dead bodies’ and ‘unexploded land mines’ all over the place and one would be lucky to leave the field in one piece. One can surmise that there can only be losers, never winners, in this futile type of war. In the end every soldier in the affray is a loser. It’s an intellectual version of World War I with permanent trenches and barbed wire fences that has been waging for over a century.  

I know this because I have been there on the battle field.  I entered the field and did several tours of duty. Then, battle-weary with the affray, I walked away.

Recently I returned to see if anything has changed.

As I stuck my head over the trench top waving a white flag of peace, a few warning shots were fired. The same old battle is raging but with the difference that many new foot soldiers have been recruited and there have been scores of  new studies over the last 20 years. These studies have been weaponised to provide increased power, precision and impact.

The army of non-believers now possesses a stockpile of findings consistent with scientific explanations of the paranormal. The believer army, meanwhile, has accrued an equally large stockpile supportive of paranormal interpretations.  

White Flag of Neutrality

Offering the white flag of peace and neutrality causes no small amount of trepidation.  Am I now to be a target for both sides – because, in the battle of the paranormal, nobody is permitted to be neutral?  It’s a ‘do or die’ scenario like no other in science.

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The blog posts here are written from a dispassionate point of view. If I am passionate about anything, it is about the importance of neutrality. My purpose is to create a balanced and even-handed review based on the best contemporary evidence on paranormal claims in science and medicine.

I present here the evidence, both pro and con, explain the relevant psychological processes, present scientific arguments, and produce a final balance sheet at the end.

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Out soon:

“Psychology and the Paranormal

Exploring Anomalous Experience”


June 2020 | 400 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

 

 

 

Personality, Heart Disease and Cancer: A Chequered History

Type A and B Personality

We discuss here the chequered history of the claims by Psychologists and others about the links between personality and illness, particularly heart disease and cancer. The research has been marred by dirty money and allegations of fraud.

Speculation about ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’ personalities and coronary heart disease (CHD) has existed for at least 70 years. The distinction between the two personalities was introduced in the mid-1950s by the cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman (1974) Type A behavior and your heart.  Their ideas can be traced to Franz Alexander one of the ‘fathers’ of psychosomatic medicine.

The Type A personality is described this: highly competitive and achievement oriented, not prepared to suffer fools gladly, always in a hurry and unable to bear delays and queues, hostile and aggressive, inclined to read, eat and drive very fast, and constantly thinking what to do next, even when supposedly listening to someone else. Type A was thought to be at greater risk of CHD,

The Type B personality is: relaxed, laid back, lethargic, even- tempered, amiable and philosophical about life, relatively slow in speech and action, and generally has enough time for everyone and everything.

The Type A personality is similar to Galen’s choleric temperament, and Type B with the phlegmatic.  It is well known that men are at greater risk of CHD than women.

‘Classic’ Studies

The key pioneering study of Type A personality and CHD was the Western Collaborative Group Study (WCGS).  Over 3,000 Californian men, aged from 39 to 59, were followed up initially over a period of eight-and-a-half years, and later extending to 22 years plus. At the eight-and-a-half-year follow-up, Type As were twice as likely compared with Type Bs to suffer from subsequent CHD. 7% developed some signs of CHD and two-thirds of these were Type As. This increased risk was there even when other risk factors, such as blood pressure and cigarette smoking, were statistically controlled.

Similar results were obtained in another large-scale study in Framingham, Massachusetts.  This time the sample contained both men and women.  By the early 1980s, it was confidently asserted that Type A characteristics were as much a risk factor for heart disease as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and even smoking.

Failure to Replicate

Later research failed to support these early findings. When Ragland and Brand (1988) conducted a 22-year follow-up of the WCGS, using CHD mortality as the crucially important measure, they failed to find any consistent evidence of an association.

Further research continued up to the late 1980s, yielding few positive findings. Reviewing this evidence, Myrtek (2001) suggests that the modest number of positive findings that did exist were the result of over-reliance on angina as the measure of CHD. Considering studies that adopted hard criteria, including mortality, Myrtek concludes that Type A personality is not a risk factor for CHD.

Enter the Tobacco Industry

With such disappointing results, why did Type A obtain so much publicity over more than 40 years? The reason is in part connected with the involvement of the US tobacco industry.

Mark Petticrew et al. (2012) analysed material lodged at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. This is a vast collection of documents that the companies were obliged to make public following litigation in 1998. These documents show that, for over 40 years from the 1950s, the industry heavily funded research into links between personality, CHD and cancer. The industry was hoping to demonstrate that personality variables were associated with cigarette smoking.

Any such links would undermine the alleged causal links between smoking and disease. Thus, for example, if it could be shown that Type A personalities were both more likely to smoke than Type Bs, and more likely to develop CHD, then it could be argued that smoking might be just an innocent background variable.

The Philip Morris company funded Meyer Friedman, the originator of Type A research, for the Meyer Friedman Institute. The research aimed to show that Type A personalities could be changed by interventions, thereby presumably reducing proneness to CHD even if they continued to smoke.

Petticrew et al. show that, while most Type A–CHD studies were not funded by the tobacco industry, most of the positive results were tobacco-funded. As has been pointed out in many areas of science, positive findings invariably get a great deal more publicity than negative findings and rebuttals.

Hans J Eysenck

The late H J Eysenck was one of the most controversial psychologists who ever lived. Generations of UK psychology students had to study his books as gospel.

The German-born, British psychologist worked at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London.  He did a PhD under Sir Cyril Burt  who was proved to have fabricated researchers and data to support his eugenic theory of intelligence.  (Kamin, 1974, The science and politics of IQ).

Eysenck used the tobacco industry as a source of funding for his research on psychological theories of personality. According to Pringle (1996), Eysenck received nearly £800,000 to support his research on personality and cancer.  Eysenck’s results were a spectacular exception to the general run of negative findings in this field.  Eysenck (1988) claimed that personality variables are much more strongly related to death from cancer than even cigarette smoking.

One of my lecturers while I was an undergraduate had worked for Eysenck as a research assistant for a year. It had seemed clear to him that data massaging was required before placing Eysenck’s studies into publication. Data manipulation or even worse, outright fraud, has surfaced in a major re-analysis of Eysenck’s work on tobacco and personality.

Ronald Grossarth-Maticek

Two of Eysenck’s papers, with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek (pictured above), based  in Crvenka, Serbia, claimed to have identified personality types that increase the risk of cancer by about 120 times and heart disease by about 25 times (Grossarth-Maticek and Eysenck, 1991; Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek, 1991). They also claimed to have tested a new method of psychological treatment that could reduce the death rate for disease prone personalities over the next 13 years from 80% to 32%. These claims are too good to be true.

These extraordinary claims were not received favourably by others in this field. Fox (1988) dismissed earlier reports by Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek as ‘simply unbelievable’ and the 1991 papers were subjected to devastating critiques by Pelosi and Appleby (1992, 1993) and Amelang, Schmidt-Rathjens and Matthews (1996).  The ‘cancer prone personality’ was not clearly described and seems to have been an odd amalgam of emotional distance and excessive dependence.

A Case of Fraud?

After pointing out a large number of errors, omissions, obscurities and implausible data, in a manner reminiscent of Leon Kamin’s  analysis of Burt’s twin IQ data, Pelosi and Appleby comment:

It is unfortunate that Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek omit the most basic information that might explain why their findings are so different from all the others in this field. The methods are either not given or are described so generally that they remain obscure on even the most important points . . . Also essential details are missing from the results, and the analyses used are often inappropriate.

(Pelosi and Appleby, 1992: 1297).

They never used the word “fraud”. They didn’t need to. For an update of this story,  see this post

and this post

Update

I wrote to Ronald Grossarth-Maticek on 3rd December 2018 and again on 5th March 2019 inviting him to respond to the allegations.
Dr. Grossarth-Maticek has responded saying that he will give me an answer within the next month.
He also says that he will send me the results of his actual research.
To be continued…

Psychology – Science or Delusion?

‘Mass Delusion’

Psychology is full of theories, not ‘General Theories’, but ‘Mini-Theories’ or ‘Models’.  Most Mini-Theories/Models are wrong.  Unfortunately these incorrect theories and models often persist in everyday practice. This happens because Psychologists are reluctant to give up their theories. These incorrect theories then act like ‘mass delusions’, which can have consequences for others, especially students and patients.

Academic Psychology suffers from ‘delusions of grandeur’. It is as if an entire academic discipline is manifesting a chronic disorder – a kind of  ‘Scientific Psychosis’.   Psychologists claim that Psychology is a Science but there is no objective evidence to support it.  In fact, the evidence suggests the exact opposite.

Aping Science

The ability to ape proper science is not in doubt. Laboratories, experiments and grants, thousands of journals, books, institutes and universities all espouse Psychology as a Science.  Many psychologists even wear white lab coats and poke around in animals’ brains. The ability to mimic genuine scientists like Physicists or Biologists, however, does not make Psychology a science. It actually makes a mockery of science.

There are many reasons why this is the case. I mention here two:

1) Psychology does not meet even the most essential criterion for an authentic science – quantitative  measurement along ratio scales.

2) Unlike all the true natural sciences, Psychology lacks a general theory. A general theory is held by the majority of scientists working in the field.

The shared belief of the vast majority of psychologists that they are scientists, when all of the evidence suggests that this can’t be true,  is a form of professional ‘mass hysteria’.  Psychologists share a belief system of scientific delusion, thought disorder and conceptual confusion. They then impose their beliefs, not only on one another, but on their students and their patients.

Students and Patients

Many students and patients are having none of it.  They refuse to be suckered in by the claim.  But they have to be courageous enough to come out of the closet and say it. If they dare to say it in an essay or exam, then they’d better be prepared for a grade C, D, E or F.

Researchers have found that  “medical students think their psychology lectures are “soft and fluffy”students think psychology is less important than the other natural scienceschildren rate psychological questions as easier than chemistry or biology questions; and expert testimony supporting an insanity defence is seen as less convincing when delivered by a psychologist than a psychiatrist.”

On a few rare occasions, established psychologists have expressed their doubts about the scientific credentials of Psychology. For example, Jan Smedslund wrote about: “Why Psychology Cannot be an Empirical Science.” There is increasing evidence that many patients are skeptical about Psychology also.

woman-outnumbered-by-male-scientists

Folie Imposée

Folie à deux (“madness of two”) occurs when delusional beliefs are transmitted from one individual to another.  When one dominant person imposes their delusional beliefs on another, it is folie imposée. In this case, the second person probably would never have become deluded if left to themselves. The second person is expected ultimately to reject the delusion of the first person, due to disproof of the delusional assumptions, and protest. This protest, however, will fall upon deaf ears.

The situation I describe is far from hypothetical.  It exists day in, day out, for millions of patients. One particular patient group are those labeled with ‘Medically Unexplained Symptoms’ (MUS).  Within this group is a particular group of patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (“ME”) and/or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (“CFS”).

Delusional thinking certainly can hurt and embarrass the individuals having the delusion (Psychologists and Psychiatrists). It can also be imposed upon others, for example, people in their care (Patients). To the help-seeking Patient, the Psychologist (or Psychiatrist) is an expert who follows the rules of Science. The Science informs the aetiology, diagnosis, and treatment of the Patient.

Treating Patients with ME/CFS

I consider here how many psychologists in the UK treat people labeled with ME/CFS. This treatment comes with the full backing of NICE (currently under review).

Psychological treatment for patients labeled with ME/CFS is based on a Psychological Theory of the illness. This theory is highly contested and has caused major controversies that has divided Patients from Psychologists and Psychiatrists.

The main Psychological Theory of ME/CFS asserts that ‘maladaptive’ cognitions and behaviours perpetuate the fatigue and impairment of individuals with ME/CFS (Wessely, David, Butler and Chalder, 1989). These authors represent the two main professions concerned with psychological illness, Psychology and Psychiatry.  They state: “It is essential to agree jointly on an acceptable model, because people need to understand their illness. The cognitive – behavioural model …can explain the continuation of symptoms in many patients.” This is where the imposition of the therapist’s model snaps in. “The process is therefore a transfer of responsibility from the doctor, in terms of his duty to diagnose, to the patient, confirming his or her duty to participate in the process of rehabilitation in collaboration with the doctor, physiotherapist, family and others.” (p. 26).

Although the Psychological Theory is contested by many scientists, patients and patient organisations who assume that their symptoms have an organic basis, i.e. a Physical Theory.

Vercoulen et al. (1998) developed a model of ME/CFS based on the Psychological Theory. However, Song and Jason (2005) suggested that the Psychological Theory was inaccurate for individuals with ME/CFS. In spite of the evidence against it, the Psychological Theory continues as the basis for cognitive behavioural and graded exercise therapies (GET) offered to individuals with ME/CFS. One reason for the continued use of an unsupported Psychological Theory is the PACE Trial, a lesson in how not to do proper science. Like most research, this trial was organised by a team and, in this case, the majority of principle investigators were Psychiatrists. This trial has been described as “one of the biggest medical scandals of the 21st century.”

New Approach Needed

In spite of the lack of empirical support, the Psychological Theory of ME/CFS lives on. ME/CFS patients are subjected to CBT and GET.  Patients and patient organisations protest about the treatments and are opposed to the Psychological Theory.  Perhaps Psychologists need to turn the Psychological Theory of unhelpful beliefs upon themselves.  If  ME/CFS has a physical (e.g. immunological) cause, then once the cause has been established, patients will have the chance of an effective treatment and decent care and  support.

The problems that exist for Psychologists’ treatment of patients with MUS and ME/CFS exist more generally across the discipline. A totally new approach is necessary.  Instead of tinkering with the problems at a cosmetic level by papering over the cracks, there is a need for root-and-branch change of a radical kind. The measurement problem must be addressed and there is a need for a general theory.   A new General Theory of Behaviour takes a step in that direction.

Psychology in Crisis – Sail On

 

‘Psychology in Crisis’ by Brian M Hughes has much in its favour. Like a knife through soft butter, it cuts through the huge swathes of BS that permeate Academic Psychology.  Brian Hughes addresses many different crises in Academic Psychology:

the Replication Crisis

the Paradigmatic Crisis (aka as the Theory Crisis or Fragmentation)

the Measurement Crisis 

the Statistical Crisis

the Sampling Crisis

the Exaggeration Crisis

None of these crises is new. The problem is the different crises are all getting bigger and more insoluble over time.

In his delightful book,  Psychology in Crisis, Hughes explains that there is little momentum to change because the discipline has taken over a century to build the mould. “The fact that the majority of those who teach psychology see no problem with the status quo, and so say nothing about it, does not indicate that their discipline is healthy. If anything, it implies the presence of groupthink. One might even consider it an instance of a mass delusion.” (p. 148, my italics).

A ‘mass delusion’! Strong words, but fully justified. The biggest delusion of all is the claim that Academic Psychology is a Science. There is no justification for this claim if Hughes’ allegations are true. Which they are.

As an academic discipline, Psychology continues to grow. The American Psychological Association reports that in 2012 – 2013, 1.84 million bachelor’s degrees were awarded to students. Of those, 6.2 percent of the degrees (or 114,080) went to psychology majors. The psychology major is the fourth most popular college major after business, health-related majors, and social science and history. In the 2013 academic year, 6,496 psychology doctorates were awarded in the U.S., a 32 percent increase from 2004.

One of simplest measures of Academic Psychology’s growth is publications numbers. The figures are plotted below for each quarter century since 1900. I got these numbers from Google Scholar.  Bearing in mind that the current quarter century still has 6 years to run, the increases are huge. The dotted line is an estimate for 2000-24 based on current trends. The line goes way off the chart.

Number of Publications about Psychology

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As the Psychology enterprise continues to grow, it becomes ever more difficult to turn it around. To use a nautical analogy, the radius of the Turning Circle widens. The momentum to ‘Sail On’ becomes ever greater.

Changing Behaviour

The vast majority of people change their behaviour with no external help. They just do it. ‘Change experts’ include psychologists who advocate behaviour change techniques in their interventions. A behaviour change technique (BCT) is any systematic procedure (or a category of procedures) included as an active component of an intervention designed to change behaviour. The defining characteristics of a BCT are that it is:

• Observable
• Replicable
• Irreducible
• A component of an intervention designed to change behaviour
• A postulated active ingredient within the intervention (Michie et al., 2011).

The description, classification and investigation of BCTs has become a cottage industry. Places like UCL, Aberdeen and Cambridge Universities, together with IBM, have received several millions of pounds from the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust to construct an ‘ontology’ of behaviour change.

According to the project website, “Behavioural Scientists are developing an ‘ontology’: a defined set of entities and their relationships” which will be used to “organise information in a form that enables efficient accumulation of knowledge and enables links to other knowledge systems.”

bs-diagramdetailedThe top level of the ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’ (project website)

An ontology is a set of concepts and categories in a subject area that shows their properties and the relations between them. An ontology can only be helpful when nothing of importance to the system as a whole is left out.

A ‘BCT Taxonomy’ has been employed to code descriptions of intervention content into BCTs (Michie et al., 2011, 2013). The taxonomy aims to code protocols in order to transparently describe the techniques used to change behaviour so that protocols could be made clearer and studies could be replicated (Michie and Abraham, 2008; Michie et al, 2011). A taxonomy also can be used to identify which techniques are most effective so that intervention effectiveness could be raised and more people would change behaviour.

The production of a structured list of BCTs provides a ‘compendium’ of behaviour change methods which helps to map the domain of behaviour change and inform practitioner decision-making. However it also risks becoming a prescriptive ‘cook-book’ of what therapeutic techniques must be applied to patients presenting with a specific behavioural problem.

Another problem with the compendium approach is that BCTs are not all optimally effective when combined in ‘pick-and-mix’ fashion. There needs to be coherence to the package that is provided by a theory that offers power and meaning and connects the components into a working set.

I can illustrate this point by considering an intervention for smoking cessation, Stop Smoking Now (Marks, 2017). This therapy is an effective method for clearing the human body of nicotine. The desire to smoke and any satisfaction from smoking are abolished using different forms of CBT and mindfulness meditation. Stop Smoking Now includes 30 BCTs integrated within a coherent theory of change based on the concept of homeostasis. In Stop Smoking Now a structured sequence of BCTs is provided that takes into account the nesting of BCTs such that guided imagery works best in combination with relaxation and both of these work best following enhancement of self-efficacy, achieved using self-recording, positive affirmations and counter-conditioning.   In addition, our field evidence shows that the outcome is enhanced by having a personable delivery from a charismatic person who builds a positive therapeutic alliance.                  

bs-diagramdetailedWith so many missing elements, this an Incomplete Model of Behaviour Change

Where is the client person in the ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’, and what about their feelings and their own striving for new balance and equilibrium?  Where is the therapist and the therapeutic alliance?  The quality of the change agent, their clinical and interpersonal skills and the quality of the therapeutic alliance can be more important than the BCTs (Hilton & Johnston, 2017) .With so many missing elements, this is beginning to appear like a top-down model of behaviour change. One may be excused for wondering whether the people designing the ‘ontology’ have any real-world hands-on experience of delivering interventions.

Hagger and Hardcastle (2014) suggest that “Interpersonal style should be included in taxonomies of behavior change techniques”. The whole point is that the therapeutic alliance is something the therapist and the client need to strive for. The alliance creates a more equal power balance between therapist and the client. It is more important than another technique, another item on the list. It is more about the ‘chemistry’ of the client-therapist relationship than about a finely polished set of BCTs. The trouble is that the advocates of the BCT compendium/ontology appear unwilling to engage with the problem. Somewhat ironically, they are resistant to change. However, the problem will not just go away, but rears its head each and every time a therapist swings into action.

Behaviour change involves a collaboration between the client wanting to make the change, with their own desires and feelings, and the change agent/therapist. The therapeutic alliance between the two parties is crucial to the project’s ‘outcome’.  Therapist’s attributes such as being flexible, honest, respectful, trustworthy, confident, warm, interested, and open contribute to that alliance. From all of this it can readily be seen that the situation is far more complex than the proposed ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’. It is never as  simplistic as an ‘Intervention’,  ‘Mechanisms of Action’ and ‘Target Behaviour’.

To use an analogy, there is so much more to baking a cake than a set of ingredients. Of course one needs a set of ingredients (the BCTs) but one also needs a baker – the behaviour change agent (BCA). The BCA/therapist must be fully trained to prepare, mix and cook the ingredients, to be fully competent to deliver the BCTs in a stylish manner. The qualities of effective therapists have been studied for at least 50 years. The stock piling of a compendium of BCT ingredients without attending to the mixing and ‘baking’ of the ingredients by the BCA on the front line is a recipe for disaster.

smart chef character cooking behind kitchen table with various o

Including therapist attributes of flexibility, authenticity, respect, trustworthiness, confidence,  warmth, interest, and openness, along with the client’s goals, desires and striving provides a more accurate and comprehensive approach to behaviour change.

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“Milestone text of the 21st century”

In ‘A General Theory of Behaviour, David Marks has applied scientifically established theory to conceptualize disparate areas of Psychology in a manner that both unifies and brings greater insight, establishing this book as a milestone text of the 21st century.

Dr David A Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Founder of the Forensic Research Group, Manchester Metropolitan University

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“Inspiring book…compelling read”

This inspiring book applies the seemingly simple biological concept of homeostasis to human behaviour.  There is beautiful historic detail about key researchers, whilst considering modern issues such as stress, lack of sleep and addiction. A compelling read, which feels like an engaging lecture, by a passionate and considered speaker.

Janine Crosbie, Psychology Lecturer, University of Salford.

 

‘Rich soil’

“The field of psychology has many theories, but no General Theory. The unifying theory David Marks presents, along with the 20 principles, provide rich soil for further testing and opens up exciting avenues for psychology.”

Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director, University of Pennsylvania

masthead-sbk1.png

A Redesign for Psychology

 

Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations.

Stephen Hawking

It has been said that advances in science come not from empiricism but from new theories. With this thought in mind, A General Theory of Behaviour has the potential – or so I aim to convince the reader – to advance understanding of human nature and to integrate the discipline of Psychology. In A General Theory of Behaviour (link to an introductory video) I explain why this is (a) necessary, and (b) possible.

I think the majority of psychologists agree that integration is necessary. Fragmentation has been a longstanding and difficult problem for Psychology. Over more than a century, fragmentation has been called a ‘crisis’. The problem has been described thus: “a nexus of philosophical tensions, which divide individuals, departments, and psychological organizations, and which are therefore primarily responsible for the fragmentation of Psychology.” In many years’ experience as a student, researcher and professor of Psychology, I can testify to persistent and intractable tensions in every quarter of the discipline, worse in some places than others, but the fragmentation is evident everywhere.

The discipline can sometimes feel like a medieval country split into fiefdoms by moats, walls and a haphazard set of paltry roads, odd rules and customs (Figure P1, left panel). As the visitor approaches the border of the country, a smart road sign reads: “Welcome to the Science of Psychology”. Full of expectation, one passes through the guarded gates at border control (sniffer dogs, disinfectant spray guns, x-ray machines and millimetre wave scanners).

After screening by unsmiling officers in peaked caps, the traveller explores what excitement exists inside this guarded place. Each fiefdom provides glossy brochures, catalogues, and travel guides in which skies are always blue, buildings chateaux, and fountains high reaching with crystal waters.

Each area invites the visitor to drive over the draw bridge and take a detailed look. However, on close inspection, one senses a deep-seated problem. Something strange and slightly sinister appears to be going on. The locals appear defensive and ill at ease when one makes inquiries and asks even the simplest of questions such as “What does X mean?” As we travel around the country, barbed wire fences of ‘no-man’s land’ are everywhere and the few connecting roads are potholed and ill-made.

No man's land

In each sub-area, there is evidence of industrialisation with companies of artisans ploughing long straight furrows, planting pest-resistant seeds, spraying fields with Roundup®, harvesting their crops and filling rodent-proof silos with carefully sifted data, e.g. long-eared corn tastes better that short-eared, short-eared corn tasted better than oats, oats tastes better that long-eared corn (!) in cycles of planting, harvesting, testing and analysing.

Ploughed fields

Producers with the largest silos rule. In spite of all of the graft, one senses tension, disharmony and technical disputes is causing ill-feeling. If somebody breaks the famine with a bold new idea, s/he risks being pilloried, dunked or quarantined in the cut-off region called “Critical Psychology”. One wonders if Psychology really were a Science, would there be so many sub-regions, stretches of ‘no-mans-land’ and unrewarding customs?

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Figure P1.The Science of Psychology. In its fragmented state (left panel), each sub-field acts as a defended niche with its own specific theories and data. In a unified state (right panel) the discipline would consist of a single General Theory that encompasses the entire field with a minimum number of assumptions, a large set of falsifiable hypotheses, and a body of empirical studies aimed at falsification of the General Theory.

Most commentators agree that a major redesign is long overdue to re-engineer the discipline. Travel between sub-areas needs to be made more navigable, moats emptied, walls razed and bridges built. It’s an Isambard Kingdom Brunel the science needs as much as another Charles Darwin.

BRUNEL

The objectives of A General Theory of Behaviour are to take a few measured steps towards advancing Psychology as a natural science and, in so doing, to unify it (Figure P1, right panel). This brief introduction of 40,000 words offers twenty principles and eighty auxiliary propositions, 100 empirically falsifiable propositions. The principles and multiple auxiliary propositions make the General Theory fully and transparently capable of falsification. In embracing intentionality, purpose and desire, the General Theory is non-reductive while, at the same time, drawing upon principles from other sciences, in particular, Biology and Physiology. Following in the footsteps of Claude Bernard, Walter B Cannon and others, I try to convince the reader of the usefulness of the metamorphosed concept of behavioural homeostasis (link to video) and, in so doing, explain the implications for the Science of Behaviour.

My thesis is that organisms are not adapted to each other and the environment because natural selection made them that way, but they are made that way owing to an inbuilt striving towards stability and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behaviour is an introductory ‘User’s Guide’ aiming towards a reconfigured Science of Psychology – the target in the right-hand panel of Figure P1. In Chapters One and Two I describe the core elements of the theory. Chapters Three, Four and Five contain additional parts of the theory concerning biological rhythms, concepts of behaviour, Consciousness and the central Behaviour Control System. The remaining five chapters each cover three core topics from the perspective of the theory. These 15 topics indicate the ability of the theory to cover a broad cross-section of the discipline.

Heavy traffic

In building roads and bridges, one must neither over-design nor under-design. Nobody knows how sturdy the structure is until it is tested with a fleet of trucks. Should cracks occur (or worse), other ‘engineers’ might be persuaded to renovate the project. Surely it should be worth the effort. However long it takes, our broken discipline needs to be put together into one beautiful whole.

Book cover

A General Theory of Behaviour VI: Wayne Rooney, Imaging and Action

Introspections by the footballer Wayne Rooney address key issues in our theory. This post is concerned with the very same issue: how are thinking, feeling and action directly connected?


What do Wayne Rooney and AGTB have in common?

“I always like to picture the game the night before: I’ll ask the kitman what kit we’re wearing, so I can visualise it. It’s something I’ve always done, from when I was a young boy. It helps to train your mind to situations that might happen the following day. I think about it as I’m lying in bed. What will I do if the ball gets crossed in the box this way? What movement will I have to make to get on the end of it? Just different things that might make you one per cent sharper”.[1]   Wayne Rooney

Building knowledge requires questions. Many times, asking a ‘good’ question leads straight to another question, and so on, until, at the end, there is an answer that may be useful to somebody. Or we may have no answer at all, and we realise that what we thought we knew, we didn’t know at all.

What is Consciousness, what is it ‘made of’, and what is it for?

No topic in Psychology prompts more questions than the issue of Consciousness.[2] When I taught a university course called ‘Consciousness’ 40 years ago it was seen as ‘off the wall’. Now it’s a part of the  mainstream, and we know more, but certainly not as much as we’d like to know. We have more questions than answers. In attempting to answer these questions, it is sensible to consider what we think we mean when we speak about Consciousness and to work from there

Thirty Claims about Consciousness

Based on large quantities of empirical observations, I summarise here thirty claims about Consciousness , and which have a fair-to-good chance of being true:

i) It is agentic: i.e. it has purpose, desire  and intentionality; [3]

ii)  It is deeply social in nature;

iii) It is the centre for feelings and moods;

iv) It operates with an inbuilt motivation to drive the organism towards pleasure and away from pain;

v) It is a centre for perceptions, interoceptive and exteroceptive;

vi) It serves as a ‘storehouse’ of memories including autobiographical memories from which information and images can be retrieved;

vii)          It is the control centre for action, perception, attention, affect regulation, cognition, information processing all of which require the making of predictions;

viii)         It has ‘layers’ and ‘levels’ and is capable of dissociation, splitting and confusion;

ix) It constructs a personal and a public identity for the ‘self’;

x) It is a centre for constructing and changing values and beliefs;

xi) It can set both altruistic and selfish goals, and anything in between;

xii) It can represent information, beliefs and values in an honest way or it can simulate, pretend, lie and be deceitful;

xiii)         It can be subject to hearing of voices and other hallucinations;

xiv)         It can be subject to illusions and delusions;

xv)          It can be accessed by introspection;

xvi)         It can be described symbolically in speech, writing and in works of art but it can also be ineffable;

xvii)        It varies in state of arousal from waking to sleep;

xviii)      It references values, beliefs, rules and customs, and has pragmatic methods for following them;

xix)         It strives the satisfaction of needs including equilibrium;

xx) It can pay close attention to detail or its concentration can wander;

xxi)         It fantasizes, ‘daydreams’;

xxii)        It plans new goals for the future;

xxiii)      It thinks and makes decisions;

xxiv)       It imagines and weighs consequences pro and con before acting;

xxv)        It receives feedback on the outcomes of action;

xxvi)       It ‘delegates’ well-practiced routines, tasks and habits to a lower level of automatic processing;

xxvii)     Automatic functioning such as autonomic system is also below the threshold of consciousness as long as it is performed as expected, but it becomes conscious if it fails to performs normally;

xxviii)   It dreams;

xxix)       It maintains Type II homeostatic responses of the whole organism;

xxx)        It remains imperfect.[4]

IMAGE, PREDICT, ACT

Based on the above observations, Principle IX  can be stated as follows:

Principle IX (Consciousness): Consciousness is the central process of the brain that builds images of the world, makes predictions about future events and selects which voluntary actions to execute.[5]

One of the major outputs of Consciousness is something that we could not do without: predictive simulations involving ‘what-if’ or ‘if-then’ relationships: ‘If I do X, will Y or Z happen’. The major input is exteroceptive, sensory stimuli – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, temperature, vibration and pain – and also interoceptive stimuli, which form a cortical image of homeostatic afferent activity from the body’s tissues. This system provides experiences and visceral feelings such as pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and ‘air hunger’. In humans, interoceptive activity is represented in the right anterior insula, providing subjective imagery of the material self as a feeling (sentient) entity, that is, emotional awareness.[6]

Everything that goes on in between stimulus input and output of behaviour is based on if-then operations and simulation geared towards prediction.  It’s mainly a matter of private fantasies and daydreams that studies suggest take up at least a half of our waking time. We also know that there is a huge quantity of pre-conscious automatic processing of sensory information and behaviour that does not require the effortful attention of Consciousness.  The controlled processing of Consciousness is serial, attention demanding, methodical and slow, e.g. preparing a meal using a a cookery book or reading a manual on how to operate a dvd player.[7] Automatic processing, on the other hand, is efficient and economical, and, quite often, quick, e.g. reading, writing, walking,  riding a bicycle, driving a car.

Brain research supports the idea that the forebrain of the cerebral cortex is the site of the Central Control System of Consciousness. The forebrain itself is involved in regulation of both autonomic and non-autonomic human responses in stress and affect. As we have seen, it is also the seat of both Type I and Type II homeostasis.

A significant part of the contents of Consciousness is mental imagery, the quasi-perceptual mental imagery that gets us from one point on our mental model of the world to the next.[8]  We turn to explore the nature and function of mental imagery.

ACTION SCHEMAS AND MENTAL SIMULATION

“The purpose of a brain is not to think, but to act”  (Laborit, 1980).[9]  The central organising executive of the brain, Consciousness, enables organisms to mentally map the environment, predict what might happen next, and to act. One of the major processes for modelling, predicting and acting is mental imagery [AP 025]. Mental imagery is ideally suited to these purposes by providing preparatory images, which can exist in any sensory modality but, for the majority of people,  this is predominantly visual.  However, imagining the smell and taste of a delicious meal, ‘hearing’ the sound of some enchanting music, and imagining scenes and feelings of relaxation from a recent holiday are all equally possible.

Visual images are similar to perceptual images, but more faint and dim. If I am walking along a street and spy a delicious chocolate cake in a patisserie window, I do not automatically go inside to buy it. I may decide to buy it, but usually I will not. I know I do not need it, even if I want it and the impulse to buy it is strong. Similarly, if I am feeling peckish at home and imagine that same chocolate cake in that same window only a few minutes away, I do not automatically drop everything and go quickly to the store to buy it. Unless of course, my ‘addiction’ to chocolate is so strong, having resisted the temptation to eat chocolate cake for last three weeks, and feeling that I have earned a reward, then, yes, I may well go and get it.

We know that conscious imagery is not equally vivacious in all people. Imagery vividness is a combination of clarity and liveliness. Assessment of vividness using introspective report can be validated by objective means such as fMRI. Vividness of visual imagery is determined by the similarity of neural responses in imagery to those occurring in perception and performance of activities. [AP 026]. Two thousand published studies have used the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ; Marks, 1972) or the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire (VMIQ; Isaac, Marks and Russell, 1986).

For a small minority of people, voluntary visual imagery is entirely unknown. These few people lack any experience of mental imagery, a condition termed ‘aphantasia’. In the absence of mental imagery, Consciousness is a pallid and abstract affair consisting of entities such as ‘unheard’ words, ‘unheard’ music and ‘invisible’ imagery. One such person, a scientist, describes his conscious experiences as follows: “I am unaware of anything in my mind except these categories: i) direct sensory input, ii) “unheard” words that carry thoughts, iii) “unheard” music, iv) a kind of “invisible imagery”, which I can best describe as sensation of pictures that are in a sense “too faint to see”, v) emotions, and vi) thoughts which seem too “fast” to exist as words.” [10]  For these exceptional people, there must be non-imagery ways to plan goals and future actions yet to be investigated. Actions are guided by schemata, generic representations, in combination with goals and affect. [AP 027].

According to Frederic Bartlett,[11] schemata are much more than elementary reactions ready for use: “they are also arrangements of material, sensory at a low level, affective at a higher level, imaginal at a higher level yet, even ideational and conceptual”.[12]

THE ACTION SYSTEM

The action system is inextricably linked to the perceptual system so that perceiving something generally leads to activity in either covert or overt form triggered by schemata (Bartlett, 1932). Imagined simulation consists of covert performances in which specific intentions, purposes and actions are fulfilled  (Marks, 1990, p. 6). A system with these features is shown in Figure 1.

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 11.13.24.png

Figure 1 The General Theory of Action, or ‘VOAGA’ Model.  Action schemata (As) control voluntary action (V) in response to salient objects (O) in the immediate environment which are the focus of action in accordance with current goals (G).  Affect (Af) influences the goal and the schemata. Action simulation using mental imagery occurs in the same system as that used for overt action.

Principle X (Mental Imagery): A mental image is a quasi-perceptual experience that includes action schemata, affect and a goal.[13]

The VOAGA Model encompasses both overt and covert (implicit) actions. ‘Covert’ or implicit actions are neurally similar to the equivalent overt action. Sensory-affective mental images are an essential component of memory and imagination.[14]  We would be ill-equipped for these two functions without them.

FEELINGS

Evidence for an affective component to Consciousness has been investigated by experimental psychologists for at least a century. Wundt (1907) wrote: “Often there is vividly present … the special affective tone of the forgotten idea, although the idea itself still remains in the background of consciousness. .. . In a similar manner . . . the clear apperception of ideas in acts of cognition and recognition is always preceded by feelings” (pp. 243-244).

Silvan Tomkins argued that the primary motivational system is the affective system and biological drives have impact only when amplified by the affective system (Tomkins, 1962). A similar view was reached by Zajonc (1980). When people imagine emoting happy, sad, and angry situations, different patterns of facial muscle activity are produced that can be measured by electromyography (Kinzel & Kubler, 1971). Similar affective responses occur when people mentally image faces, complex, scenes and look at pictures but the physiological responses are generally less intense in mental images (Lang, 1979). [AP 028]. A special link exists between imagery and anxiety and attempting to ‘suppress’ emoting may cause degraded mental imagery.[15] Individuals who inhibit emoting tend to experience less sensory, contextual and emotional details when imaging.[16] [AP 029].

Involuntary images and difficult to control visual memories are associated with psychopathology, e.g. patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and psychosis frequently report repeated visual intrusions concerning real or imaginary events, “usually extremely vivid, detailed, and with highly distressing content”.[17]

It is worth considering different scenarios from the perspective of action  schemata. Activation of a schema can occur in any of four possible combinations associated by the presence or absence of physical activity and objects, namely:

(A) Activity and Object both absent: covert action as sensory-affective imagery. The more vivid the associated imagery, the more a covert action resembles the corresponding overt action. [AP 030]. The more an imagined object resembles the real object, the more closely the imagined activity towards the imagined object resembles real behavior. [AP 031].

(B) Activity absent, Object present: private/covert action which simulates or practices overt action with associated feedback and affect. Humans and other organisms use the capacity to adopt a simulation routine. [18]

(C) Activity present, Object absent: publicly observable action in the form of playing, pretending, or miming, associated with feedback and affect.

(D) Activity and Object both present: overt behavior, with associated feedback and affect.

In cases A, B and C, the strength of affect can depend upon many factors including experience with the particular activity, but the vividness of the imagery is the major determinant. [AP 032]. The term ‘affect’[19] always refers to the emotive feelings generated by an image. Vivid imagery plays a key role in planning all goal-directed behavior. The cognitive system needs a meta-level to control and monitor the object-level. This duality of levels enables moment-by-moment adjustments to goal-seeking behaviour to be conducted at the object-level.

Consciousness facilitates Type II homeostasis, providing a significant  advantage in striving towards equilibrium in the surrounding environment. [AP 033].

The General Theory [20] proposes a cyclical system of schemata, objects, affective expression and actions. The control system has both an Executive-level and a Schema-level. The Executive-level, which is what we normally refer to as ‘Consciousness’ , controls and monitors the Schema-level. This duality of levels enables moment-by-moment adjustments to goal-seeking behaviour at the Schema-level. Goals are set at the Executive-level of Consciousness. Goal-setting is guided by values and beliefs which, together with goals,  inform actions, inhibit actions, or reflect, as the situation requires.

Speech and other complex behaviours in competent performers normally does not require Consciousness. The motor system is largely served by an extensive sensory system which operates at a subconscious level. Afferents from the muscles and the activity of the cerebellum, where movement is organized, operate entirely subconsciously and produce no conscious sensations. Conscious imagery participates in the planning and organization of behavior through enabling the simulation of action sequences at the object-level without energy expenditure or risk. [AP 034]. The object-level interfaces with the social-level in the public domain of shared activities and object-levels. The possible outcomes of alternative future actions can be appraised prior to a course of action. In this way, conscious mental imagery serves as a mental toolbox, producing its internal contents for the user to explore and manipulate in the selection and preparation of future physical and social activity.

The principal role is to perform ‘thought experiments’ by rehearsing activation of ‘what-if’ schemata to evaluate potential outcomes before making any actions physically (Figure 1). Thought experiments enable the imager to generate a sequence of interacting processes consisting of goals, schemata, actions, objects and affects. Once triggered, implementation of activity cycles gives rise to actual physical activity, perception, and affect.

Imagery that is vivid, through virtue of being as clear and as lively as possible, closely approximates actual perceptual-motor activity, and is of benefit to action preparation, simulation and rehearsal. [AP 035].

NEUROSCIENTIFIC STUDIES

Imagery, observation, and execution share similar neural processes. [AP 036]. The physiological mechanisms that are active during physical skill acquisition are also active during imagery and observation of the same skill. [21] Visual ideas may or may not be fleshed out as actions and not all ideas in human thought are visual. However, a significant category of ideas consists of images of varying force and vivacity. Without vividness, no Midsummer’s Night Dream, Le Malade Imaginaire or Don Quixote, and no Maxwell’s demon, Einstein’s elevator or Schrödinger’s cat. Whatever else humans may be, we are thinkers, schemers, idea-generators. Visual thoughts are an important part of what makes us human.  Antonio Damasio points to the huge value of  mental imagery to ‘creative intelligence’ in human evolution: “Creative intelligence was the means by which mental images and behaviors were intentionally combined to provide novel solutions for the problems that humans diagnosed and to construct new worlds for the opportunities humans envisioned”. [22]

There is an extensive literature on ‘mental practice’, otherwise referred to as `imagery rehearsal’ or ‘mental simulation’ (Richardson, 1965; Jeannerrod and Decety, 1995). Imagery is routinely and systematically employed in preparation and rehearsal of sports activity and has been shown to produce enhanced performance across a wide variety of skill-sets (Feltz & Landers, 1983; Markman, Klein and Suhr, 2009). Studies of skilled performers show that activity cycles are more effectively rehearsed when they incorporate vivid imagery (Isaac & Marks, 1990). Studies of Olympic athletes and performers capable of specialist skills suggest that high imagery vividness is of most benefit to performances that have significant perceptual-motor components or require visualization of complex interactions at the object-level (Isaac & Marks, 1994).

Converging evidence suggests that mental simulation of movement and actual movement share similar neurocognitive and learning processes leading to considerable interest in imagery simulation of movement as a therapeutic tool in rehabilitation of stroke patients, patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological syndromes.[23] Conscious imagery enables the user to explore, select and prepare physical and social activity.  [AP 037].

A common neural basis exists for imitation, observational learning and motor imagery. During mental simulation, the excitatory motor output generated for executing the action is inhibited. The autonomic system is also activated during motor imagery. The principal function of Consciousness is to analyse actions and predict their consequences. Simulation enables the imager to mentally try out a sequence of goals, schemata and actions that minimize hazard, loss and pain.

The principal measure of vividness, the VVIQ, is strongly associated with performance in different kinds of task: self-report, physiological motor, perceptual, cognitive and memory (Marks, 1972, 1973; McKelvie, 1995; Runge, Cheung and D’Angiulli, 2017). To quote Runge et al. (2017): “[V]ividness can be considered a chief phenomenological feature of primary sensory Consciousness, and it supports the idea that Consciousness is a graded phenomenon”.[24] Recent research has shown that reported vividness is associated with early visual cortex activity relative to the whole brain activity measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and the performance on a novel psychophysical task.

Vividness of visual imagery correlates with fMRI activity in early visual cortex scores demonstrating that higher visual cortex activity indexes more vivid imagery. Variations in imagery vividness depend on a large network of brain areas, including frontal, parietal and visual areas. The more similar the neural response during imagery to the neural response during perception, the more vivid or perception-like the imagery experience. [AP 038]. From these findings, it can be concluded that an image is an idea with visual attributes. The more vivid the image the more strongly we will be aware of it. Upon reflection of the alternative actions available, it is possible to inhibit certain actions and implement others, or to keep actions ‘on hold’ for the future. Thus Consciousness of the BCS is able to facilitate successful striving towards goals, and thereby the effectiveness of Type II homeostasis, providing a significant evolutionary advantage.

THE BEHAVIOUR CONTROL SYSTEM

Executive functions are cognitive processes such as working memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control that direct goal-directed behaviours. The Behaviour Control System (BCS) co-ordinates the REF, CLOCK AAIS and SCHEMATA systems to produce voluntary and involuntary action, affect and cognition. In its regulation of the REF,  Consciousness, at the top of the BCS, facilitates the effectiveness of Type II homeostasis and provides a significant  evolutionary advantage to the organism.  Figure 5.2 shows the different parts of the BCS together with other major processes involved in the planning and execution of behaviour.

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 11.09.47 Figure 2  The Behaviour Control System consisting of nine integrated processes for the generation of action. Schemata exist for all actions, designed to satisfy physiological and psychological needs that are striving towards equilibrium. The REF, CLOCK and AAIS systems (see previous post, black and dark grey) interconnect with the Action Schemata system (see Figure 1, light and dark grey).  Levels of control include sensory input, executive control, voluntary behaviour (including speech) and the AAIS, action schemata and REF, goals, sociality and affect, and automatized action. The AAIS and Action Schemata system trial implicit voluntary action in the absence of overt behaviour. Actions are generated in direct response to goals, the actions of others and the individual’s affective feelings.  Automatized, involuntary and habitual behaviours run off subconsciously and do not normally require executive control, unless there is an ongoing conscious effort to change them.

CONCLUSIONS:

1)    The Behaviour Control System (BCS) coordinates the REF, CLOCK, AAIS and action schemata to plan goals and regulate action.

2)    The BCS employs conscious mental imagery to plan, simulate and execute goal-directed action to satisfy needs.

3)    Consciousness of the BCS facilitates the effectiveness of Type II homeostasis, providing a significant evolutionary advantage. 

REFERENCES

[1] Quoted from Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney “Big match preparation”. In FourFourTwo Peformance.

[2] I will introduce Consciousness with some facts about what is established beyond any reasonable doubt rather than that cottage-industry of mental masturbation appropriately termed the ‘hard problem’. See: Chalmers, D. J. (1995). Facing up to the problem of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness studies2(3), 200-219.

[3] It has been suggested that agency includes the following: “intentionality and forethought, self-regulation by self-reactive influence, and self-reflectiveness about one’s capabilities, quality of functioning, and the meaning and purpose of one’s life pursuits”; see: Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of Psychology52(1), 1-26.

[4] This list is not exhaustive but it encompasses much of what is known about Consciousness.

[5] Feinberg, T. E., & Mallatt, J. M. (2016). The ancient origins of Consciousness: How the brain created experience. MIT Press.

[6] Craig, A. D. (2003). Interoception: the sense of the physiological condition of the body. Current opinion in neurobiology13(4), 500-505.

[7] Schmidt, R. A., Lee, T., Winstein, C., Wulf, G., & Zelaznik, H. (2018). Motor Control and Learning, 6E. Human kinetics.

[8] Mental imagery is often categorized into types such as ‘after-imagery’, ‘eidetic’, ‘memory’, ‘imagination’ and ‘dream’ imagery. We consider in this chapter the visual imagery of wakefulness and reserve research on dreaming to a later chapter.

[9] In “Mon Oncle d’Amérique” (My American Uncle), a 1980 movie by Alain Resnais, where Laborit explains several of his ideas.

[10] Watkins, N. (2017). (A) phantasia and SDAM: Scientific and Personal Perspectives.

[11] My tutor Maggie’s prof at Cambridge way back when.

[12] Bartlett, F.C. (1926). Review of Aphasia and kindred disorders of speech, by Henry Head. Brain, 49, 581-587.

[13] Marks, D. F. (1999). Consciousness, mental imagery and action. British journal of Psychology90(4), 567-585.

[14] See: Marks (1999); Feinberg and Mallatt 2016) op. cit.

[15] Holmes, E. A., & Mathews, A. (2005). Mental imagery and emotion: a special relationship?. Emotion5(4), 489.

[16] D’Argembeau, A., & Van der Linden, M. (2006). Individual differences in the phenomenology of mental time travel: The effect of vivid visual imagery and emotion regulation strategies. Consciousness and Cognition, 15, 342-350.

[17] Brewin, C. R., Gregory, J. D., Lipton, M., & Burgess, N. (2010). Intrusive images in psychological disorders: characteristics, neural mechanisms, and treatment implications. Psychological review117(1), 210.

[18] It has been suggested that this capacity may have evolved from an action execution/observation matching system using mirror neurons. See: Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Gallese, V., & Fogassi, L. (1996). Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Cognitive brain research3(2), 131-141.

[19] Affect is discussed in detail in Chapter Six.

[20] This part of the theory was previously termed ‘Action Control Theory’ or ACT. See: Marks, D. F. (1999). Consciousness, mental imagery and action. British journal of Psychology90(4), 567-585. A similar theory was independently developed by Marc Jeannerod. See: Jeannerod, M. (1999). The 25th Bartlett Lecture: To act or not to act: Perspectives on the representation of actions. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A52(1), 1-29.

[21] Holmes, P. S., Cumming, J., & Edwards, M. G. (2010). Movement imagery, observation, and skill. The neurophysiological foundations of mental and motor imagery, 245-269.

[22] Damasio, Antonio. (2018). The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (p. 71). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[23] Pichiorri, F., Morone, G., Petti, M., Toppi, J., Pisotta, I., Molinari, M., … & Mattia, D. (2015). Brain–computer interface boosts motor imagery practice during stroke recovery. Annals of neurology77(5), 851-865.

[24] T Cui X, Jeter CB, Yang D, Montague PR, Eagleman DM. (2007). Dijkstra N, Bosch SE, van Gerven MA. (2017).

A General Theory of Behaviour V: Learning, Striving and Inhibiting

In this fifth article concerning AGTB. I describe basic principles of learning, striving and inhibiting behaviour. Among other things, it includes the Law of Effect which was derived from studies with cats.


“responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation.”

Edward Thorndike, 1898

LEARNING

 For at least a century from the late 1800s theories of learning were the dominant concern of experimental psychologists. This was the era of ‘Grand Theories’ designed to bring a new dawn to the Science of Behaviour.  The School of ‘Behaviourism’ would strive ultimately to explain all of behaviour. The animal laboratory became a crucible for a vast edifice of findings with hundreds of doctoral candidates cutting their teeth with a thousand different variables. For this, we can thank Edward Lee Thorndike (1874 –1949), an American psychologist who pioneered ethology, theories of learning and pedagogy. Our focus here is specifically Thorndike’s work on animal learning and the Law of Effect.[1]

Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that cannot be explained by temporary states, maturation, or innate response tendencies.[2]  An organism learns because: i) it needs to satisfy physiological and psychological needs, ii) it needs to adapt to new situations based on experience of similar situations in the past, and iii) because there is an intrinsic value in learning of and for itself.

Thorndike was born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. He attended the oldest school in North America, Roxbury Latin School in Boston. Roxbury Latin was founded in 1645 by the Rev. John Eliot,  a puritan missionary, under charter from King Charles I of England.  Eliot’s mission was “to fit [students] for public service both in church and in commonwealth in succeeding ages.” After his time at Roxbury, Thorndike took an English degree at Wesleyan and a master’s degree at Harvard under no less a person than William James, and then a doctoral degree from Columbia in 1898 which was supervised by James Cattell. His doctoral thesis, Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of Associative Processes in Animals, established a learning theory that dominates all others for nearly 50 years, a notable achievement.[3]

Like many scientists of that era, Thorndike was a eugenicist.  He argued that “Selective breeding can alter man’s capacity to learn, to keep sane, to cherish justice or to be happy. There is no more certain and economical a way to improve man’s environment as to improve his nature.”[4] One should not jump to judgement about this, because eugenics was in the zeitgeist, but whatever his – and the majority of his colleagues’ – views, Thorndike is one of the historical giants of theoretical Psychology.

Although there are precursors, Thorndike proposed the ‘Law of Effect’ (LOE) in 1898, laying a foundation stone for theories of learning for more than a century.[5]  The law has never been rescinded.

Thorndike invented the concept of ‘reinforcement’ that was to become especially important to the study of operant conditioning, in which the effect of a response influences the likelihood of the future production of that response. The LOE applies to the entire universe of behaviour in which stimuli yielding satisfaction or pleasure are approached and those yielding dissatisfaction or pain are avoided.

The motivation system is crucially interdependent on the ability to remember what leads to pain and what leads to pleasure. The organism requires a mechanism for learning which is at the heart of all behaviour and performance.

The LOE is central to AGTB and the kernel of Principle VII:

Principle VII (Law of Effect): (A) All voluntary action is determined by the degree of pleasure or displeasure that the action provokes. (B) Any behaviour that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated. (C) Any behaviour that is followed by unpleasant consequences is unlikely to be repeated.

Thorndike was best known for his work with cats inside his famous “puzzle box”.[6] A hungry cat was confined in a box with ‘manipulandum’ (i.e. a lever) that allowed the cat to escape by opening a door and receive a food morsel outside the door.[7] Initially cats engage in semi-random exploratory behaviours that characterise many animals in confinement such as clawing, biting, meowing, rubbing, and so on.  Ultimately the cat would accidentally  activate the release mechanism and escape the box to consume the food. When returned to the box,  the cat would again engage in a series of  exploratory behaviours and eventually, once again, accidentally activate the release mechanism. Thorndike observed that the time between initial placement and escape slowly decreased over a series of trials, providing a learning curve.

 

By any account, Edward Lee Thorndike was a successful scientist. In 1912, Thorndike was elected president for the American Psychological Association and, in 1917, he became a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, and in 1934, he was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Thorndike also composed three ‘word books’ to assist teachers with word and reading instruction.

Thorndike’s theoretical ideas were founded on his repeated observations. He concluded that cats learn by selecting and connecting, what others called “trial and error learning”, a “stamping in” of correct responses and a “stamping out” of incorrect responses. Thorndike proposed that learning consists of connecting stimuli (bits and pieces found inside the puzzle box) with responses (pushing the lever), producing stimulus-response (S-R) ‘connections’ or ‘bonds’.  The instigator of the cats’ behaviour in the puzzle box was thought to be a ‘drive’ to escape.

The drive concept

was originally defined by Robert S. Woodworth in 1918 as an “intense internal force that  motivates behaviour.”[8]  The concept became the foundation stone for Hull’s drive theory of behaviour, viz. that whether learned or innate, drive automatically motivates behaviour (Hull, 1943). Drive was viewed as the primary instigator of behaviour, a bodily state that renders behaviour ‘reinforceable’. Unlearned or innate sources of drive include ‘deprivation of biologically important substances such as food, water, or oxygen.  Such deficits threaten survival and the organism make adjustments to restore the system to the  normal set range via homeostasis.  Drive also may be induced by aversive stimuli such as loud noise or electric shock that are not life threatening.

The first half-century of learning theory, culminating with Hull, generated a circle of concepts with ‘drive’ at the centre, and stimuli, responses, connections, and reinforcements of the circumference. Like all systems in the history of Psychology, however, there would be a rise and a fall. Hull’s theory fell into disfavour and the drive concept went into sharp decline.[9] With the demise of the drive concept in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Psychology threw away with the water, not only the baby, but the entire bath tub.  We turn to consider an alternative ‘bath tub’ in the form of the concept of striving.

STRIVING

“Every person on the planet (barring illness) can tell good from bad, positive from negative, pleasure from displeasure”.[10]  Not only can we tell it, we can feel it. From the pre-Socratics philosophers until the present day, the role of pleasure and pain as motivators of human behaviour has been universally accepted. Psychological hedonism, the idea that all action is determined by the degree of pleasure or displeasure that imagining the action provokes, dates back to Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC) who is alleged to have said: “We begin every act of choice and avoidance from pleasure…”

In 1789 the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham formulated the principle of utility in which any action that promotes the greatest amount of happiness is morally right. Happiness is identified with pleasure and the absence of pain. In 1848 the German physicist Gustav Fechner used the term Lustprinzip.  Fifty years later Sigmund Freud copied this idea by formulating the ‘Pleasure Principle’ which  has an almost exact equivalent in Cannon’s concept of homeostasis which has the goal of tension reduction for the sake of maintaining, or restoring, the inner equilibrium.[11]

Interestingly, pleasure and pain are both objective and subjective at the same time, a double-sided feature that carries evolutionary benefits.  If subjective and objective pain could get out of step, one can only imagine the disastrous consequences.  The idea that organisms strive for pleasure and the avoidance of pain has been accepted for aeons.

What exactly do we mean by ‘the degree of pleasure’ and ‘displeasure?  Michel Cabanac of Laval University in Québec suggested that the pleasure or displeasure of a sensation is directly related to the biological usefulness of the stimulus to the subject.The seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of displeasure are behaviours which have useful homeostatic consequences. [AP 019]. That is, they depend on the internal state of the stimulated subject at the particular moment of the stimulation.  Pleasure indicates a useful stimulus and motivates the subject to approach it. Pain indicates a useful stimulus and motivates the subject to avoid it.[12]

Emerging evidence indicates similarities in the anatomical substrates of painful and pleasant sensations in the opioid and dopamine systems.[13] The experience of positive and negative affect is based on neural circuits that evolved to ensure survival.  These circuits are activated by external stimuli that are appetitive and life sustaining or by stimuli that threaten survival. Activation of the pain and pleasure circuits alert the sensory systems to pay attention and prompt motor action.[14]

The approach-avoidance concept has captured the imagination of many theorists and been extraordinarily pivotal.[15] The approach-avoidance system also includes behavioural inhibition which takes over when there is approach-avoidance conflict.[16]

Action schemata are also necessary precursors to action, as we shall see in the next post.  This leads to a four-pronged system for regulating approach-avoidance-inhibition (AAIS). Operating together with action schemata, the REF, CLOCK and AAIS regulate voluntary action (Figure 1).

Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 09.07.46

Figure 1. The REF, CLOCK and AAIS interconnect with action schemata to execute voluntary action.

Two necessary conditions are required by the AAIS: a need state or drive (e.g. hunger) and the ability to reset the need by homeostasis (eating of a food reward).[17]  These conditions are stated in Hull’s Law which contains the assumption that the ‘excitatory potential’, E, or homoeostatic pressure, determining the strength of a response is a multiplicative function of a learning factor, H, and a generalized drive factor, D, i.e., E = H x D. When D (drive/motivation) is zero, E automatically becomes zero also.  In mature organisms, the inability to learn when drive is lacking is something that occurs in both operant and classical conditioning.[18]  Without motivation, learning does not generally happen, and behaviour is not performed.[19]

A century of research on learning and the AAIS was conducted under laboratory conditions where food- or drink-deprived animals are all normally tested during the 9-5, traditional working day.  We know that that the reward potential of the environment varies dramatically across the LD cycle as modulated by the CLOCK system.[20]  Free-living rats and mice normally sleep during daytime hours and so all of the lab research with them has been imposing ‘jet lag’ on the animals’ usual rhythms. The edifice of findings has been achieved with both the Type I homeostasis and CLOCK systems fully switched on. This, and other reasons, leads one to question the generalizability of the lab findings to the behaviour of free-living animals.  In spite of the many reservations, it is necessary to accept that, within certain well-known biological constraints, there can be confidence that the LOE is not purely a laboratory artefact and that free-living organisms follow it.[21]

As we have seen, major authorities agree that a drive underlies approach and avoidance energised by a striving toward pleasure and away from pain. Every living being strives towards a fixed set range of positive well-being. [AP 020]. Organisms approach sources of potential pleasure and satisfaction and studiously avoid potentially aversive stimuli and confrontations with danger. There really isn’t much difference between striving for something and having a drive for something.  Both concepts involve a felt need to satisfy an unmet need, whether biological or behavioural.  When the need has been satisfied, drive is reduced, striving ceases, and the organism resets to equilibrium and can rest. For this reason, we are pleased to return the ostracised drive concept from its exile.

In encountering a threatening stimulus, the organism fights, takes flight or freezes, in which case inhibition of behaviour minimizes the risks that come with a collision of interests or confrontation.

Miller’s (1944) summary of data on approach-avoidance conflict showed that the tendency to approach is stronger far from the feared goal, while the tendency to avoid is stronger near the goal.  Inhibition of action occurs when approach or avoidance are impossible, when a danger cannot be accurately predicted or when there is no previous response pattern to fall back on. In these cases, the système inhibiteur de l’action, or ‘behavioural inhibition system’ (BIS), is activated, stimulating the neuroendocrinal responses described by Walter Cannon and Hans Selye.

Inhibition is a regular, everyday occurrence in the life of free-living animals. For example,  consider the plains zebra (Equus quagga) drinking at a waterhole. With crocodiles always a danger, a cycle of approach, avoidance and inhibition will be repeated several times over before a zebra drinks.  In many instances, the drive to drink water exceeds the drive to keep safe and thirsty zebras are frequently killed by crocodiles.[22] Freezing until danger passes is necessary for the zebra’s long-term survival, as long as the suspense of drinking does not continue for too long.

‘Freezing’ is an option in many commonly occurring circumstances for humans also.  A worker dealing with an exploitative boss cannot fight or flee because they would be out of a job.  They may be forced to let months and years go by while they inhibit their behaviour. Behavioural inhibition causes arousal and anxiety which, if unchecked, ultimately has deleterious effects on physical and mental well-being. [AP 021].

The BIS was the discovery of the French surgeon and neuropsychopharmacologist Henri Laborit (1914-1995). Laborit  is known for his work on the synthesis of chlorpromazine, the discovery of the neurotransmitter gamma-OH, the antidepressant minaprine, and the sedative clomethiazole.[23]  In regard to inhibition, Laborit stated: “… this situation in which an individual can find himself, this inhibition of action, if it persists, induces pathological situations. The biological perturbations accompanying it will trigger physical diseases and all the behaviours associated with mental illness.” [24]

Principle VIII (Behavioural Inhibition): The Behavioural Inhibition System is activated when there is conflict between competing responses to approach or avoid stimuli.

The BIS suppresses pre-potent responses and elicits risk assessment and displacement behaviours. [AP 022]. Displacement behaviours include head scratching, fidgeting and playing with the car keys when we are uncertain about what to do. Another AP relevant to both P(VI) and P(VIII) states: A primary source of behavioural inhibition is anxiety about actual or imagined failure. [AP 023].

Anxiety can lead one to foresee so many negative scenarios that we may end up doing nothing at all. To do nothing, and to maintain a dream often may be a better option than taking an action and falling flat on one’s face. Whichever way one looks at the oscillation of inhibition, it has a connection with the drive for equilibrium.  We turn to consider an influential approach to the approach-avoidance-inhibition system. 

GRAY AND MCNAUGHTON’S THEORY OF THE AAIS

 If all human actions involved either approaching rewarding goals or avoiding punishing ones, life would be perfectly simple, albeit a little boring.  A multitude of situations contain strongly competing goals of approach-approach, approach-avoidance or avoidance-avoidance conflict. To understand how an organism is to deal with such conflicts, we must unpack how the approach-avoidance-inhibition system might actually work in practice. In this regard, the work of Jeffrey A Gray and Neil McNaughton is of particular relevance.[25]

Gray and McNaughton’s influential account of the approach and avoidance systems involves goal representations which have both cognitive (or identifying) and motivational (or consummatory) properties. The properties of a goal distinguish it from other kinds of stimuli and this includes the ability to be attractors (rewards) or repulsors (punishments). In the McNaughton-Gray theory, responding to attractors or repulsors brings three output systems into play: the Behavioural Approach System (BAS), the BIS, which we have already encountered, and the Freeze-Fight-Flight System (FFFS) (Gray & McNaughton, 2000).

According to McNaughton, DeYoung and Corr (2016), the “Behavioral Inhibition System” has outputs that: “inhibit the behaviour that would be generated by the positive and negative goals (without reducing the activation of the goals themselves), increases arousal and attention (generating exploration and displacement activities), and increases the strength of avoidance tendencies (i.e., increases fear and risk aversion). Increased avoidance during goal conflict is adaptive since, faced with risk, failing to obtain food or some other positive goal is likely to be easy to make up at another time, but experiencing danger could have severe consequences” (p. 30). It can be seen that a quickly taken avoidance decision may produce a false alarm, but, as the case of zebras at the waterhole illustrates, a slow response to a real threat might provide a crocodile with a fulsome dinner.

The approach (BAS), avoidance (FFFS=fight, freeze, flee) and conflict (BIS=behavioural inhibition) systems. The inputs to the system are classified in terms of the delivery (+) or omission (−) of primary positive reinforcers (PosR) or primary negative reinforcers (NegR) or conditional stimuli (CS) or innate stimuli (IS) that predict such primary events. The BIS is activated when it detects approach-avoidance conflict—suppressing prepotent responses and eliciting risk assessment and displacement behaviours. The systems interact homeostatically to generate behaviour. Based on this theory, it is possible to proceed with the proposal that: The voluntary behaviour of free-living organisms is coordinated by the REF, CLOCK and AAIS.[26]  [AP 024].

CONCLUSIONS:

1)    Drives, whether learned or innate, automatically motivate behaviour. Axiomatic to the General Theory of Behaviour is that organisms strive towards pleasure and away from pain.

2)    Differing sources of pleasure and displeasure create conflicts, which are resolved by the approach-avoidance-inhibition system (AAIS).

3)    When the AAIS activates the behaviour inhibition system, it increases arousal, attention and the strength of avoidance tendencies. The AAIS, together with the REF and CLOCK, coordinates voluntary action.

REFERENCES

[1] The work of Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936) on classical conditioning was also hugely influential. Space restrictions prohibit discussion of the significant role of Pavlovian conditioning in this brief introduction to the General Theory. We also do not have space to go beyond a brief sketch of Thorndike’s approach to learning.

[2] Robert R. Mowrer & Stephen B. Klein (2001). Handbook of Contemporary Learning Theories Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Bower G H & Hilgard E R. (1981). Theories of learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

[3] Bower, G. H., & Hilgard, E. R. (1981). Theories of learning. Prentice-Hall. p. 21.

[4] Quoted from: Thorndike, E.L.(1913). Education Psychology: briefer course. p.13. This quotation and a photograph of Thorndike are printed on the cover page of a London Conference on Intelligence held at University College London as recently as 2016. See: http://www.dcscience.net/London-conference-of-Intelligence-2016.pdf

[5] Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The law of effect. The American Journal of Psychology39(1/4), 212-222.

See: Hilgard, E. R. (1948). The century Psychology series. Theories of learning. East Norwalk, CT, US: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Hilgard, E. R., & Marquis, D. G. (1961). The century Psychology series. Hilgard and Marquis’ conditioning and learning, 2nd ed. East Norwalk, CT, US: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

[6] As we saw in the last post, Bernard liked to work with dogs. Thorndike showed a preference for cats.

[7] Animal lovers can feel more relaxed about Thorndike’s methods than Bernard’s or Pavlov’s.

[8] Woodworth, R.S. (1918). Dynamic Psychology. New York: Columbia University Press.

[9] In 1984, a paper was published defending the drive concept.  See: Kendon Smith (1984).”Drive”: In Defense of a Concept. Behaviorism 12, 71-114.

[10] Quotation from the opening sentence of: Lindquist, K. A., Satpute, A. B., Wager, T. D., Weber, J., & Barrett, L. F. (2015). The brain basis of positive and negative affect: evidence from a meta-analysis of the human neuroimaging literature. Cerebral Cortex26(5), 1910-1922.

[11] Which all goes to prove that there’s nothing new under the sun.

[12] Cabanac, M. (1999). Pleasure and joy, and their role in human life. In Creating the productive workplace (pp. 62-72). CRC Press.

[13] Leknes, S., & Tracey, I. (2008). A common neurobiology for pain and pleasure. Nature Reviews Neuroscience9(4), 314.

[14] Lang, P. J., & Bradley, M. M. (2010). Emotion and the motivational brain. Biological Psychology84(3), 437-450.

[15] For a historical summary of the approach-avoidance construct, see: Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational psychologist34(3), 169-189.

[16] We will give the Approach-Avoidance-Inhibition System the acronym “AAIS”.

[17] Tolman, E. C., & Honzik, C. H. (1930). Degrees of hunger, reward and non-reward, and maze learning in rats. University of California Publications in Psychology, 4, 241-256.

[18] Debold, R. C., Miller, N. E., & Jensen, D. D. (1965). Effect of strength of drive determined by a new technique for appetitive classical conditioning of rats. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology59(1), 102.

[19] Possible exceptions are the innate disposition in critical periods to phase-sensitive learning or imprinting in young animals without specific reward and the learning that occurs in casual observation of others.

[20] Murray, G., Nicholas, C. L., Kleiman, J., Dwyer, R., Carrington, M. J., Allen, N. B., & Trinder, J. (2009). Nature’s clocks and human mood: The circadian system modulates reward motivation. Emotion9(5), 705.

[21] In addition to associative learning, animals have innate species-specific defence reactions such as fleeing, freezing, and fighting that are rapidly acquired; see Bolles, R. C. (1970). Species-specific defense reactions and avoidance learning. Psychological review77(1), 32. For a human example, see: Wichers, M., Kasanova, Z., Bakker, J., Thiery, E., Derom, C., Jacobs, N., & van Os, J. (2015). From affective experience to motivated action: Tracking reward-seeking and punishment-avoidant behaviour in real-life. PloS one10(6), e0129722.

[22] This is known as the “Life Dinner Principle”: it is better to sacrifice one’s dinner (or one’s drink) than one’s life. See: Dawkins R, Krebs JR. (1979). Arms races between and within species. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 205:489–511.

[23] Laborit, who also discussed political philosophy, once stated: “It would be desirable to replace the republican motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” by “Conscience, knowledge, imagination””.See: http://www.nouvellegrille.info/surlagrille.html

[24] Kunz, E. (2014). Henri Laborit and the inhibition of action. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience16(1), 113.

[25] Gray JA, McNaughton N. (2000). The NeuroPsychology of Anxiety: An Enquiry into the Functions of the Septo-hippocampal System. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; McNaughton, N., DeYoung, C. G., & Corr, P. J. (2016). Approach/avoidance. In Neuroimaging personality, social cognition, and character (pp. 25-49).

[26] For this purpose, we bring back the forsaken concept of drive.

A General Theory of Behaviour I

The first in a 12-part series about A General Theory of Behaviour (AGTB). AGTB is a new theory of behaviour founded on the principle of ‘Psychological Homeostasis’. AGTB includes 20 principles and 80 associated propositions (AP).


 

I trace here the history of the theory of Psychological Homeostasis as a universal principle of behaviour.

This story begins in the fifth century BC with the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, the vis medicatrix naturae, and the idea of the body as a natural healer of imbalances.

Fast forward 2.4 thousand years to the nineteenth century AD to the life and theories of Claude Bernard. Walter B Cannon coined the term ‘homeostasis’ for Bernard’s principle.

I extend the principle in A General Theory of Behaviour.


Claude Bernard

French physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) was  a near contemporary of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). CB is recognised as the ‘Father of Modern Physiology and Experimental Medicine’, best known for his work on the pancreas and vasomotor system, and for discovering glycogen.

Yet, CB’s description of the milieu intérieur in living organisms is equally significant. It is also a dangerous idea –  a very dangerous idea. The principle states:

The stability of the internal environment is the condition for the free and independent life.”

So, who exactly was Claude Bernard?

Born in the quiet village of Saint-Julien, among the vineyards of the Beaujolais region of the Val de Saône in France, life here is slow but productive.  I visited Bernard’s home, which is part of a dedicated museum (LE MUSÉE CLAUDE BERNARD, see photos below). Every square centimetre of soil in this region is planted in vine.

The young Claude was fascinated by fine art, literature and philosophy: Delacroix, Victor Hugo and René Descartes. He wasn’t too much interested in the school curriculum and applied his talents to writing plays, such as a vaudeville comedy, La Rose du Rhône, and a five-act tragedy, Arthur de Bretagne.[1]

Screen Shot 2020-03-11 at 08.47.15

To the disappointment of his parents and teachers, Bernard did not reach his full potential and disgraced himself by failing his bachelor’s degree. He left college without qualifications or any career aims.  He worked as an apprentice to a pharmacist in Lyon, but got fired.  Things were not going well.  However, encouraged by having a comedy performed in a local theatre, Bernard hoped to become a writer and moved to Paris.

After receiving advice from a respected critic, Bernard had a change of heart and enrolled at medical school. At medical school he was romantically attracted to a young woman, a patient from one of the wards, but his approaches were rebuffed, leading him to write sadly and prophetically: “I think I would never be destined to be happy in love.”[2]

After his romantic rebuff, Bernard threw himself into his work and meets the leading physiologist, François Magendie, and becomes his assistant. He works hard for Magendie’s but receives another knock-back in 1844 when he fails the competition at the Faculty of Medicine and is barred from practicing as a physician. Having no means of support he thinks of returning to Saint-Julien to tend the vines as a ‘country doctor’ but, encouraged by others, he turns his attention to full-time basic physiological research – a move that changes the history of medicine. Then, out of the blue…along comes Fanny.

In 1845 Bernard marries Marie Françoise “Fanny” Martin for her dowry. This sounds cold and calculating, but this is how it was sometimes done way back then. This pragmatic if unromantic arrangement enabled Bernard to continue his physiological experiments. From this point Bernard’s career takes an upward turn.

Bernard’s Discoveries

In 1855, Bernard isolates and names glycogen. He learns how glycogen in the liver maintains the blood glucose levels at near constant level with a process that is termed today ‘homeostasis’. For lazier scientists, this would have been a large enough laurel to rest upon, supping on wine from your very own vineyard.  Not Claude Bernard. In 1864 Emperor Louis Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie invite Bernard to stay at Compiegne Castle where Bernard makes a real impression, standing out in the French intelligentsia of architects, engineers, artists and philosophers.  The Emperor offers Bernard a laboratory at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and opens doors to the most important people of the day.  Claude Bernard has arrived.

While recuperating from an illness at Saint-Julien in 1865, Bernard writes a classic text, The Introduction To Experimental Medicine, where he states: “There are physicians who are fanatical about the effects of the drugs they prescribe. They do not accept critical comments which are based upon experiments. They say you can only prescribe drugs which you believe in, and they think that prescribing a drug to a patient you doubt about shows a lack of medical ethics. I don’t accept this way of thinking, it means deceiving oneself and deceiving others.”[4] Seventy years before Karl Popper, Claude Bernard is asserting the principle of falsification.

As a scientist, Bernard is the complete package. He “embraces both theory and experimental practice “and associates “all the terms of the experimental method in solidarity with one another”. As Bernard writes: “Experimental ideas are very often born by chance and on the occasion of an fortuitous observation…the theory is only the scientific idea controlled by experience (…), in the aspiration of the mind towards the unknown“, a proposal that has a contemporary flavour.[5]

In his Lessons of Phenomena of Life in Animals and Plants Bernard (1878-79) writes: “…there are in fact two environments, one milieu which is outside the body and an inner milieu, in which the components of living tissues are embedded. The real existence of the animal doesn’t take place in the external world but inside the liquid medium of circulating organic fluid. This fluid is the expression of all local nutrition and the source and mouth of elementary exchange.

Claude Bernard dies a national hero, with full honours, the first state funeral granted to any scientist in France. The Université Claude-Bernard Lyon 1 is named in his honour, one of the three public universities of Lyon, and specializes in science, technology and health. ‘Rue Claude Bernard’ is located in the Latin Quarter of Paris and, in Lyon, the ‘Quay Claude Bernard ’ is located by the Rhone River.[6]

Walter B Cannon’s term ‘Homeostasis’

Walter_Bradford_Cannon_1934

We turn to Bernard’s concept of the milieu intérior. Here the story gets interesting…

For several decades Claude Bernard’s ‘dangerous idea’ [7], the milieu intérior, was put on the back burner because nobody quite knew what to do with it. In the early Twentieth Century it was taken up by J.S. Haldane, C.S Sherrington, J. Barcroft  and a few others.[8]

In 1926 the concept gained currency when Harvard physiologist Walter B Cannon coined the term homeostasis.  In Cannon’s view, his book The Wisdom of the Body had presented a modern interpretation of vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature posited by Hippocrates. Cannon believed he had shown how the automatic function of homeostasis freed the brain for the more intellectual functions of intelligence, imagination and insight.

At this point, the homeostasis story picks up apace. Add to the mix of Bernard and Cannon, spice the pot with the work of Wiener (1948), Von Bertalanffy (1968) and season it with the work of the evolutionary biologists and we have a ‘stew’ to die for. As the contents of the pot bubble and coalesce, we sense that homeostasis is not only advantageous for any living system, but it could even be the defining characteristic of life itself.[9]

A Universal Principle of Behaviour

At every level of existence, from the cell to the organism, from the individual to the population, and from the local ecosystem to the entire planet, homeostasis is a drive towards stability, security and adaptation to change. In an infinite variety of forms, omnipresent in living beings, is an inbuilt function with the sole purpose of striving for equilibrium, not only in the milieu intérieur but in the milieu extérieur also.

We take a gigantic leap…but that’s why we are here – even if we feel we are at the edge of a cliff – we must go for it…

On the other side of Bernard’s scientific coin, we imagine we find the following:

“The stability of the external environment is the condition for the free and independent life.” 

By changing a single word ‘internal’ to its antonym ‘exterior’, a whole new theoretical perspective for the Science of Behaviour is created. Voila – “A General Theory of Behaviour”.[10]  Striving for balance and equilibrium is the guiding force in all we – and all other conscious beings –  do, think and feel.  This newly defined homeostasis deserves a descriptive name: I call it the “Reset Equilibrium Function” or REF.

The principle is a universal one in the natural world.  The planet operates with one binding principle, ‘Gaia’.  The Gaia hypothesis holds that living organisms interact with their surroundings on Earth to form synergistic and self-regulatingcomplex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet ( James Lovelock). In microcosm, human behaviour is a synergistic, self-regulating, complex system of homeostasis.

All organisms automatically regulate essential physiological functions by homeostasis and it is a matter of everyday observation that drives are maintained in equilibrium by comportment, e.g. eating, drinking, fornicating, sleeping, excreting, etc. This type of homeostasis has been established since the time of Bernard. Far more than this, and as a matter of routine, without any special reflection in most instances, all conscious beings reconcile discrepancies among their thoughts, behaviours, and feelings and in the differences with those with whom they have social relationships. Conscious organisms strive to achieve their goals while maximizing cohesion and cooperation with both kith and kin and, at the same time, striving to take away or to minimize the suffering and pain of others. [AP 001].

The goal is to minimize all forms of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and tooth-and-claw competition and to live in a culture where the thriving of all is in the self-interest of every individual.  The idea has been described by Antonio Damasio thus: “cultural instruments first developed in relation to the homeostatic needs of individuals and of groups as small as nuclear families and tribes. The extension to wider human circles was not and could not have been contemplated. Within wider human circles, cultural groups, countries, even geopolitical blocs, often operate as individual organisms, not as parts of one larger organism, subject to a single homeostatic control. Each uses the respective homeostatic controls to defend the interests of its organism” (Damasio, 2018, p. 32).[11]

Whether we are aware of it or not, the REF is omnipresent, wherever we go and whatever we are doing. The process is not something we normally focus attention on, the process through which our behavioural systems are perpetually striving to maintain balance, safety and stability in our physical and social surroundings. Competing drives, conflicts, and inconsistencies all can pull the flow of events ‘off balance’, triggering this innate striving to restore equilibrium. The majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten local disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them. [AP 002]. It is not a battle that we can always win; there is always the possibility of instability, error, calamity or catastrophe even. There are abundant links to other theories inside and outside of Psychology. Piaget’s notion of equilibration was concerned with the attempt to balance psychological schemas when new information is encountered. In equilibration, children accommodate new information by changing their psychological schemas in a process of assimilation. This same idea applies to other psychological domains when there is a departure from a set range of equilibrium.  Advocates of Buddhist philosophy, for example, the Dalai Lama, have identified a need for inner peace.[12]

Body and mind continuously regulate and control many domains and levels simultaneously, with multiple adjustments to voluntary and involuntary behaviour guided by two types of homeostasis: Type I – inwardly striving or physiological homeostasis, H[Φ], and Type II – outwardly striving or psychological homeostasis, H[Ψ]. Physiological regulation involves drives such as hunger, thirst, sex, elimination and sleep.  Influenced by Cannon, Clark Hull (1943)[13] suggested a drive theory of regulatory mechanisms in which an organism can only rest when it is in a state of equilibrium. When a need such as hunger or thirst develops, the organism engages in need-satisfying behaviour.  However, ‘drive’ can be mental as well as physical so that misery, fear and worry – often lumped together as ‘stress’ – create a state of unrest that prevents calmness, relaxation and sleep. Whenever we feel unrest, there is a need to ‘press the reset button’ and restore equilibrium. The ‘Reset Equilibrium Function’ (REF) operates across all behavioural systems and processes of relevance to the Science of Psychology.

Reset Equilibrium Function (REF)

The Reset Equilibrium Function (or ‘REF’) is the principle of homeostasis in psychological processes and behaviour. We employ systems theory with cyclical negative feedback loops as a central feature. Feedback loops in Cybernetics and Control Theory mirror homeostasis within Biology and Neuroscience. Claude Bernard’s ‘milieu intérnal’, Cannon’s (1932) ‘homeostasis’, Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics and von Bertalanffy’s (1968) general systems theory all converge toward the ubiquitous role of feedback in self-regulating systems. Psychologists have employed control theory as a conceptual tool for large areas of Psychology (e.g. Carver and Scheier, 1982)[14] and, notably, one objective of control theory has been to provide a “Unified Theory of Human Behaviour”[15].

AGTB describes systems of homeostasis in networks of interconnected processes with values that are reset by the REF. This idea is founded on principles in Biology, Engineering and Cybenetics which have compelling isomorphisms with phenomena in Psychology.

The Reset Equilibrium Function extends the reach of homeostasis to a general control function that automatically restores psychological processes to equilibrium and stability. The REF is triggered when any processes within a system strays outside of its set range. The REF is innate and can exist only in conscious organisms, which all have Type I and II homeostasis. Non-conscious organisms have one type of homeostasis (Type I).  Figure 1.1 shows Type II homeostasis in a system of four processes, each with its own set range, making a series of resets. Any set of processes such as the four in Figure 1.1 is a sub-set of thousands of interconnected processes responsible for coding, communicating and controlling inside the body and the brain. Any process can be connected to hundreds or thousands of others in one huge lattice structure. Potentially any single one of these processes can push any other process out of its set range requiring it to reset. When any process resets, a ‘domino-effect’ is possible when other interconnected processes require a reset also. The two types of homeostasis work in synergy. Psychological and physiological processes operate in tandem to maximize equilibrium for each particular set of functions. [AP 003].

Many examples of the REF featured in AGTB have a similar structure to that shown in Figure 1.1. However, there is no restriction on the number of participating processes or interconnected networks.[16]

FIG 1.1.pngFigure 1. The Reset Equilibrium Function (REF) in a system with four interconnected processes (A-D). Whenever one or more processes exits its set range, the REF returns each process to its set range. The configuration of 4 processes is for expositional convenience. Any number of processes, forming a network of lattice structures, may participate in complex behaviours.

 My main objective here is to demonstrate that the REF is relevant to numerous psychological functions. These include functions where frequent reset is a condition for stability, e.g. cognition, affect, chronic stress, and subjective well-being, and also where out-of-control behavior, such as addiction or insomnia, is in need of correction. For all psychological functions, conscious awareness of the state of equilibrium being preserved is not necessary, e.g. subjective well-being. However, when there is goal to change behavior, conscious awareness of the goal and full engagement of resources are necessary preconditions for purposeful striving, e.g. addiction to alcohol.

Principle 1: Purpose, Desire and Intentionality

In Psychology, biological approaches automatically fall under the suspicion that material reductionism is required. This suspicion is widespread among psychologists who are anti-reductive. With good reason, mind and behaviour are viewed as having properties that extend beyond ‘cogs and flywheels’ or other physico-chemical energy exchanges. We do not doubt the basic ‘clockwork’ model of homeostasis is the dominant one; witness the frequent use of the domestic heating thermostat as the prototypical example of homeostasis in Biology, Physiology and Psychology textbooks.  However, the ‘clockwork’ approach is a simplistic caricature and the idea that behaviour is reducible to physico-chemical reactions is robustly rejected:

Principle I (Agency): The voluntary behaviour of conscious organisms is guided by  universal striving for equilibrium with purpose, desire and intentionality.[17]

Following G.E.M. Anscombe, we assert that agents act intentionally if they know what they are doing, i.e. they are aware of the purpose of the act and the reasons for doing it.[18] Type 2 homeostasis, which is associated with the REF, falls into this category.  In arguing that homeostasis (Type II)  is intentional and purposeful, we adopt two non-reductionist principles, holism and critical realism.  In applying the General Theory it is never necessary to assume that mental processes and behaviours are reducible to physico-chemical reactions. We only require that the mind/body system as a whole can be studied using objective methods. Von Bertalanffy (1968) sums up the issue thus:

“We cannot reduce the biological, behavioural, and social levels to the lowest level, that of the constructs and laws of physics. We can, however, find constructs and possibly laws within the individual levels. The world is, as Aldous Huxley once put it, like a Neapolitan ice cream cake where the levels-the physical, the biological, the social and the moral universe-represent the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla layers. We cannot reduce strawberry to chocolate – the most we can say is that possibly in the last resort, all is vanilla, all mind or spirit. The unifying principle is that we find organizational levels. The mechanistic world view, taking the play of physical particles as ultimate reality, found its expression in a civilization which glorifies physical technology that has led eventually to the catastrophes of our time. Possibly the model of the world as a great organization can help to reinforce the sense of reverence for the living which we have almost lost in the last sanguinary decades of human history.” (Von Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 49).  Bene dictum.

There are connections and overlaps with other theories of motivation.  For example, there is almost complete convergence between the General Theory and Stevan E Hofoll’s Conservation of Resources (COR) theory, which holds the basic tenet that “Individuals (and groups) strive to obtain, retain, foster, and protect those things they centrally value.”.[19] Principle I (Agency) concerning the universal striving for equilibrium requires the basic COR tenet to be true or equilibrium could never be attained.

References

[1] Arthur I, Duke of Brittany (born 1187, died 1203?) captured in battle by John, King of England, at Mirebeau-en-Poitou in 1202, imprisoned and murdered by John, is featured in Shakespeare’s play The Life and Death of King John. See: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-I.

[2] Claude Bernard: http://www.claude-bernard.co.uk/page27.htm

[3] La vie de Cl Bernard Chapitre II, Christian Furia, La Gazette, p. 4: http://bit.ly/2GImpvS

[4] The gullibility of French physicians and patients continues to the present day with many doctors prescribing homeopathic remedies to their patients, fully convinced of their efficacy.

[5] See Jean Bastin, La Gazette, Les lapins de Claude Bernard,  p.3: bit.ly/2GImpvS

[6] Bernard’s research included cutting open conscious animals under curare, or slowly “cooking” animals in ovens for his studies on thermoregulation. Unhappy with her husband and his work, Bernard’s wife Fanny divorced him, taking away his two daughters, who grew up to hate him. Bernard’s alleged vivisection of the family dog did not much help his case. Fanny became a leading antivivisectionist, setting up rescue shelters for dogs. See: Franco, N. H. (2013). Animal experiments in biomedical research: a historical perspective. Animals3(1), 238-273.

[7] I borrow this description from J Scott Turner (who borrowed it from Daniel Dennett).

[8] Gross, C. G. (1998) Claude Bernard and the constancy of the internal environment. Neuroscientist 4: 380-385.

[9] Homeostasis enables purposeful striving towards equilibrium between all members of the ecosystem. In continuously changing environmental conditions, all life forms can co-exist in an ever-renewing state of balance.

[10] Allusions to social equilibrium appear in Pareto’s General Sociology and in the Epilogue of Cannon’s The Wisdom of the Body. To the best of this author’s knowledge, the idea of ‘Psychological Homeostasis’ has not previously been systematically formulated. Donald E Williams and J. Kevin Thompson in 1993 discussed the possibility of a set-point hypothesis for Psychology but it was not fully developed: Williams, D. E., & Thompson, J. K. (1993). Biology and behavior: A set-point hypothesis of psychological functioning. Behavior Modification17(1), 43-57.

[11] Damasio, Antonio (2018). The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (p. 32). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[12] The Dalai Lama at the opening day of a Convention for Global Peace at the Government Degree College in Dharamsala, HP, India on December 2, 2017. http://bitly.ws/yC2

[13] Hull, C. L. (1943). Principles of behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

[14] Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1982). Control theory: A useful conceptual framework for personality–social, clinical, and health Psychology. Psychological bulletin92(1), 111.

[15] Grinker, R. R. (1967). Normality viewed as a system. Archives of general psychiatry17(3), 320-324.

[16] Here we must represent homeostatic networks in two dimensions. In nature they exist in four-dimensions with the inclusion of time.

[17] As Turner (2017) states: “All homeostasis involves a kind of wanting, an actual desire to attain a particular state, and the ability to create that state” (p. xxx).

[18] Anscombe, G. E. M. (1963). Intention (second edition). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

[19] Hobfoll, S. E., Halbesleben, J., Neveu, J. P., & Westman, M. (2018). Conservation of Resources in the Organizational Context: The Reality of Resources and Their Consequences. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.

Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ)

What is the VVIQ?

The VVIQ is a self-report measure of the clarity and liveliness of visual imagery and, in so doing, aims to evoke images that vary in vividness, ambiance, and feeling as well. The instructions state the following:
“Visual imagery refers to the ability to visualize, that is, the ability to form mental pictures, or to ‘see in the mind’s eye’. Marked individual differences are found in the strength and clarity of reported visual imagery and these differences are of considerable psychological interest.
The aim of this test is to determine the vividness of your visual imagery. The items of the test will possibly bring certain images to your mind. You are asked to rate the vividness of each image by reference to the five-point scale given below. For example, if your image is ‘vague and dim’, then give it a rating of 4. After each item, write the appropriate number in the box provided. The first box is for an image obtained with your eyes open and the second box is for an image obtained with your eyes closed. Before you turn to the items on the next page, familiarize yourself with the different categories on the rating scale. Throughout the test, refer to the rating scale when judging the vividness of each image. Try to do each item separately, independent of how you may have done other items.
Complete all items for images obtained with the eyes open and then return to the beginning of the questionnaire and rate the image obtained for each item with your eyes closed. Try and give your ‘eyes closed’ rating independently of the ‘eyes open’ rating. The two ratings for a given item may not in all cases be the same.”

The Rating Scale in the VVIQ

The five-point rating scale of the VVIQ is presented below. Some researchers prefer to reverse the numerical scale to make 5 = perfectly clear and as vivid as normal vision, and 1 = no image at all, you only “know” that you are thinking of an object.

The 16 VVIQ Items

The 16 items are arranged in blocks of four, in which each has a theme and at least one item in each cluster describes a visual image that includes movement. Each theme provides a narrative to guide a progression of mental imagery. It is noted that at least one item in each cluster describes an activity or movement, indexing liveliness. The aim of the VVIQ is to assess visual imagery vividness under conditions which allow a progressive development of scenes, situations, or events as naturally as possible. The items are intended to evoke sufficient interest, meaning, and affect conducive to image generation. Participants rate the vividness of their images separately with eyes open and eyes closed.

For a small minority of people, the capacity for visual imagery is unavailable. In the absence of mental imagery, consciousness consists of “unheard” words, “unheard” music, and “invisible” imagery. This minority needs to employ more generic, verbal methods to recall events, and to plan goals and future activity—compensatory strengths that remain under-investigated.
An online version of the VVIQ is here.

Research using the VVIQ

To date, around 2000 studies have used the VVIQ or Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire (VMIQ) as a measure of imagery vividness.

I Am Conscious, Therefore, I Am: Imagery, Affect, Action, and a General Theory of Behavior

Abstract

Organisms are adapted to each other and the environment because there is an inbuilt striving toward security, stability, and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behavior connects imagery, affect, and action with the central executive system we call consciousness, a direct emergent property of cerebral activity. The General Theory is founded on the assumption that the primary motivation of all of consciousness and intentional behavior is psychological homeostasis. Psychological homeostasis is as important to the organization of mind and behavior as physiological homeostasis is to the organization of bodily systems. Consciousness processes quasi-perceptual images independently of the input to the retina and sensorium. Consciousness is the “I am” control center for integration and regulation of (my) thoughts, (my) feelings, and (my) actions with (my) conscious mental imagery as foundation stones. The fundamental, universal conscious desire for psychological homeostasis benefits from the degree of vividness of inner imagery. Imagery vividness, a combination of clarity and liveliness, is beneficial to imagining, remembering, thinking, predicting, planning, and acting. Assessment of vividness using introspective report is validated by objective means such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A significant body of work shows that vividness of visual imagery is determined by the similarity of neural responses in imagery to those occurring in perception of actual objects and performance of activities. I am conscious; therefore, I am.

brainsci-09-00107-g001-550

Figure 1. Leonardo da Vinci, Ramón y Cajal, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein—creative people who used vivid mental imagery to make world-changing discoveries. Einstein’s thought experiments and his statements on the imagination are particularly salient.

Full text of paper available here.

Marks, D.F. I Am Conscious, Therefore, I Am: Imagery, Affect, Action, and a General Theory of Behavior. Brain Sci. 20199, 107.

Master Faker H J Eysenck

“People fake only when they need to fake.”

The replication crisis in science begins with faked data. I discuss here a well-known recent case, Hans J Eysenck. An enquiry at King’s College London and scientific journals  concluded that multiple publications by Hans J Eysenck’s are ‘unsafe’ and must be retracted. These recent events suggest that the entire edifice of Eysenck’s work warrants re-examination. In this post I examine some early experimental research by Eysenck and his students at the Institute of Psychiatry during the 1950s and 60s.

Hans J Eysenck was a chameleon-figure in the science of psychology. Eysenck doctored data from the very beginning of his theorising. Time and again HJE proved  that he was a master of camouflage. I examine here some historically significant data that HJE used to promote his biological theory of personality, data that were used by HJE in a misleading way to promote his theories.

The evidence suggests that HJE massaged data to give them more ‘scientific’ appeal.  HJE’s biological theory had predicted that introverts would condition more quickly than extraverts. The original data were collected by Cyril M Franks who had worked for his PhD under Eysenck’s supervision at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. Even Franks would later turn upon the master for his misleading methodology and data analysis. However, HJE dismissed and vehemently attacked all of his critics, claiming they were wrong, foolhardy and unreasonable.

HJE’s version of Cyril Franks’ data was originally published in the British Journal of Psychology (Eysenck, H. J. (1962). Conditioning and personality. British Journal of Psychology53(3), 299-305) and again, the next year, in Nature (Eysenck, H. J. (1963). Biological basis of personality. Nature199(4898), 1031-1034 and in multiple other publications. HJE doctored the data to make the introverts show a more rapid increase than the extraverts. These data were a crucial step in his theory published in his 1957 book, The dynamics of anxiety and hysteria.

HJE used a series of questionable  practices (QPRs) that raised many eyebrows including insiders at the Institute of Psychiatry.  Eysenck’s theory of personality became the subject of scathing criticism. Chapter 5 of Playing With Fire by Rod Buchanan  provides the full details.

My personal skepticism about HJE began as an undergraduate student when a lecturer, Vernon Hamilton, told me that HJE had ‘cheated’ with his data – see Hamilton’s critique here.  Other telling criticism was published by Storms and Sigal here and in another article with Franks: see Sigal, Star and Franks here.

In spite of all of the controversy, which he seemed to rather enjoy, HJE became one of the most influential psychologists of all time. His Nature paper has been cited 6331 times.

In light of the recent exposure of Eysenck as person who carried out serial publication fraud, it is informative to take a close look at Cyril Franks’ PhD research that in HJE’s creative accounting became a foundation stone of HJE’s first theory of personality.  

EYSENCK’S DOCTORED CURVES  

EYSENCK'S DOCTORED VERSION OF FRANKS, 1957, DATA

An almost perfect set of findings, one might assume – too good to be true even. My detailed scrutiny suggests that this was indeed the case. When one examines the data HJE used to generate these two curves, we see anything but smoothly increasing scores.

JAGGED-LOOKING ORIGINAL DATA PUBLISHED BY FRANKS (1956):

Franks tested a hypothesis attributed to Pavlov: “Neurotics of the dysthymic type form conditioned reflexes rapidly, and these reflexes are difficult to extinguish; neurotics of the hysteric type form conditioned reflexes slowly, and these reflexes are easy to extinguish”.  Franks chose data from 20 dysthymic patients (having rejected data from 8 others),  20 hysteric patients (having rejected data from 7 others), and 20 non-patients …in a specially constructed soundproof conditioning laboratory.”  The results for the dysthymic and hysteric groups were as follows:


Franks 1956 Not unreasonably, Franks concluded that dysthymics give significantly more CR’s than hysterics. Buoyed by his initial success, Franks carried out another study to examine the factor of extraversion/introversion in the same eye-blink conditioning task. In this instance, Franks hypothesised, following HJE’s theory, that the introverts conditioned more quickly than the extraverts.

MORE JAGGED-LOOKING ORIGINAL DATA PUBLISHED BY FRANKS (1957):

Franks’ 1957 data again show the rates of  classical conditioning in eye-blink responses in this case for 15 introverts and 15 extraverts.  According to Eysenck’s theory, the former group should show more rapid conditioning than the latter. The maximum score was 15.

FRANKS' 1957 DATA

EYSENCK COMBINED DATA FROM FRANKS’ TWO STUDIES

HJE combined the data from Franks’ two studies in a rather creative and unconventional manner.  HJE combined data from groups of introvert non-patients with patients diagnosed with dysthymia and he combine data from a groups of extravert non-patients and patients categorised as hysterics. The data from the two Franks studies were a hotchpotch that needs untangling.

1)  Eysenck combined the data from the extraverts with the data from the patients classified as hysterics and the data from the introverts with that collected from the dysthymics  This rather odd amalgam smoothed out many of the jagged edges in the two data sets.

2) There was no justification for assuming that the CR rates began at zero because all four groups had minimum scores above zero. This fact was pointed out by Vernon Hamilton. Yet HJE made the data look this way by imposing curves that started at a zero origin.

The next figure shows the data after they had been combined, groups D and I together, and groups H and E together.  I show the combined data with HJE’s smooth curves and the data points as HJE reported them.

EYSENCK ACHIEVED THE LOOK HE WANTED USING CHILDISHLY SIMPLE METHODS

HJE’s 4-step approach to a successful scientific outcome proceeded as follows:

  • First, HJE combined data from 4 different groups to create two new groups even though there was no scientific basis for doing so.
  • Second, although HJE’s and my computations of the combined data points show  a fair degree of consistency, HJE appears to have ‘adjusted’ a few data points that didn’t fit the curve.
  • Third, HJE’s gave his smoothed curves zero starting points, contrary to the actual data, which indicate above-zero baseline scores. HJE attempted to disguise the fact that the groups had radically different, non-zero starting points.
  • Fourth, HJE ignored the fact that two lines with identical slope fitted the data equally well.

Using these devices, HJE promoted the data as respectable science fit for publication in the most reputable journals. This analysis suggests something rather different – that HJE was an out-and-out charlatan.

The left panel of the diagram below shows HJE’s published curves with his cunningly averaged data-points converted to percentages (small dots), and the same averaged data-points obtained by this author (DFM; o’s and x’s). In most cases, HJE’s and DFM’s data points coincide. In at least 4 instances, however, HJE’s points lie closer to the theoretical curve than the correct figures would suggest.

The right-hand panel shows the fit to the same two data sets using linear plots with identical slope.  Neither of the fitted functions look anywhere near perfect, but there is no prima facie case for preferring the curvilinear to the linear fit.

 

HJE curves and lines FINAL.png

CONCLUSION

HJE constructed a curvilinear association between eye-blink classical conditioning rates and questionnaire measures of extraversion-introversion. These curves were artificially doctored to suggest that introverts conditioned more quickly than extraverts, as HJE’s theory had predicted. By combining data that did not belong together, HJE was able to smooth the data sets, which when considered separately did not fit the predictions quite so well.  HJE avoided a feasible alternative (null) hypothesis that the two groups produced identical rates of conditioning. In so doing, HJE helped to establish his first biological theory of personality. This was not only bad science, it was faked science, the work of a chameleon.

I thank Rod Buchanan for his input and advice.

 

 

 

 

 

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