New Paradigm for Modern Behaviorism?

“Testosterone Promotes Reciprocity in the Absence of Competition”

“Boosting testosterone can promote generosity, but only when there is no threat of competition, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings show that testosterone is implicated in behaviors that help to foster and maintain social relationships, indicating that its effects are more nuanced than previously thought.”

An immediate-moment manner of analysis revealed to me in the 1970’s that hormones don’t cause behavior, hormones support behavior. If it’s appropriate and efficacious to be social, testosterone is part of the hormonal mix enabling the implementation of the social proclivity. If it’s appropriate and efficacious to be aggressive, testosterone likewise is part of that specific hormonal mix that enables the implementation of an aggressive proclivity. An immediate-moment manner of analysis reveals a more nuanced interpretation of hormones and behavior than was being entertained by mainstream behaviorism until only very recently. Because an immediate-moment manner of analysis identified the dynamic of flow, Natural Dog Training has never advocated neutering as proscriptive whereas modern behaviorism and learning theorists are only belatedly coming around to that point of view in regards to neutering.

So is mainstream behaviorism entering a new, more nuanced view of behavior? One might suppose a fundamental shift is underway given how wrong behaviorism must recognize itself to be in this regard (modern behaviorism was even the intellectual force behind a legislative movement to mandate the neutering of male dogs in town ordinances) however, modern behaviorism remains a materialist reductionist philosophy that tries to account for emotion within its mechanical paradigm. It remains reductionist and has simply shifted to a different mechanical cause, now to be comprised of neurological cognitive structures and neurochemical transmitters. We even hear rumblings from the positive force-free training school of thought that their “scientifically” accredited methods should be legislated as the standard for the dog training industry. This from the same folks who only ten years ago were saying that early neutering and spaying was the scientifically accredited way to go as well.

Meanwhile an immediate-moment manner of analysis reveals that neurological structural modules and neurochemical transmitters don’t cause behavior, they support behavior. This is because an immediate-moment manner of analysis is not rooted in a material mechanics that is gene-centric, but rather the aforementioned dynamic of flow. The problem with a gene-centric model is that it conflates the WHY of behavior (replication of genes according to a survival/reproductive agenda) with the HOW of behavior. Thus it ends up confirming its original bias that animals are psychologically motivated by an underlying survival/reproductive agenda.

Additionally, conflating WHY with HOW renders a thought-centric model of behavior which is why if one probes any system of behavioral interpretation deeply enough, one will find (1) it requires human rationales to hold it together; (2) the motives of animals are indistinguishable from human behavior. (3) They will also find a materialist, nihilistic interpretation that animals act and learn according to the material consequences of their actions, (4) the meaning of emotional experience will be rooted in a high psychological rationale, and (5) there will be  massive internal contradictions. For example, the argument that animals are moral, cognitive, emotional animals because they share the same basic neurological hardware as human beings, but then this is held in juxtaposition with the Neo-Darwinian idea that consciousness evolved from the neurological hardware in a wholesale leap from random mutations so as to be unrelated to the substrate. (Thomas Nagel writes about the folly of this logic and therefore why Neo-Darwinism must certainly be wrong.) This would mean that if the neurological hardware of animals isn’t 100% identical to human beings, we can’t therefore conclude that animals think in any way comparable to human beings since cognition leaps wholesale from the substrate and is not related to it. One minor mutation that increases survival/reproductive advantage can spin off a whole new suite of cognitive capacities unrelated to the neurological hardware. (This is where romanticism sneaks into Neo-Darwinianism as it tries to resist the reductionism that leaves it with just neurological nuts and bolts.). Ironically, modern behaviorism sees itself as rejecting the Descartes’ view of animals as automatons, when in reality, once one sees past the romantic smokescreen, modern behaviorism is the new mechanist.

Whereas an immediate-moment manner of analysis focuses on the HOW (an individual’s motive is to improve its feeling of flow) and this places recent scientific findings in a proper framework, i.e. emotion is a monolithic universal “force” of attraction that moves according to principles of nature and simultaneously networks individuals into a linked intelligence. The behavior of animals is intelligent in its subsequent capacity to thereby improve the flows of nature, in this way systems evolve in a mutual interconnected manner. The prey and predator are not in competition, they are in communication and they co-evolve through the emotional dialogue they mutually engage in. This is why we find the communication between any two individuals, no matter the species or the context, is always revolving around the prey/predator duality. One individual projects emotion, the other party in the interaction absorbs it, and then they flip these polarities if the interaction is to evolve above and beyond the prey-predator interaction, i.e. onto male/female or social peer-to-peer. An immediate-moment manner of analysis is the only system of interpretation consistent with the Constructal Law.

Published October 4, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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3 responses to “New Paradigm for Modern Behaviorism?”

  1. Sundog Fitz says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I am curious how illness or injury impacts behavior/feeling from an NDT perspective. It seems to me that the sick or injured moose you have described as being picked out by the wolves is behaving more prey like, so I assume it is FEELING more prey like.

  2. kbehan says:

    That’s an interesting question. On one level, being sick or wounded puts an individual into their body and makes them more in tune to what’s going on within, and this in particular makes it easier for a dog, for example, to feel close to someone who is ill. However, because it takes energy to leverage this into pro-social behavior, i.e. a heightened emotional capacity, a wounded or ill individual would feel helpless (which is why it’s a counterbalance to the ego) because they aren’t experiencing energy welling up from this state of being in tune. So a wounded prey animal would attract the emotional projection in the predator, but at the same time have a lessened emotional capacity and so it would not be able to leverage this projected p-cog by reflecting it back to the predator by acting assertively and boldly. Thus, when the predator increases the charge on the prey animal, it loses contact altogether with its body, it vibrates and then the DIS reserve of predator is released and the prey instinct takes over with prey and predator conforming to their stereotypical roles.

  3. Sundog Fitz says:

    By the way, I recently read Nagel’s book (an interesting and very challenging read for my petite brain) and at the time I kept having these flashes that what he was discussing was relevant to NDT. I even went so far as to attempt to make the case at a salon I attend, but I failed miserably to articulate the connection. Kevin, I am so impressed with what you have been able to articulate here, thanks!

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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