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Human behavior explained

Updated on August 26, 2012

Human behavior is a complex subject of course. But it can be broken down in to basic universal principals which are all intimately related. I have written several hubs on the individual subjects I mention in this one. So I go into more detail in them regarding the individual subjects. But I wanted to write this one to show that all of them are related in one unique way: Together they form the basis of our behaviour. I call them basic universal principals of human behaviour.

It is my contention that if one knows the basic frame work of anything; it is easier to fill in the details as they go along. I must also mention that I have laid them out here in no particular order.

The first such principal is that all acts are made out of self interest. This is regardless of how altruistic the act is. I like to say: There is no such thing as a selfless act.

The second principal is that while all humans have an abundance of will, there is no such thing as “free” will.

Both these principals are intimately connected and related. But the fact is, at first glance this is very counterintuitive. It even looks like a contradiction. If all our acts are out of self interest then our actions and choices must be voluntary; right? Yet that’s not how it all turns out.

The main objection to the first principal is that we as humans can do many things which benefit others far more than they do ourselves. There is a concept out there that we can set self-interest completely aside to help others. To serve is a high tenet of Christianity in particular. To selflessly serve brings one to righteousness.

So look at that idea closely. To selflessly serve brings a reward. In this case, righteousness. It can be anything and the dynamic is vast and complex. But every act is done with a reason. That reason itself is the motivation for the act. That motivation is a need or desire to reach a goal. And in turn then, reaching that goal is fulfilling the need.

Universal principal number three is: We would not act, would not bat an eyelash, if not for inner or exterior stimulus. Unless we are driven by a need or desire, real or imagined, we do nothing. You do not scratch unless you itch. There is no “need” to.

Need comes in many flavors. There are real, basic needs: like eating and sleeping, and scratching an itch, etc. But there are also acquired needs in the form of desires. Wanting the newest Iphone is a desire. It may not be a real need but it is felt the same way. It is an itch that needs resolution. A desire can come in any strength from weak to obsession.

But needs and desires work on exactly the same principal and have the same effect. They motivate us to do. Hence why we call our feelings about them: emotions.

The fourth universal principal of behavior is cause and effect. Every act has a cause. Not just a cause but more importantly to the behavior of humans: it has a history behind it. Every act is defined and decided by a long history. Both the problem you face and the resolution you find have a long history. Part of that history is what is called environmental conditioning, and the second part of it is genetic predisposition.

Free will is described by the American Heritage Dictionary as: “The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.”

The problem is that there are no such conditions. All of our choices are constrained by external circumstances. Most of our choices are based on external circumstances or what we perceive them to be. Every choice we are presented has a history behind it. Every choice we make has history behind it. A choice is a motivating force. It is a need that must be fulfilled or resolved.

Will is the manifestation of human conditioning. There is nothing free of coercion about it. The light bill comes and you have a choice. Pay it or don’t. If you can and you want light you will pay. If you can’t pay and you want light you may have to find a way to get the money or way to live without electricity. You may choose to rob a bank or a corner store, or you may go to a charity, or your friend might give you a wind generator and solar panel and you may not have pat an electric bill again.

You seem to have endless possible choices. But you don’t. Your conditioning will determine what you feel best about doing and you will do it. Universal principal five is: We can never get rid of our conditioning. We can only change it.

I’ve sighted this example before but it is a good one so I’ll repeat it here: Before Paul converted to Christianity he was out capturing and perhaps killing Christian Jews for Rome. At the time he could make that decision and carry it out. But when he converted that choice was no longer available to him.

Often when we change the way we look at things we close the doors on responses that were open to us before. We don’t change the number of responses that are actually open to us very much. But every human is different and has different conditioning. So while all the possibilities in the universe may be open to humanity, the individual has very limited range of possible responses to any one choice. While one choice may be open to someone else, it may not be open to you.

To father complicate matters, each possible choice you do have is filtered out by degree of dominance. You could ware the blue sweater but it is too hot outside, so you choose the blue shirt with the short sleeves instead. The priorities you are conditioned with end up actualizing just one choice. The choice you will make is the one that makes you happiest or is in your opinion the best you can make under the circumstance.

This is true even if you are in a no win situation. Had Paul had a child and he was told that the child would die if he didn’t continue working for Rome that fact might have made it possible for him to choose killing Christians again. But he might have chosen to allow his child to die for the cause. In either case he would have suffered from such a choice, but the eventual actualization of the choice would have been the one he thought that caused him least pain and guilt.

The choice we make at any one time is due to the most dominant factor at that particular time. Of course we cannot know what Paul would have done. Would he have sacrificed his son for his brothers; one for many? Would he have sacrificed his brothers for his son? Would his guilt over allowing his son to die have been the determining factor? Or would it have been his guilt over betraying his new faith? One of those would have dominated the others in his mind due to who he was, and that would have become the determining factor for his eventual choice.

There is no free will hear, but there is will. There is cause and effect, there is self interest, there are needs and desires being fulfilled, there is also a lot of stimulus involved in every choice.

The way we train the mind is though conscious effort. But the way we act is though the subconscious or the instinctive. Our conscious deliberation and actual experience train or educate the subconscious so that when it is time to act our actions can be quick and precise. We make abilities part of ourselves.

We make riding a bike or driving a car or brain surgery or whatever, part of ourselves, an extension of ourselves. When we extend this practice to human relationships we make people part of us in specific ways. Friends, relatives, lover, wife or husband, child and parent. They are all roles which are part of who we are. This making things part of self is love. Love or the act of making things part of self is the fifth universal human principal.

And of course it’s opposite is hate and exclusion usually brought on by fear, justified or not, and lack of understanding. There are things and people we do not want to include in to self.

The sixth principal of our behaviour is the fact that: As the atom, so the human. The reason for all of our behaviour is to be found in the laws that govern the atom. The most basic and amazing of these is that all atoms tend toward their lowest possible energy output. Because the atom must interact, those interactions cause conflict and imbalance.

That causes atoms to be bonded with and merge with other atoms to produce a new substance and a new layer of existence. And of course, eventually those kinds of interactions caused all of this. Each substance, each layer represents a new balance or new lowest possible level of energy for all the atoms in the system.

As we know, the same is true of humans. We tend toward our lowest possible output of energy. But we have to interact. Every interaction changes us, and though those changes are often minor in and of themselves they accumulate. We change our conditioning. We merge with others in relationships and create societies and cultures and economies.

It is chaos that breeds order. It is need that motivates us to do. Without need we would do nothing. Chaos and conflict create need and needs demand resolutions.

Even though we have no free will we do have will (our conditioning and preferences manifest) and we are responsible for our actions.

Even though all of our actions are by default invested with self interest, it is that self interest which produces our ability to love and make others part of our selves.

All of these factors combined represent the reasons or basic framework of all human behaviour. All of them are represented in the basic laws of energy conservation. While the human is basically predictable statistically, we can never predict the behaviour of an individual because all of us have different conditioning and therefore our own unique set of possible responses to any situation at any one time. Reminds me a bit of QM.

Questions, comments and debate always welcome.


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    • profile image

      kalpana bhagwat 

      5 years ago

      I am very much interested in understanding what is behaviour. I liked you hub page on seven principles of behaviour.Easy to understand. Please let me know about this book. I would like to get a book that would help non-science and non-psychology students understand easily. better without jargon. Or else I would like to read such more articles.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      The problem for me is that you have no alternative to offer. But we have discussed this at length before. It seems that for you nothing is real. Hence throw out science and philosophy. And then what?

      I still can't agree with you. Sorry.

      But thanks for commenting, and I hope all is well with you and yours.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Perception is the result of what the brain does with all the stimuli and so it is that we give meaning to these stimuli which would otherwise remain neutral. It is in "making sense" of these stimuli that desires are born and everything you describe here takes place. The only issue I would have here is that we do not have to believe what we think. It is in believing what we think that the error occurs which gives rise to the "illusion" I have spoken of previously. By identifying with the body we miss the point and become hypnotized by the intellectual meanings we come up with to explain the labyrinth we create by believing our own thoughts! I love what you have written and commend you on the stretching the boundaries of philosophical argument to the lengths that you have. Ultimately perception is not truth and that is why philosophy or science fail. Thank you.


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