Dr Beetle's Psychology Lesson

Humans think they are complex creatures because they are so advanced, when in reality, humans are complex creatures only because they have got it so wrong. If armed with a few simple ideas of how the mind works, the development of the feigned 'complexity' becomes easy to understand.

The main aim of animals is to do what they want, as naturally and comfortably as possible. In other words, to find a position where they can be wild. Alternative claims that the main aim of animals is to survive, breed or dominate are wrong, and based on the current misconceptions that nature is a 'struggle to survive', and that evolution is about 'survival of the fittest'. First base for an animal is to be wild. From that position, the secondary tasks of survival, breeding and living become easier and more fulfilling to achieve. Survival is not the dominant driver, otherwise, how do you explain suicide?

Now, an understanding of how the mind works should be easier. The dominant motive behind the mind of any animal is to achieve a state of wildness. Therefore, the mind is designed to monitor and guide an animal, through trial and error, into its most comfortable wild position (niche). The basic plan of an animal's mind is to send out a desire to be wild, and then sense or feel the reaction of the environment to its request. If the feeling is positive, the animal will move further to the direction where it feels welcome and natural. If negative, it will seek to leave that part of the environment and find somewhere else more comfortable. Overlaid on this simple cycle are steps that an animal can take to try and influence the outcome, such as emotion (more beetle), expression, and mood.

A further function of the mind is to record the results of its interactions, and make a 'road map' for the mind. The map can then guide the animal during future interactions, by drawing upon its summary of  experience. The most advanced method of recording experience is to simplify them into 'instincts'. Therefore, a wild animal will develop many 'instincts'. It will be able to perceive important events in its niche early, and then react to them quickly and wisely. Hence the adaptive advantage of becoming wild. An animal that does not know how to deliver on this simple sequence of events will fail to become wild, and will not know the pleasure of being able to 'see' with the aid of simple and perceptive instincts. Instead, life will become complex and stressful.

Now for some nitty gritty. If this theory is correct, then there must be a desire in animals to be wild. This desire may be called the 'interaction desire'. It is the most fundamental drive or motivation in animals. It can control all other desires such as sex, hunger and thirst. The interaction desire arises in the hypothalamus (see diagram), and then feeds into the large adjacent organ called the cerebral cortex (which most people think of as the 'brain'). It is a desire that wants the best interaction possible out of whatever effort or energy is put into the brain. Therefore, it seeks the most efficient and parsimonious pathways through the mind, because that will drive its energy furtherest. A test the interaction desire can run on itself is that if it can efficiently organize its energy to go further, it will also experience a wider range of feelings. Therefore, it prefers poetry to verbose monologue, music to noise, understanding to complexity, getting things right to making mistakes, and achievement to ordinary performance. All of these preferences can arise from a single interaction desire. Each preference is more likely to direct the animal towards a stronger and more interactive position, and if things go really well, towards a position where the animal can be wild.

The reason the interaction desire is so strong in animals, above all other desires, is that it is powered by the pleasure center in the hypothalamus. Scientists have long known that if an electrode is embedded into the pleasure center of a trained animal, it can learn to stimulate itself by pressing a lever. The animal will then continually press the lever in preference to mates and food. This shows that the interaction desire's pleasure center is stronger than all other desires. The interaction desire is also strong in humans. Some people can control their hunger to the point of starvation, if they think it is right to do so. Some priests and nuns can remain celibate if they think it is right. Some call this the conscience. But the conscience has deeper biological roots than as a human invention. It was borne long ago in other animals in the pleasure center, and it drives them wild.

Impulses travel in and out of the cortex and its mind through the hypothalamus, as though passing through a check point gate. Therefore, the quality of the energy going in and out of the cortex can be measured and compared by the pleasure center in the hypothalamus. The energy going out of the hypothalamus into the cortex is called desire. The mind then experiences the interaction. The result of the interaction then returns back to the hypothalamus as a feeling. If the feeling is encouraging, the animal will continue that line of interaction by sending further desire. If the feeling returns 'empty', the animal will either withdraw from the interaction, or attempt a different approach. Using this simple measure, the properly trained mind can act like a Geiger counter as it searches for its best and most interactive pathways. It is not a perfect measure for assessing what is right, but will be successful on about 95% of occasions. These are ample odds for any animal to help them find their right niche. Once in that niche, survival and breeding will be easier.

Humans are more advanced than other animals in the relative size and development of the cortex, but this only means that the interaction desire has more to control in humans. A properly functioning and explored interaction desire gives humans their strong need to 'do the right thing'. Perhaps surprisingly, that is the strongest attitude that would come through in a truly wild human. No doubt the opposite to what you have been told about being wild. The dark side of human nature only comes through when the interaction desire is suppressed and restricted, which mostly happens when you try to live the artificial and phony lifestyle expected for humans today (more beetle).

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EmotionsEthicsEvolutionary Psychology
Operation of the Interaction Desire, nature's Geiger counter for finding a comfortable position in life. 'Happy' encourages the human to explore the interaction further. 'Sad' makes the human withdraw from the interaction. 'Happy' occurs when a burst of desire from the hypothalamus triggers the stimulation of many neural pathways in the cerebral cortex. The pleasure center in the hypothalamus measures a full set of feelings returning from its desiring effort, so feels satisfied. 'Sad' occurs if that same desire discovered few links and little opportunity in the cortex, and so returns feeling empty. The desire may even have been blocked by someone or something, thereby ending interaction in that direction. Next time, desire may turn itself into an emotion to tackle the block, in its quest for greater interaction. (Posted June 2000)