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Psychology And The Human Condition

Jamie Stroud

Table of contents


Memes are to nurture what genes are to nature.

Unlike genes, there can be several alleles for one meme, instead of just 2.

Genetic mutations aren't completely random. Some genes are more likely to mutate than others.

Mutations are likely higher in memes than in genes.

List Of Drives

Steven Reiss (2004) listed 16 basic drives humans have. I've modified his wording a bit for simplicity and practicality.

In relation to the power drive, Lee Ellis (1985) made a list of distinct categories of things we like to possess.

List Of Emotions

HUMAINE Emotion Annotation and Representation Language (EARL) lists 48 emotions humans have. ( While it seems no one's come up with a complete or precise list of human emotions, HUMAINE's seems to be the most practical. Synonyms are in parenthesis.

Defense Mechanisms

This is not a complete list, but a concise one. I've kept it succinct to avoid redundancy.


This is not a complete list, but a concise one. I've kept it succinct to avoid redundancy.

Logical Fallacies

This is not a complete list, but a concise one. I've kept it succinct to avoid redundancy.

Thought Terminating Cliches

This is not a complete list, but a concise one. I've kept it succinct to avoid redundancy.

Keep in mind these cliches aren't always used to terminate thought. They might be used sarcastically, for fun, or for many other reasons. Furthermore, some of these cliches might actually be logically sufficient and relevant under certain circumstances.


While there are numerous personality traits, a succinct list can be comprised of just 10, forming 5 polarities.

It should be recognized that the same individual can vary widely on some traits under different circumstances.

Based on the study of monozygotic twins separated in infancy and reared apart, the correlation coefficient for IQ is 0.72, for monozygotic twins reared together it's 0.86. Furthermore, the correlation coefficient for personality traits and lifestyle traits is very similar for both monozygotic twins seperated in infancy and reared apart and monozygotic twins reared together, at about 0.5. The biggest differences in personality and lifestyle tend to be in social closeness and religious interests. (Bouchard et al., 1990)


To simplify, parents that are highly affectional are likely to have securely attached children, whereas parents that are neglectful and/or physically abusive are likely to have insecurely attached infants. However, it's a wonder how much the child's innate personality might play a role as well. It's also a wonder what implications childhood attachment style will have on one's adulthood attachment style in personal relationships.

By ages 8-14, children become more attached to peers than parents. (Zeifman & Hazan, 2008, p. 439)

"The one convincing result that has come out of the attachment research is that children's relationships are, to a large extent, independent of each other. Toddlers who are securely attached to their mothers are not necessarily securely attached to their fathers, and vice versa. Children who are securely attached to their caregivers at the day-care center are not necessarily securely attached to their mothers, and vice versa. Security of attachment does not reside in the child, it resides in the child's relationships. The child's mind holds not just one working model but many of them—one for each relationship. It's the same child, with the same genes, who participates in all these relationships, so it's not surprising that the attachment researchers occasionally find correlations between them.

The child lets go of Mommy's hand in order to join his peers, but he takes his genome with him." (Harris, 1998, pp. 152-153)

Social Functioning


Asch (1955) performed an experiment which consisted of 7 to 9 young men taking a test in visual judgment. They were shown a card with a line on it, followed by another card with 3 lines on it, then they were asked to answer which line on the second card matched with the first. All of the young men were actors except for 1 who was unaware that the others were actors. All of the actors were unanimous in their decisions, making an incorrect matching of lines. The 1 real subject would then be put in the difficult position of either deviating from the norm and speaking what he truly thought the answer to be or conforming with the others. Out of 123 participants, they conformed to the misleading majority approximately 37% of the time. In comparison, under ordinary circumstances, an individual would get an incorrect answer less than 1% of the time. Interestingly, however, approximately 25% of the participants never conformed even once. This study shows that it's generally more comfortable to fit in than to stand out.

Tit For Tat/What Goes Around, Comes Around/You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours/You've Got To Give To Get

Robert Axelrod (2006, pp. 27-54) had participants submit computer program strategies for playing the game Prisoner's Dilemma, and then all those game strategies competed against each other. Out of all the game strategies submitted, some very complex and seemingly genius, one of the simplest strategies won. It was called "Tit for Tat" and it's strategy was, "start with cooperate, after that, copy whatever the other player does". That means if the other player cooperates, then Tit for Tat will cooperate, if the other player defects, then Tit for Tat will defect. Doesn't this seem so much like human functioning? If someone hits you, don't you feel like hitting that person back? If someone does something nice for you, don't you feel like returning the favor?

robert axelford, prisoner's dilemma

It's Not Me, It's We

When in group settings, we feel less individual responsibility and, by proxy, less shame and guilt for our actions or lack of actions because of that. It's therefore easier to cause harm or avoid providing help in group settings than it is in individual settings. This explains why it's easier for us to ignore a stressed individual in a public setting compared to a private setting. This also explains why riots occur.

I'm Just Following Orders

Stanley Milgram (1963) performed an experiment consisting of 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50. The subjects were told they'd be paid just to come to the laboratory, no matter what happened after they arrived. The subjects were told that the study was on the effect of punishment on learning. There were 30 levers which the subjects were led to believe would shock the learner who was in another room, and each lever would be increasingly painful. The subjects were given a sample shock of 45 volts in order to convince them of the authenticity of the generator. The subject would read to the learner and the learner would answer. The subjects were told to pull a lever each time the learner made a mistake. The learner was preinstructed not to make any vocalizations until the voltage reached 300. At that point he would pound on the walls each time a lever was pulled. He'd also stop giving answers at that point, and so the experimenter would instruct the subjects to count a lack of response within 5-10 seconds as an incorrect answer, and to pull the next lever. If a subject suggested quitting the experiment, the experimenter would prod them up to 4 times saying: "please continue", "the experiment requires that you continue", "it is absolutely essential that you continue", and finally, "you have no other choice, you must continue". If the subject declined even after the fourth prod, then the experiment ended. 65% of the subjects went all the way to the end, pulling the 30th lever which they believed was 450 volts.

Zimbardo et al. (1973) performed an experiment which consisted of setting up a mock prison. He hired 21 participants which were analyzed as being physically healthy and emotionally stable. He assigned 10 of them as prisoners and 11 of them as guards, and set them up in a fake prison, though fundamentally similar to a real prison. The prisoners were to be referred to by numbers, not names, and had their numbers on the uniforms. The guards all wore sunglasses as well as identical uniforms. These variables were put into place in order to dehumanize the participants. This experiment was planned to last 2 weeks. The guards were given relatively little instruction on how to do their jobs, and neither the guards nor the prisoners were ever instructed on what to do once the experiment began. Of important note, however, is that the guards were instructed not to use violence. The first day went by without any incidents. The second day, however, resulted in the prisoners rebelling. They tore the numbers off their uniforms and barricaded themselves in their cells. The guards reacted by breaking into the cells, stripping the prisoners naked, and putting the leaders into confinement. From then on, this fake prison became very similar to a real prison. The prisoners rebelled and the guards punished them with push ups, derogatory names, confinement, shaming techniques, etcetera. Some of the prisoners ended up having mental breakdowns and the experiment was ended early because of that.

Us Versus Them

Being apart of a stigmatized group or having a stigmatized trait can be stressful, regardless if such stigmatized qualities can be concealed or not. (Pachankis, 2007) It'd be to society's benefit to not treat stigmatized people or groups as outcasts. Once an individual feels like an outcast, then that individual won't feel as strongly connected to the norms, rules, and boundaries of a society. From there, it's easier for such individuals to cause harm without feeling shame or guilt. Similarly, the self-fulfilling prophecy effect can take play and an outcasted individual can come to take pride in and embrace such a role, whether for better or for worse.







Respondent Conditioning

When 2 or more stimuli are present with a UCS, the stronger stimulus overshadows the other and gets most conditioned. If the CR to the dominant stimulus is extinguished, the CR to the overshadowed stimulus is facilitated making it more conditioned.

respondent (classical) conditioning

Operant Conditioning

Often times punishing behavior only decreases the behavior under specific circumstances, and the same behavior continues outside of those circumstances (when the punisher isn't looking). Similarly, often times reinforcing behavior only increases the behavior under specific circumstances, and the same behavior continues outside of those circumstances (when the reinforcer isn't looking).

"People's behavior is already haphazardly controlled by external consequences, so why not administer those consequences for human betterment? In place of the punishments used in homes, schools, and prisons, would not reinforcers be more humanitarian? And if it is humbling to think that we are shaped by our histories, this very idea also gives us hope that we can shape our future."
- B. F. Skinner



People can probably vary a great deal in regards to how likely they are to remember traumatic events. Some people are inclined to dwell on them, perhaps often for understanding. Some people are inclined to ignore (or try to ignore) thoughts as soon as they bring about negative feelings. The latter might classify as repressed memories, though it should be recognized that it's difficult to distinguish between what qualifies as repressed memories and what's simply been forgotten. If dissociation occurs during a traumatic event, that might also increase the likelihood of the memory being repressed (since consciousness was altered/decreased). The danger in trying to get an individual to recall repressed memories is that such an individual might develop false memories.

Working with an individual's traumatic memories is a double-edged sword. Sometimes catharsis can occur and it can be beneficial to an individual. Other times discussing traumatic memories can simply sustain the trauma or even result in further trauma. There's no magic bullet for such cases.


This is not a complete list of the areas of the brain, but simply a concise list.

Psychoactive Substances

Hormones And Neurotransmitters

Hormones and neurotransmitters are similar in that they both transmit information and can affect thoughts and feelings. The difference is their location, hormones are released by glands or organs, whereas neurotransmitters are released by neurons.

"For rats, hormones are thumpish, unmistakable, the world in black and white; for primates, they act like a box of crayons, the sixty-four pack, with a color for every occasion and at least three names for every color." (Angier, 1999/2000, p. 212)

"If hormones count, we worry that they count too much and that therefore we have no free will, and so we deny that they count, all the while knowing that they count." (Angier, 1999/2000, p. 214)

"All hormones are ultimately overrated, as well as poorly understood." (Angier, 1999/2000, p. 278)

"We don't know what hormones do to the brain or the self, but we do know what they don't do, and they don't cause a behavior, the way turning a steering wheel will cause a car to veer left or right." (Angier, 1999/2000, p. 279)

Do changes in hormones cause changes in thoughts and feelings, or do changes in thoughts and feelings cause changes in hormones?

"Every psychological event is simultaneously a biological event."
- David G. Myers

Drugs (Medications)

Variables to consider when using drugs:

Drugs can be helpful or harmful depending on how they're used.

Effects And Phenomenons

Theories And Principles




"I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who."
- Rudyard Kipling

The primary criteria for a good test:

How to think is often more important than what to think. Asking questions is often more important than providing answers.

The people who perform scientific research are humans just like you and me, who have their own personal qualities, and who have various motives for doing their research.

The participants in scientific research are humans just like you and me, who have their own personal qualities, and who have various motives for participating.

When a research article is sent to a journal, it often takes around 2 years before it's reviewed by peers, accepted, and then published.

The mainstream media often distorts research findings, or discusses scientific research before it's even been reviewed by peers and published, meaning the research could be flawed in an important way yet the findings have already been spread.

Any research which involves recall of participants' memories deserves special consideration. Memory is better viewed as a dynamic process rather than a static, unchanging, process. Memories are prone to distortion over time, as well as to simply be forgotten. There are also the issues of false memories, repressed memories, and recovered memories. It should also be kept in mind that some participants might have better memory in general than others.

Some people are more introspective than others and that might play a big role in the accuracy of responses when it comes to complex questions such as one's motives or choices.

The wording and terminology used in a survey can make a big difference on the responses. The wording and terminology used for recruitment can make a big difference in who volunteers as well.

Recruitment methods make a big difference in who participates in a research study.

Results are often very open to interpretation. For example, researchers could ask the question, "How satisfied are you with your life? If females rated lower satisfaction than males, look at some ways you could interpret such results: "females have lower self-esteem," "females are more prone to depression," "females are more pessimistic," etcetera.

The context effect should be kept in mind. Questions that precede or supercede a particular question can affect how the participant will interpret that question. For example, if a series of questions was asked about the participants' sexual partners in the past and then the question is asked, "How satisfied are you with your relationships in life?" That participant might assume the question is referring specifically to sexual relationships due to the previous questions, even though the researcher might have meant relationships in general.

The conditions and procedures play a big role in the responses given. For example, you'll get different people and different answers through personal interview compared to an anonymous questionnaire. However, that's not to say any condition or procedure is necessarily superior to another.

Statistics can be misleading so try to think critically when dealing with numbers. For example, a research article could say that "disease X is 4 times more likely to occur in males than females". 4 times sounds bad, but what if the percentages of this disease occurring in females is only 0.01%? Then 4 times might not be as drastic in reality than it seemed in writing.

Correlation is not causation. A and B might correlate to each other, but that doesn't mean that A causes B or that B causes A, there's the possibility that there are other variables, such as C, which could cause both.

It's been popularly stated that "the plural of anecdote is not data". This might be mostly true, but sometimes data can be gathered from enough anecdotes.

Expectation bias should be kept in mind. Sometimes researchers might influence participants to get them to portray the results they expect to see under the circumstances, but which might not have happened without their influence. Also, sometimes participants will expect a certain result from the research and so will portray that result.

Social desirability bias should be kept in mind. Participants will often respond with answers that are socially acceptable. In other words, they tend to under-report variables deemed negative and over-report variables deemed positive.

"Are people who refuse to cooperate with sex surveys more prudish than others, and therefore more conservative than the population at large in their practices? Or are they more outrageous, yet sensitive to social disapprobation?" (Lewontin, 2001, p. 258)

"It is frightening to think that social science is in the hands of professionals who are so deaf to human nuance that they believe that people do not lie to themselves about the most frightened aspects of their own lives, and that they have no interest in manipulating the impression that strangers have of them." (Lewontin, 2001, p. 261)

"If asked to complete a brief, anonymous survey on their attitudes toward premarital sex, a small proportion of potential respondents will refuse. If the same sample of potential participants is asked to complete a face-to-face interview regarding their sexual experiences, a larger proportion of people will refuse. If the same group is asked to view sexually explicit videos while their genital responses are recorded using special instruments, an even greater proportion of people will refuse. The more sensitive or involved the research, the more questionable the generalizability of the results." (Wiederman, 2001, p. 17)

"Everybody lies."
- Gregory House


The difference between our dream life and our waking life is that we develop a continuous memory of past waking events, but not of past dreams.

Some people don't dream at all, dreams are rarely recalled, children under 6 rarely or never dream, and people with certain forms of brain damage don't dream, yet all these people generally sleep well. (Domhoff, 2008) In other words, dreams aren't essential for sleep.

Males and females are about equally as likely to have at least one friendly interaction in their dreams. (Domhoff, 2005)

Males and females are about equally as likely to have aggression in their dreams, but males are somewhat more likely for it to be physical aggression, while females are somewhat more likely for it to be social aggression. (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p. 168-174)

The amount of aggression in dreams varies greatly amongst different societies. For example, in the Netherlands, physical aggression in dreams only occurs about half as often as it does in America. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 6) Not only does the amount of aggression in dreams vary by society, but the gender differences of aggression in dreams varies by society as well. As Domhoff (2005) said, "The fact that the amount of aggression is lower in some societies and higher in others, and that the gender differences on aggression sometimes decline or disappear, shows that the amount of aggression in dreams is probably closely related to cultural differences."

Hall & Van de Castle (1966) found that, of men on average, 12% of their dreams have sexual content, and of women on average, 4% of their dreams have sexual content. (p. 181) Zadra (2007) found that, of men on average, 8% of their dreams have sexual content, and of women on average, 8% of their dreams have sexual content.

Men have about a 2:1 and women have about a 1:1 ratio of males to females in their dreams. (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p. 164) What's the cause of this gender difference? Many societies have been found in which the genders have fairly equal male to female ratios in their dreams. (Domhoff, 2005) Studies of children provide further insight. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 5) The thing is, children under 6 rarely dream, so instead of using dreams to see if this gender difference exists in young children, short stories were written.

male percent and animal percent in children's stories

Between ages 2 years 5 months to 2 years 11 months, boys have about a 7:3 ratio and females have about a 3:7 ratio of males to females in their stories. Notice that the results are quite opposite. Between ages 3 years to 3 years 11 months, boys maintain about a 7:3 ratio while females drop to about a 4:6 ratio of males to females in their stories. Between ages 4 years to 5 years 11 months, aside from some fluctuations, the ratios start to better resemble the adult findings. This research suggests that society might influence such changes, but what in society could do that?

There's a study that's been done on the gender differences on television. In G films, there was a 72:28 ratio of male to female speaking characters. In G, PG, PG-13, and R films, there was a 73:27 ratio of male to female characters. In TV for kids 11 and under, there's roughly a 2:1 ratio of male to female characters. (Smith & Cook, 2008) Aside from television, males most often have leadership positions as well, consider priests and politicians. These gender differences in waking life are likely to sculpt our dream life. Male children would likely identify with the frequency of male characters in the media and in leadership positions and so it'd play a role in their dreams. As females, they'd be less likely to identify with the frequency of male characters in the media and in leadership positions, and so they end up with a more even ratio of males to females in their dreams.

Men have more unfamiliar characters than women in their dreams, while women have more familiar characters than men in their dreams. (Domhoff, 2005) What can we make of this finding? Let's look more closely to find out. Men have more unfamiliar males in their dreams than women do, yet women have more familiar females in their dreams than men do. However, men and women dream about equally of familiar males and unfamiliar females. It might simply be that whatever influences men to have a much higher amount of males than females in their dreams, also influences unfamiliar males to be generated. As mentioned above, that could be to how males are represented in American society.

Men have more outdoor settings in their dreams while women have more indoor settings in their dreams. (Domhoff, 2005) Perhaps this represents waking life too, with men generally partaking in more outdoor activities than women.

Though there are a fair amount of differences between the dream content of males and females, that doesn't necessarily say much about their nature. As Domhoff said, "There are variations in gender patterns from culture to culture as well as major individual differences in the dream journals of both men and women, which also temper any large generalizations." (Domhoff, 2005)

Children have a higher percentage of animals in their dreams than adults. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 5) Perhaps children generally have a smaller social network than adults and so pets/animals will comprise a larger percentage in real life as well.

People dream more often of misfortunes than good fortunes. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 6) Also, children have more dreams with at least 1 misfortune than adults do. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 5) Lastly, children have more aggression in their dreams than adults, but they are also more likely to be the victims of such aggression than adults. (Domhoff, 1996/2004, Chapter 5) In waking life, thinking about negative possibilities can protect us by recognizing them and preventing, avoiding, or defending against them. Perhaps children have more misfortunes since they're even more defenseless in than adults, and could benefit even more by being prepared for negative possibilities.

Media can play a big role in the visual characteristics of our dreams. Murzyn (2008) found that people who had access to black and white media before color media had far more dreams that were black and white. Indeed, not only color, but perhaps the angles and zoom features amongst other variables can also be influenced by media.

External stimuli can have affect one's sleep and dreams. Most unimportant stimuli, such as the wind blowing, is ignored in dreams and won't cause you to wake up. However, even faintly hearing your name or an infant crying can cause you to wake up. Also, external stimuli can sometimes incorporate itself into dreams. For example, if someone sprays you with water while you're sleeping, if you don't wake up, then water or things related to water might make their way in your dreams.

High functioning waking life processes such as mathematics or reading are less likely to show in dreams since the brain is lower functioning in many ways compared to waking life. Consider this, have you ever read in a dream? Generally, you can only read small words at a time or do simple mathematics, the brain doesn't seem capable of processing the reading of sentences or solving complex equations while dreaming.

Congenitally blind individuals don't have visual experiences in their dreams. (Kerr & Domhoff, 2004) This finding has religious implications. This provides evidence against the concept that dreams are spiritual experiences. If they were spiritual, it'd seem likely for the spirit/s to incorporate visual aspects into dreams even if the individual has been blind since birth. Simply put, we can't imagine or dream about what we haven't experienced through our senses.

There appears to be common themes that people often report in their dreams such as being chased, falling, or trying to run as fast as you can but going very slowly. ( Perhaps the reason people have common themes in their dreams is because they have common concerns in waking life and those concerns can be represented in similar ways in dreams. For example, if you have worries of being harmed, then being chased by someone might be a simple way to represent that.


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