Saturday, September 26, 2009
Let's meet Patrick and Susan Stübing a married couple with two children. By all outward appearances they are a normal family living in Germany with one important exception: Patrick and Susan are siblings. As is common among consensual adults engaged in incestuous relationships Patrick and Susan did not grow up together. As reported by the BBC, Patrick was adopted out of his birth family at a young age and did not meet his biological mother and Susan until he was 23 years old. Both Patrick and Susan report that they had an immediate attraction for one another. After their mother died they began their relationship and have been living together for the past 8 years, excluding the time Patrick has served in prison for the crime of incest. Patrick and Susan claim they are not bothering anyone and have been persecuted for their forbidden love. They have been trying to overturn Germany's Paragraph 173 of the civil code which makes incest a crime. Medical and genetic experts claim there is a good public health reason for the law. Children produced by incestuous relationships are much more likely to have medical issues. Indeed Patrick and Susan's son has epilepsy and learning difficulties, while their daughter is a special needs child. Nevertheless they maintain that these problems are not the result of the incestuous pairing of their genes.
Truth Seekers in Adoption - a Chicago based organization which provides support for long lost relatives who have reunited - and the website www.geneticsexualattraction.com. In her book I'm His Mother, He's Not My Son, Barbara speaks frankly of the intense emotional feeling she experienced when she was reunited 26 years later with the son she gave up at age 16. Barbara describes her initial contact as a 'honeymoon period'. She became obsessed with wanting to touch and smell her son. She is convinced that these feelings were the result of 'missed bonding'. She recognized her son as related to her - perhaps accentuating the loss of bonding a mother experiences with her infant. These feelings may result in an intense desire for closeness which can manifest as sexual behavior in adults. In a 60 Minutes interview with some GSA couples New York psychotherapist Joe Soll characterized GSA;
"It is an attraction that develops between people who, generally speaking, have not been raised together and don't have a taboo. They just want a hug, they want to get close and if they don't have the taboo and they're not careful it can turn into sex".
The taboo Soll is speaking about is the so-called "Westermarck Effect". Postulated by anthropologist and sociologist Dr. Edvard Westermarck, it simply states that people raised together rarely see each other as sexual partners. It may be that the Westermarck Effect is a form of reverse imprinting where early exposure to others in the environment causes them not to be seen as future sex partners. Westermarck's discovery is readily observable throughout human cultures and has been seen in children raised in the Israeli kibbutz system (Shepher, 1971) and marriage customs in China (Wolf & Huang, 1982). More recent research by Walter and Buyske (2003) at Rutgers University has verified the effect for females in Morocco but not males. Other research by Weisfeld et. al. (2003) and by Schneider and Hendrix (2003) supports the notion that sexual inhibition among family members has been selected for through the mechanism of natural selection and that it may be mediated by smell.
Freud was the most famous psychiatrist to write about sexual prohibition among close relatives. He claimed that unconscious lust for the opposite sex parent leads to an incest taboo (via fear of castration for males) and identification with the same sex parent. Westermarck's theory, on the other hand, has no need for unconscious lust; the incest taboo would evolve through natural selection.
In another article Walter (1990) has speculated that since females have a greater investment in their offspring (i.e. a long pregnancy) they are more choosy than males for genetic fitness, and hence would be more likely to experience the Westermarck Effect. Certainly Walter's later research in Morocco supports this notion. He also speculates that without the Westermarck effect older dominant males would likely exert control over younger males through control of their sexual impulses. Again this is readily observable in traditional societies around the world where adolescent rites of passage for young men involve separation from the group's females for a period of time, not to mention proving their genetic fitness through arduous tasks. As Spain (1988) suggests, if we consider this phenomenon without the biological underpinnings it is actually similar to what Freud describes.
Unlike Mackenzie Phillips' father, Barbara Gonyo was able to avoid a sexual encounter...but mostly because her son wasn't interested. Eventually she was able to work through her emotions and develop a healthy relationship with her son. GSA is thought to occur in up to 50% of reunions of close relatives. The advent of in-vitro fertilization where the one or both parents do not contribute DNA to their children, could lead to a future epidemic of GSA. At the very least this is something to be aware of in the future.
Gonyo, B. (downloaded 2009). I'm his mother, he's not my son. (Self-Published).
Phillips, M. (2009). High On Arrival New York, NY: Simon Spotlight Entertainment.
Schneider, M.A. & Hendrix, L. (2000). Olfactory sexual inhibition and the westermarck effect. Human Nature, 11(1), 65-91.
Shepher, J. (1971). Mate selection among second generation kibbutz adolescents and adults: Incest avoidance and negative imprinting. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1(4) 1573-2800.
Spain, D. H. (1988). Incest theory: Are there three aversions? The Journal of Psychohistory, 15(3), 235-253.
Walter, A. (1990). Putting Freud and Westermarck in Their Places: A Critique of Spain. Ethos, 18(4), 439-446.
Walter, A., & Buyske, S. (2003). The Westermarck Effect and early childhood co-socialization. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21, 353-365.
Weisfeld, G.E., Czilli, T., Phillips, K.A., Gall, J.A., & Lichtman, C.A. (2003). Possible olfaction-based mechanisms in human kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 85(3), 279-295.
Wolf, A.P. & Huang C. (1982). Marriage and Adoption in China, 1845-1945. The China Quarterly, 90, 310-313.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Mesac Damas recently killed his wife and five young children and then fled to Haiti where he was caught. Supposedly while awaiting extradition back to the U.S., he confessed to the murders. When asked why he did it he responded "Only God knows". The murders were especially brutal with Sheriff in charge of the case calling them "the worst of the worst". Damas had a history of domestic violence and apparently thought his wife was cheating on him with another man.
In a fascinating 1995 paper by Wilson, Daly, and Daniele, the authors delineate some of the characteristics of familicide- i.e cases in which a spouse kills an entire family and sometimes themselves. In an examination of 109 incidents of familicide in Canada and Britain the authors found that familicide is most often perpetuated by men. Half of these male perpetrators killed themselves which is a much higher percentage than men who kill only their wives, or just their children. In cases of familicide the parents are more likely to be living together as opposed to being married. Step children are more likely to be victims of familicide than genetic offspring. However, men who kill step children almost never kill themselves. The authors conclude with a tentative categorization of familicidal incidents into two types - accusatory or despondent. As the authors explain:
"The hostile, accusatory familicidal killer is often enraged at the alienation of his wife, and may declare that "If I can't have her, no one can."The despondent familicide perpetrator instead appears to believe that his victims could not persist or cope in his absence, and that their deaths are therefore necessary, perhaps even merciful, corollaries to his suicide. In either case, the killer apparently feels entitled to decide his victims' fates." p. 15
The Florida case presents many of the characteristics outlined in this paper. The killer was male, he and his wife had been living together for a long time and had only recently been married. He fit the pattern of an accusatory killer who was outraged that his wife may have been cheating on him. What we do not know is whether he suspected that any of his wife's children were by another man, but it wouldn't be surprising.
Why would this be important? It is well known that violence against children in a family is more likely to be perpetrated by a step parent. In another paper Daly and Wilson (1994) found that step fathers were more likely to beat step children to death, while genetic parents were more likely to shoot or asphyxiate their offspring. The genetic fathers were also more likely to commit suicide.
As David Buss writes in Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, genetic relatedness is a strong predictor of not only how many resources a child receives but also of how likely they are to be abused. The closer the genetic relationship, the more likely the child is to receive resources and not be abused, while the more distant the relationship the more likely the child is to be abused and not receive resources. This pattern comes from our evolutionary history. Male primates such as chimpanzees are known to kill other males' offspring which precipitates the females going into heat. The killer males will then mate with the females to produce their own offspring. This pattern of behavior presumably originated in the common ancestor to humans and apes. It had survival value and so continues to be found in humans and primates today.
In her book The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, noted biologist Jane Goodall describes numerous incidents of infanticide by both males and females among chimpanzees. In general she believes that many of the attacks are focused on the mothers of the infants and are related to a distrust and aversion to strangers. Yet males appeared to also attack and sometimes eat infants of females so as to bring the females into heat sooner. Interestedly, young unattached females from other groups were only attacked mildly, while older females who were not in heat and who had infants were attacked quite severely and even killed.
Unfortunately for us, we find these evolutionary patterns of killing writ large in humans. A quick examination of mass killings around the world reveals this pattern in ethnic cleansing and warfare. In World War II, the Soviets raped and killed on a massive scale (the Germans while brutal killers did not commit as much rape). The degree of infanticide and rape during the recent ethnic violence in Rwanda has also now been documented. And of course it is quite easy to find more examples.
This is not to say that step parents are murderers, child abusers, bad parents (most are not) or that in our society familicide is common (it is not). But is does remind us to be aware of the possible pre-cursors to this type of violence and to be cognizant of things that may trigger this behavior.
Davies, N. (2007). No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945. New York, NY: Viking.
de Brouwer A., & Ka Hon Chu, S. (Editors). (In Press). The Men Who Killed Me: Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.
Buss, D. (2008). Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Daly M, Wilson MI (1994) Some differential attributes of lethal assaults on small children by stepfathers versus genetic fathers. Ethology & Sociobiology 15: 207-217.
Goodall, J. (1986). The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wilson M, Daly M, Daniele A (1995) Familicide: the killing of spouse and children. Aggressive Behavior 21: 275-291.
Publications by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The recent murder of Jason (12) and Jennifer (7) Mulvaney by their father, James, sparks feelings of outrage and bewilderment because it is such an abhorrent act. Unfortunately the murder of children is seemingly a part of the human repetoire of behaviors. Infanticide was known in prehistoric times and continued through the Middle Ages to the present day. In ancient Egypt infanticide was so great a concern that it was forbidden. During the Greco-Roman period babies were rescued from manure heaps, a not uncommon method of infanticide by Greeks or Romans, and either adopted as foundlings or raised as slaves. Judaism explicitly prohibits infanticide in the Torah.(e.g., Deuteronomy 12:30-31, 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3 & 17:17, 30-31 & 21:6 & 23:4, 10; Jeremiah 7:31-32 & 19:5 & 32:35; Ezekiel 16: 20-21, 36; Judges 11:31) Christianity, too, was concerned with infanticide, and forbade it. (Teachings of the Apostles or Didache said "You shall not kill that which is born."))In India, Hinduism condemns the act.
Throughout history human cultures have been troubled by the ritual killing of children. The practice appears to have been so wide spread that major religions and cultures adopted laws to forbid it.
The United States ranks eleventh in infanticide of infants under 1 year killed and fourth for those killed from 1 through 14 years. “In Southern California this month, six children have been stabbed by parents. Four have died.”
In Ventura County in 1995 Michael Sasse shot and killed two of his children, ages 3 and 4 before committing suicide. Cora Caro was convicted and sent to death row for shooting to death three of her four sons in 1999 as they slept in their beds, and prosecutors purported that she sought revenge against her husband because of their troubled marriage. Narind Virk was convicted in 2002 but found not guilty by reason of insanity of forcing her children into the cold waters of Channel Islands Harbor and then jumping in herself. All three survived.
How are we to understand these horrific acts and how can they be prevented. Many of these murders share common factors. Married adults are fighting and threatening each other. They challenge the rights of each other to remain parents and retain custody. There is impending or real financial hardship resulting in loss of income, employment and a marked decline in their standard of living. Parents are protective of their children and view their impending suffering of parental loss and lifestyle as so devastating as to become intolerable. To these circumstances you can sometimes add spousal mental and physical abuse, a family history of emotional illness, and a litigious conflict-promoting legal system. This can result in the psychological equivalent of the perfect storm in which the end of life is viewed as the only relief to unrelenting suffering.
As reported in the Ventura County Star, James Mulvaney’s wife had primary custody of the children despite his attending a “positive parenting” class.” On September 4 he lost his job as financial center manager for Citibank in Camarillo. He failed “to save the marriage, to improve and better the children’s education” according to court documents ,despite borrowing $200,000 with his ex-spouse to buy a house in which they lived for seven months.
Mulvaney wanted spousal support from his ex-wife because she made more money. Had someone understood the significance of these events; had someone recognized the destructive power of Mulvaney's feelings, and had someone known doing something was better than doing nothing, this tragedy might have been prevented.
Marriages will continue to fail and parents will still insist on fighting each other for custody. We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn in our recent history and job loss is expected to exceed 10% of our work force. While this doesn't explain the tragic deaths of the Mulvaneys, incidents like this seem more prevalent in difficult times, when extreme stress can unlock the inner psychological demons that must be present in someone who commits such an atrocity.
Friday, September 18, 2009
According to Russian psychologist, Dr Andrei Poiarkov of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, these dogs had to move to the suburbs when after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s the industrial complexes that were the dogs’ shelters went to the suburbs. The dogs had to figure out how to get back to the city’s center where the food was plentiful. There are reports that the dogs will startle pedestrians to drop their shwarma, a meat snack on a stick, with a bark from behind. They time the trip to get off at the most desired stop, and they walk when the light is green (dogs have no cones in their retina so they do not see color so they probably time their curb crossing to correspond to the picture of the walker or to the crossing of people).How are we to explain the bizarre behavior of the subway riding dogs? Russian scientists have a history of studying dogs. The most notable is Noble prize winner, Ivan Pavlov, who discovered classical conditioned learning. However, the train traveling dogs are best explained by American Psychologists Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner who discovered operant conditioning. According to Thorndike, behavior followed by a positive consequence or reinforcement is more likely to occur (The Law of Effect). Learning is incremental and trial and error. All mammals learn in the same way, by doing. Doing strengthens the learning (Law of Use) and not doing weakens the connection between the stimulus and the response (Law of Disuse). Extending these laws, Skinner “taught’ pigeons to read and guide missiles to their target.
In addition, Albert Bandura described vicarious learning when an organism learns by watching another organism (modeling). The organism’s expectancy to be able to do what another organism does is self-efficacy. So the dogs moved to the suburbs, but the center of the city was where their food was most plentiful. By linking their travels outside their suburban home with the finding and eating of food they learned to get back to the city center where food was most plentiful. According to the principles of evolutionary psychology the healthiest dogs that could most efficiently use their innate ability to navigate were most likely to survive, and it is this inborn will to survive which cues other dogs to do what they see their fittest brethren doing. The dogs watch other organisms, humans, getting on trains and going where they want to go or by accident discover that they can go towards the city on a train (a mode preferred to hoofing it) and ride in quiet (the front and rear cars) and conserve the energy that will be needed to forage for food. Crossing with others in the crosswalk with the green symbol avoids getting struck by a car or bus (and those that don’t learn, aren’t around so the lesson is obvious). There you have it! Dogs learning to ride the rails become an illustration of the principles of evolutionary, operant, and social cognitive learning and are no more bizarre than missile guiding pigeons.Further Links:
Monday, September 7, 2009
Kate Gosselin believes that “Aliens have taken him (Jon) away”. Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan's prime minister-elect, wrote in her book, Very Strange Things I Encountered, that she was abducted by aliens and taken to Venus, a green beautiful place, in a triangular shaped UFO 20 years ago. Well besides Kate and Miyuki, others believe that they too have met aliens. Sun Ra, a jazz musician for sixty years who pioneered the playing of Moog synthesizers, claimed that he was sent to earth from outer space to save humanity and bring harmony to the world. Sun Ra said that he was born on Saturn, "I'm a spirit master. I've been to a zone where there is no air, no light, no sound, no life, no death, nothing. There’s five billion people on this planet, all out of tune. I've got to raise their consciousness, tell them about the wonderful potential to bypass death." He once wrote,
“In some far off place
Many light years in space
I'll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you”
His sources of inspiration included the Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, channeling, numerology, Freemasonry, and black nationalism. Now Sun Ra may have used his extraterrestrial birth as a metaphor to help us earthlings, who are restricted to our listening shackles by our very existence on this planet, expand our auditory perceptions as well as our planet linked prejudices with his Moog synthesizers, two upright basses, African rhythms, and exotic costuming, or maybe he was from Saturn.
Well, two people, one a past presidential candidate and congressman from the 10th district in Ohio, Dennis Kucinich, and the other, the noted actress and channeler, Shirley MacLaine, are convinced of the presence of Aliens and their contact, albeit distant, with them. Shirley is Dennis’ daughter’s god mother, and he saw a UFO while at her home in Washington state that was triangular, silent and hovering. Maclaine says Kucinich characterized the experience as “a connection to your heart" and that he "heard directions" in his mind. During a presidential debate, Kucinich admitted he had indeed seen a UFO. When asked about the incident he replied, “Jimmy Carter saw a UFO.” No matter that this sighting was subsequently was identified as the planet Venus. According to commentator Tim Russert, in the above presidential debate, 14% of Americans have viewed a UFO. Also, all three Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 believe that there is “life beyond earth.” Well yeah! Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man to walk on the moon during Apollo 14, told a radio station in an interview, "I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we've been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomenon is real". He added that sources at the space agency who had had contact with aliens described the beings as 'little people who look strange to us.
In her book, Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens, Susan Clancy, a Harvard psychologist who studies recovered memories interviewed about 50 people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens. She said her subjects were not crazy, but instead had "a tendency to fantasize and to hold unusual beliefs and ideas.” In a review of Clancy’s findings, William Cromie writes, Possibly prompted by the publication of his book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, Harvard Medical School, where Mack was tenured as a full professor, initiated an investigation of his work and clinical practice with the goal of stripping him of his position. However, with the help of friends like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, the investigation concluded that Mack's inquiries were protected by academic freedom and there were no grounds to dismiss him. Mack was tragically killed by a drunk driver during an after-dinner walk in England in 2004. More information on Mack's work can be found at the John Mack Institute. So, what to make of all of this? If you read the top twelve things you need to know in Newsweek (August 24 & 31, 2009) you would discover that “Alien’s Exist” is numero uno! Newsweek editor Fred Guterl writes that, "some astronomers...estimate that perhaps half of the 200 billion or so suns in the Milky Way support terrestrial, Earth-like worlds.” Bill Borucki heads up the NASA Kepler mission that will search for these habitable earth-like planets. He claims that many such planets will be discovered by 2013. In the meantime it is possible to watch “Alien Earth” and see potentially habitable planets, like Gilese 581c, which were unknown until a few years ago. If we were to stretch our minds and step out of our anthropocentric worldview, could we imagine Earth-like worlds with sophisticated and advanced life forms curious and inclusive enough to reach out and “touch” one of our brethren? - Neil References:
“Abduction stories are strikingly similar. Victims wake up and find themselves paralyzed, unable to move or cry out for help. They see flashing lights and hear buzzing sounds. Electric sensations zing through their bodies, which may rise up in levitation. Aliens with wrap-around eyes, gray or green skin, lacking hair or noses, approach. The abductee’s heart pounds violently. There's lots of probing in the alien ship. Instruments are inserted in their noses, navels, or other orifices. It's painful. Sometimes sexual intercourse occurs. Then it's over, after seconds or minutes. The intruders vanish. Victims are back in their own beds and can move again...Measurements of sweating, heart rate, and brain waves showed that those claiming to be abductees show the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome as combat veterans.”
This is exactly what one would expect to find in a victim who was abducted by aliens, but Clancy prefers to think that alien abduction is related to sleep paralysis. Her conclusion is that so-called abductees have created or altered their memories in order to bring meaning to their lives.
On the other hand psychiatrist John Mack, also of Harvard University, concluded that the 200 alien abductees he interviewed showed no sign of mental illness and that their abduction could not be explained. He wrote extensively about spiritual transformation related to alien abduction phenomena. Mack was criticized for taking alien abduction reports at face value. While Mack never claimed that alien abduction was actually taking place, he did say,
"I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can't account for in any other way, that's mysterious. Yet I can't know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry."
Kate Gosselin Wikipedia Entry
Mack, J. (2005). Abduction, Alienation and Reason, BBC Radio 4, broadcast June 8, 2005
Mack, J. (2007). Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens. New York: Scribner.
Sun Ra Wikipedia Entry
Susan Clancy Wikipedia Entry
Possibly prompted by the publication of his book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, Harvard Medical School, where Mack was tenured as a full professor, initiated an investigation of his work and clinical practice with the goal of stripping him of his position. However, with the help of friends like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, the investigation concluded that Mack's inquiries were protected by academic freedom and there were no grounds to dismiss him. Mack was tragically killed by a drunk driver during an after-dinner walk in England in 2004. More information on Mack's work can be found at the John Mack Institute.
So, what to make of all of this? If you read the top twelve things you need to know in Newsweek (August 24 & 31, 2009) you would discover that “Alien’s Exist” is numero uno! Newsweek editor Fred Guterl writes that,
"some astronomers...estimate that perhaps half of the 200 billion or so suns in the Milky Way support terrestrial, Earth-like worlds.”
Bill Borucki heads up the NASA Kepler mission that will search for these habitable earth-like planets. He claims that many such planets will be discovered by 2013. In the meantime it is possible to watch “Alien Earth” and see potentially habitable planets, like Gilese 581c, which were unknown until a few years ago. If we were to stretch our minds and step out of our anthropocentric worldview, could we imagine Earth-like worlds with sophisticated and advanced life forms curious and inclusive enough to reach out and “touch” one of our brethren?