Equilibrium Institute- Delivering Core Intelligence

Apathy is not consent, it's the demand for Empowerment  

Introducing Contingency Theory – A Plan for Life


     The purpose of Contingency theory is to help substantiate, promote and expand sustainable development through research and practice.  The title was also meant to help convey that responses, planning and design are crucial steps in emergency prevention, readiness, and response. Contingency theory implies that time and anything in existence or imagined is relative and dependent.  


     The reduction of corruption and suffering are pivotal to peace. Contingency theory reveals how devastation can be identified, reduced, and prevented.  Many forms of suffering are partially created by behaviors and processes that reinforce it.  Thus,  Peace includes the study of distress. 

     Thought and other behaviors are central to the advancement of civilization.  By better understanding  the correlation of thought and action, between the stimulus, the observation, and the response (SOR Schultz 1996 on Tolman p.289) we can gain a greater awareness about howcognition impacts behavior. 


     Modeling, a form of conditioning or learning, can occur in response to any stimuli (Bandura).   People have inherent abilities to learn and adapt.  Therefore, education is a tool that can help to increase or decrease safety and welfare, depending on the quality and methods used.  Self concepts, self-esteem, empathy and attitudes are impacted by what is learned through experience. Learning through experience is explained as trial and error learning and vicarious learning. 


     Learning depends on cognitive processing or selective attention, memory, associations, and modeling. The impact of various stimuli varies from person to person and depends on individual bio-psycho-social factors. This is the case because personality is the center from which the senses and interpretation or discriminations operate.

     Skills alone don’t make people more adaptive, innovative and successful.  In order for skills to have a positive chance for expression there must be supporting conditions in the environment. Because intelligence (personality, aptitudes, ability, and interests) vary to a great degree, many educators and psychologists have agreed that tailoring opportunities to advance and the nurturance of individual potential is crucial for the healthy development of a person.  The general premise presented here is that if you make healthy people you have a healthier society and healthier societies enjoy a greater quality of life.  One of the many important aspects of creating positive motivated self-actualizing people is the reinforcement of the development of positive senses of self-worth, and *purpose. Those attributes come from the practice of unconditional positive regard (Schultz on Rogers, C. 1996)  in families and from communities that exude unconditional forms of acceptance and care driven largely by patience and tolerance.  * see: Proprium.


     Many of us know people who like to dominate others, or become attached to appearances. We may know people who worry too much about how others perceive them, or people who feel compelled to prove themselves.  Everyone knows people that dwell on certain topics or obsess about details.  We all know people who see the negative in everything, but have a hard time seeing the positive and we all know people that regardless of how bright, they just can seem to ever finish anything or act fearful of their own success.  Some of us know people who tend to get addicted to food or substances, sex even, but how few of us know how to provide effective adequate support to those suffering individuals.  Can we determine how to respond in situations where elevated anger is presented to us?  The job of the psychoanalyst is to help people make better decisions for themselves or lead them to practices that help them get things under control without taking unneccesary risks.  The notion is that care can reduce losses in freedom and or reduce physical symptoms through active treatments that can include cognitive therapies, diet, exercise behavior modifications or a combination.

Role of Knowledge and Specifically Psychology


     Psychology is the study of the mental and physical reactions and responses to perceived and actual experience.  The need to separate ideas or projections from evidences more consistent with experience is what the service of empirical science provides.  One distinction between Philosophy and Psychology is that the work of philosophers is to bring together various assertions and through reasoning induce or deduce broader implications that explain things across disciplines.  While Psychologists can operate in much the same way, their reliance on measurement and scientific principles are more focused in scope and method generally speaking. However, Humanists and Gestalt schools in Psychology are closer to philosophy.  The practice of psychologists is either person centered in counseling or functional in research areas dealing with various concerns of behavior.  Both Philosophers and Psychologists have systems of knowledge based on moral values to some extent, although the purer the scientific approach the more objective and evidence based one becomes.




Premises in Psychology


     Ethology* (Mill, John Stuart 1806-1873) is the study devoted to the factors (i.e. the values of a culture) that influence the development of personality. Various influences including social, environmental and personal motivations or attitudes impact growth and changes in personality.  According to Dr. Leroux’s lecture (2003) on  Allports Continuity, and Eric Erikson’s Psychosocial stages , personality is not stagnant. Thus, it is possible for learners to adapt and adjust their awareness to identify with or understand the feelings or experiences of others (empathy). However, the extent a person can empathize also is determined by the prior experience, and the biological status of the individual. Perception provides the context for learning and stimuli are subject to the discriminations of the selective attention (Schultze on William James) and selective memory or recall (Schults on Ebinhouse) of observers.  Psychologist Angell James Rowland (1869-1949) argued that the function of consciousness is to improve our adaptive abilities.  The function of consciousness, William James (1842-1910) wrote, is to guide us to those ends required for survival. According to Edward Titchener 1867-1927 and others conscious experience is dependent on the experiencing person.




     The role of Psychology has been described differently through time by various schools within psychology.  The functionalists suggest the goal of psychology is to study how the mind assists the individual in adaptation.  John Dewey 1859-1952 argued psychology should explain, describe and predict the function of the total organism in the environment.  Harvey Carr (1873-1954) suggested mental activity is the subject matter of psychology.  Memory, perception, feeling, imagination, judgment, and will are all aspects of mental activity.  The function of mental activity is to acquire, fixate, retain, organize and evaluate experiences and to use these experiences to determine one’s actions. G. Stanley Hall and B.F. Skinner and others helped emphasize objective analysis of behavior.  John Watson argued Psychology was the study of complex mental states or processes into simple elementary constituents and the construction of complex states when elementary constituents are given. For Robert Woodworth 1869-1962 psychological knowledge began with the investigation of the stimulus and the response- that is with objective external events.  Gestalists emphasize induction with conceptual models such as the whole is different from its parts. Gestalists argued that dismissing the role of introspection and consciousness was not a wise decision made by the Behavioralist camp.  Everything is relative and dependent.* see determinism




Scientific Principle


     The use of better methods increases accuracy, limits bias, yields more reliable knowledge and helps the quality of awareness become a closer approximation of truth in an ever fluctuating physical and mental landscape.  Thus, skepticism and diversifying sources helps broaden understanding and defend against the dangers of rigidity and self-limiting falsehoods that lye at the end of the two extremes of absolutism and vagueness. 


Value of Knowledge    


     Knowledge is the classification of observable and therefore interpreted experience, which is at best a fair or close approximation of truths subject to change.  Perception, the environment, the sub-conscious and behaviors are linked in a many ways.  Theories and studies that increase understanding of these important relationships not only help us understand what is going on in the world, they lead us towards greater self-discovery. The function of knowledge is to aid successful adaptation which limits suffering and maximizes well-being. This is why knowledge is correlated with empowerment. 




Immediate Experience & the Absence of Reasoning  (Reacting versus Thinking in/on Action)


     Immediate experience often solicits reflexive less reflective behaviors, not deeper more logical behaviors. That helps to explain why irrational behaviors are made even when people possess knowledge of better options, but did not utilize good decision-making skills in situations.  Self-preservation, defense mechanism, and regression all help explain why less desirable behaviors are resorted to when better options are available.




     Harmony and the protection of individual well-being or the greater good are often neglected by people despite rules and their knowledge of better options. Assuming a correlation between the lack of congruence between what a person thinks is best for them and how they actually behave in the moment is established, that may be explained by the idea that immediate self-gratification can work on conscious and subconscious levels such as impulses, desires and habitual behaviors.  Incongruence with how a person thinks and how they behave can actually be a symptom of neuroses ( ) .  Impulses are reflexes allied with instincts. For example, both conscious and unconscious forms of pleasure are motivational factors that can have more influence on behavior than logical or more rational longer-term needs.  Thus, when the future is sacrificed for the moment, this unwise behavior can actually be understood in terms of what is described as instinctual selectivity.  Skinner presented this as reflex whereas Mazlow discussed the motivation of behavior in his model known as a Hierarchy of needs and Watson considered selective attention to be more narrowly defined in a field of awareness he described as selective attention which results from multiple compounding variables. Frued argued, id gravitates towards the immediate satisfaction of needs (Frued). 




Acceptance for example is dependent upon social conditioning which shapes the ego or more rational beliefs including self-concepts, part of which is subconscious. 




Factors Impacting Awareness

      By looking at multiple variables that influence behavior and interact with personality, an understanding of why different people in similar circumstances behave differently from one another can be reached. Freud’s helpful analogy of people acting to reduce physical and mental tensions or stressors is helpful in understanding the motivators of behavior. *Insert motivations of behavior chart here.




     The resulting worldviews of an individual are due to dynamic filters or personality traits collectivly called schema.  Schema includes sub-consciousness and self awareness.  Schema is credited with determining discriminative and even non-discriminitive or reflexive responses. Non-discriminative or discriminative responses are made where stimuli causes action at in the sub-conscious level such as biological response or reflex. A discriminative response is made after passing through any psychological filters in a persons mind that contributes to selected responses, including thought. 




     People often develop compensatory traits. For example, someone lacking self-esteeem might appear overly confident, someone fearful might appear fearless on the surface.  Someone who is self serving may have experienced negligence earlier in life. Someone strictly controlled may later become dominante to others. On a bodily level someone that loses one physical ability often develops an enhanced ability as a compensation.  This is a natural adaptive quality that all things in nature exhibit. 




    Disciplines and experiences that encourage people to critically reflect while in action is an important skill. Considering the propensity for error involved in many decisions made, especially decisions made under the stress and strain of daily life, critical thinking skills are essential.  Humility, and grace coupled with the ability to reflect on actions and learn from mistakes are virtues that offer promise to people really interested in developing to the maximum of their own potentials.  In short, if we acknowledge the basic human characteristic of being error prone, we can grant one another the space to be foolish where it is safe to do so, and take extra precautions in environments where it is not safe.


Compounding Variables and Explaining How Imagination is Dominant


     The line between memory and imagination is thin and often less precise than one might expect.  A study found that there was a substantial difference in hard case notes and the Doctor’s recollections of patients recently seen.  Along similar lines, Dr. Munsterberg found accounts of study subjects to just witnessed events were not very reliable (Shultz 1996, p.217). What actually occurs in any eventuality and the perceptions of what occurs can be very different from one another. Bio-psycho-social factors produce vast differences in the fields of perception because numerous conditions or variables impact behavior.  Thus, the differences between beliefs and physical reality can be explained by personality.




    Phyisical and psychological barriers, interests, motivations all impact learning (Merriam S. & Caffarella R. 1999). For example cognitive abilities including, but not limited to memory could be impacted by development such as nutrition, or brain damage, or stress. Methods and conditioning that help subjects internalize and practice also impact learning.




     Ebbinhaus, H. found people forget more rout learned text information after first being exposed to it, and then what is recalled is lost more gradually over time. The less there is to be learned the easier it was for subjects to recall more of the information and the opposite were also found to be evident in his research. His research also implied recalling things originally unfamiliar is many times more difficult than recalling something like a familiar language where prior associations exist. Schultz (1996)




     Personal Fictions help people adapt and cope with experience ( ) . Thus, imagination and creativity are ever present characteristics of human behavior.  Self-awareness develops and fluctuates.  At various stages in development personal fictions are tested.  For example, in sleep we confuse a dream with conscious experience.  Children under 1 are gradually learning to distinguish themselves from what they perceive and research indicates children learn gradually to understand the differences between their imagined world and how to become acclimated. They are conditioned in the process of maturity (Rice 2001).  People may exhaust ideas or modify previous goals by trial or error or abandon old plans.  According to (Leroux, J. 2001) on Abraham Adler, when personal fictions cease to be useful, people tend to adopt new ones.




A Case to Consider to observe aspects of human behavior


     Human behavior is not always made with one’s own self or the best interests of others in mind.  People tend to compromise themselves, through sacrifice or socially placed demands and expectations.  The range of possibility is broad and drastic changes in behavior are actually fairly commonplace.  Motivation is a huge determinant of human behavior.  If you know what a person needs, wants or enjoys in life, it is much easier to predict their behavior. 




     Right and wrong are constructs largely influenced by socialization processes known as conditioning.  Personality developed through personal experience is an input into shifting values of right and wrong held by individuals. 




     Some forms of ignorance include functional awareness that is not congruent with biological self-interests. For example, a person craving a cigarette knows he wants to smoke. He enjoys it and has even rationalized that he is willing to risk shortening his life to have the pleasure he has found from smoking. He made the choice of immediate pleasure over a possible longer life. He also did not know that his habit supported the destruction of the forests and forced relocation of native tribes. He was unaware that his habit would eventually cost tax payers a significant amount as his death was long and required extensive care in the hospital which he could not afford to pay for. His choice to smoke at all was morally supported by a society that decided to make the drug available. The social conditioning he got as a child watching his family smoke and the influence from his peers contributed to his eventual addiction. The absence of moral values that could have prevented him from following the path of his family and friends shows how such a situations can exist. Some people could view the scenario as being criminal on the part of the industries that thrive off the suffering of others. Others could say even suicide should be an option. The point is that sometimes people act out against their conscious.  In the final years of the life of this subject, he realized he was in fact morally opposed with his own action, but addicted nonetheless.  Being diagnosed with Emphysema had no impact on his  smoking habit until his eventual death. For every case like this there are far fewer about the people that quite smoking and succeed.  Those determined individuals are unique in that they win the battle of mind over body and learn to overcome their additions and in some cases successfully manage addictive personality traits altogether. 




Observations on the Motivations of Behavior and a Hypothesis on Persuasion


     People operate to meet their needs (Rice on Maslow 2001 p.31). The clearer the bridge between what people need and perceive they want and the ability that relevant knowledge or wisdom to meets those needs, the more likely the wisdom or knowledge will be valued and used. If you can show a learner how the information or skill can help them reach their goals or meet needs, the more likely they will appreciate and be motivated to use the information and skills.  If the relevance of the wisdom or knowledge is made clear and tied directly to satisfying strong motivating factors of human behavior, such as pleasure, absence of pain, basic needs like food, or affection, collectively termed Self Interest Appeal, it is more likely to be found of interest, attract attention, and consequently more likely to be adopted. 




Decision Making


     Decisions are dependent on individual experiences, responses or re-actions, individual skills, opportunities and social constraints.  Knowledge and shared wisdom consistent with healthy biological, psychological and social needs are helpful to adaptation. Limiting error prone bias and corruption through scientific analysis is critical.  Knowledge may set us free, though in some cases it seems to also produce the opposite effect. The limitations of knowledge and responsibilities of knowing are tremendous responsibilities.  There is a great risk when you combine being error prone with being misinformed or having emotionally charged reactions in any scenerio.  In almost ever instance constructive decisions drastically improve outcomes because they allow people to consider all the possible solutions and ramifications prior to acting.  However, not all circumstances offer the luxery of forethought, or time for consultations.  Thus, the compounding factors that motivate behavior make it less predictable. 







Leroux, J. (2001), “Course lecture Theories of Personality.” SFSU, CA


Lovelock, J. (1979), Gaia. Oxford: Oxford Press


Merriam S. & Caffarella R. (1999), Learning in adulthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Rice, P. (2001), Human Development  p.  215,163, 31 New Jersey: Prentice Hall


Schultz, D.  (1996), A history of psychology, p.217 Orlando: Harcourt Brace.  


WhiteFeather,W.  (1993), “Environmental Education Session” Tucson.