Areas of Behavioural Control

   Throughout life, individuals are taught patterns of behaviour both by parents and
society as a whole.  Much of this learned behaviour helps individuals tremendously in
future endeavours as everyone must be able to communicate and solve conflicts with
other humans.  However, not all learned behaviour is beneficial.  Many forms of
behaviour, widely accepted by society, are, in fact, harmful to many individuals, for
example, the pressure to marry within one’s social class or religion.  Another topic of
heated debate is the struggle between individual, social, and family expectations, a
subject which has become an increasingly popular theme in much of the music and
videos available to young people.
 Once the main unit of control in society the impact of the family on an
individual’s behaviour has declined somewhat, though the family is still the entity which
has the greatest influence over children and therefore over future society.
 At first glance it would appear that historically and cross-culturally behaviour is
governed almost solely by society.  Modern psychiatrists and psychologists, however,
believe that the majority of human behaviour, especially criminal and deviant behaviour,
is rooted in the family.  Others believe that, at least in Western civilization, the individual
has sole control over his or her own destiny, while biologists argue that human behaviour
is determined by genetics and natural impulses.  So, what exactly controls which parts of
human behaviour, and how much control does the individual have in shaping his or her
own destiny?
 A surprisingly large amount of human behaviour is genetically programmed and
transcends social and cultural barriers (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 6).  Since biologically influenced
behaviour is for the most part unconscious, eliminating it without the aid of extreme
classical or operant conditioning is almost entirely impossible.  Biologically based
behaviour incorporates much more than the basic human needs of food, water, and sleep.
In fact, many natural behaviours are emotional rather than physical.  To some extent all
humans are behaviourally pre-socialized by nature.
  One human behaviour which is almost entirely dictated by nature is the realm of
non-verbal emotional expression.  Children who have been born both deaf and blind
display many human gestures which they could not possibly have learned from
observation.  These gestures include smiling and laughing when happy (even though they
have never seen a smile or heard a laugh), crying when unhappy, and clenching fists and
frowning when angry, which indicates that these physical behaviours are genetically
programmed and controlled rather than learned through social interaction
(Eibl-Eibesfeldt 10).  Covering the face and lowering the eyes when embarrassed also
appears to be a biologically based behaviour as blind people engage in it, though there is
absolutely no practical reason for them to do so (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 50).  All of these, and
other, non-verbal expressions which are used in social communication have been
pre-socialized into the human species and are more or less unalterable.
 Many social gestures are used universally in all world cultures, suggesting that
these basic gestures are innate human characteristics and not learned through contact
with society.  These social gestures are very strong forms of non-verbal communication
and are pre-formed responses for various social situations.  All people instinctively know
what these non-verbal communications mean and when it is appropriate to use them.  For
example, in all cultures baring the teeth and raising the shoulders (particularly among
males) are considered to be threatening gestures (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 18).  These gestures
probably developed as intimidation techniques when defending oneself or family, or
attacking prey.   Also, in every society from African Bushmen to upper-class British,
greeting a friend from a distance consists of a quick raising of the eyebrows, followed by
a smile and a nod  (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 16).  The fact that these social gestures are identical
in all world cultures, many of which are isolated from the rest of the world, indicates that
they are naturally ingrained behaviours which are unaffected by social customs or
behavioural patterns.
 All autonomous physical reactions are also genetically pre-engineered into the
human species.  In addition to respiration, digestion, and adrenaline control, autonomous
reactions also include more outwardly observable behaviour such as pupil dilation when
a person perceives something which arouses his or her interest.  When heterosexual
people are shown nude pictures of the opposite sex, their pupils dilate.  The same is true
for homosexuals when they view nude pictures of members of the same sex.  Serrated
shapes and shapes resembling eyes also arouse great interest in people and cause the
pupils to dilate. (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 24).  This reaction could have developed as a way to let
more light into the eye in order to improve vision and study the object of interest in
greater detail.  The reaction only occurs when an object of lust, and thus procreation,
appears, or a symbol associated with danger, such as a serrated object or eyespot, appears
(Eibl-Eibesfeldt 24).  In these situations, natural behaviour patterns control unconscious
physical reactions to such an extent that they are entirely beyond the control of the
individual.  Autonomous reactions may have developed as a way of decreasing thinking
time and increasing reaction time in life-threatening situations.
 In addition to these stylized social gestures and autonomous reactions, humans are
also born with several natural drives which greatly influence social patterns of
interaction.  All humans, for example, have a speech drive.  Even children born deaf have
the impulse to talk, regardless of whether or not it is intelligible, and can often be
observed chattering away to themselves (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 26).  Since a great deal of
interpersonal human behaviour is based on verbalization and communication through
speech, the natural desire to communicate through speech is obviously one of the most
important natural socialization compulsions.
 Another natural impulse affecting socialization is the drive to behave aggressively
at times, either as a group (as in warfare) or on an individual basis.  The aggressive drive
can be greatly modified and shaped by family, society, and the individual, but it can
never be completely extinguished.  Aggression does not necessarily involve physical
violence towards other people.  Aggression can be practiced through initiation rites,
hunting animals, verbal abuse, watching violent movies, masochism, competing at sports,
or being violent towards inanimate objects, as in the case of the Arapesh tribe of New
Guinea who hit gongs or chop down trees when angered (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 73).  Though
the degree and means of venting aggression can be altered and subdued, the aggressive
drive itself never dies.  Aggressiveness probably developed as a way to survive and avoid
being abused or dominated in pre-civilized times.
 The drive for dominance itself is another overwhelming natural human impulse.
Humans seem to naturally desire a social hierarchy (Fromm 27).  They like to know
exactly how they rank in comparison to everyone else, who they dominate, and who they
are dominated by.  Though the drive to dominate and its corollary, the drive to be
dominated, can be modified by society, family, and the individual, both drives are always
present to some degree and subtly affect human behavioural patterns.  In most cases the
conscious striving for dominance affects actions more immediately than the striving to be
dominated.  Our modern global society focuses (and advertising capitalizes) on this
biological desire to be the “best” or “one of the best” in some particular area, whether it
be sports, business, music, art, politics, popularity, or anything else that provides a source
of power and prestige over others..  This natural impulse is idealized by our global
culture (an outstanding example being the Olympics) and on close introspection, many
humans will concede that much of their behaviour is motivated by the desire to succeed
and dominate.  The drive to be dominated is usually subconscious, but no less present.  It
is usually most apparent in the willingness of people to submit themselves to a religious
or cult leader, and in the numerous “fan clubs” of famous people.  In these types of
settings people are encouraged to submit themselves to someone or something that
occupies a higher place than themselves in some kind of social hierarchy.
 Humans also have a natural conformity drive (Fromm 59 ).  The impulse to
conform is reinforced by society, but not originated by it.  It surfaces, “even in small
children who tease their playmates who limp or stutter” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 94) imposing
“conformity on those that are able to adapt” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 94).  In past times, the drive
to conform may have developed as a way to strengthen the unity of a group and thus
improve the group’s chances of survival.  Even though this need has become much less
necessary “people all over the world have a tendency to respond with violent hostility
towards outsiders and minorities who deviate from the majority” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 94).
The desire for conformity is still very strong in modern society and teenagers are more
pressured than any other societal group to conform.  Teenagers often engage in drinking,
swearing, drugs, premarital sex, and other potentially dangerous activities in order to be
socially accepted by their peers.  Anyone in any society who fails to conform to any
particular group’s standards is immediately condemned by that group as being ‘radical’,
‘corruptive’, or ‘weird’, and because of this hostility and ostracism it is extremely
difficult for a family or individual to resist the temptation and security that comes with
 The tendency to obey is not quite as strong as the drive for conformity, but it is
still very present.  In one university experiment, subjects were ordered to give a
restrained man electrical shocks which increased in severity to a maximum of 450 volts.
Even when the man who was supposedly being electrocuted began to scream in pain
62.5% of the subjects swallowed their protests and continued to administer the shocks
when exhorted to do so.  One of the experimenters, who had predicted that only 0.01% of
the subjects would continue to administer the shocks was stunned at the willingness of
the subjects to submit their own will to an authority, concluding, “willingness to obey
and to subordinate oneself is certainly an ethical value.  But it can also lead to people
becoming tools of others, without a will of their own.  In order to counteract this danger
one must be aware of it” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 102).  The impulse to obey may have developed
in order to preserve order and group solidarity.   In modern times, however, the
willingness to obey could be a dangerous compulsion as thousands thoughtlessly obey the
detrimental commands of tyrants like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. The shock
experiment, and others like it, have proved that at times the impulse to obey authority
overrides other more palatable human instincts, such as the abhorrence of murder.
  Almost all people (psychotics are the exception) are naturally geared to
abhor the murder of another human being though the abhorrence decreases as the
physical distance between murderer and victim increases, making it easier to drop a
bomb on a city than to strangle someone.  Even headhunters will refuse to kill a human
once eye contact with that person has been established (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 101).  The innate
abhorrence for murder probably developed in part from another natural compulsion, the
compulsion to help other human beings survive, which in turn, probably developed
partially from the need to perpetuate the species, and partially from the need for
self-preservation, as the chances of surviving in a group are usually greater than the
chances of surviving alone.  All of these traits are extremely difficult to modify or
extinguish, and are usually only completely overcome when the person involved has an
extreme mental disorder, such as psychosis or severe depression.  The instinct for
self-preservation is particularly strong and normally overrides all other natural and
conditioned behaviours (Fromm 32).  For instance, the need for self-preservation
overrides the abhorrence of murder, as victims often attempt to kill their attackers, and
killing in self-defence is entirely condoned in all societies.  Almost all human behaviour
is governed at least in part by the need for self-preservation (Fromm 32).  Acquiring
skills, getting a good job, maintaining friendships and family ties, building up a
retirement fund, and acquiring possessions are all means of ensuring survival of the self.
 The evidence presented by the literature review of natural behaviour indicates
that many behaviour patterns are biologically based rather than conditioned by society.
Biologically influenced behaviours are believed to have developed as survival
mechanisms in prehistoric times.  These behaviours cover a wide range of human
interaction, including such essential aspects of human life as non-verbal expression,
speech, self-preservation, and autonomous reactions.
 People also have a biological desire to be on a ‘team’ which is in opposition to
‘something else’, a need to have a sense of  ‘us’ and ‘them’, a need to be engaged in a
struggle and at the same time feel group solidarity.  This need is fostered and nurtured by
society and metamorphosed into the need to be loyal, and the need to be loyal is often
molded by society into the need to be loyal to the current social system.  Throughout
history, individuals who have questioned or attacked the current social system have been
dealt with ruthlessly, and were not considered to be socially acceptable until society
changed and that individual’s thoughts became social norms.  The frequency with which
these individuals were assassinated or imprisoned speaks to the power of this socially
manipulated biological drive, in which even the individual who is aware of its existence
and attempts to counteract it is rendered powerless by his peers.  A few historical figures
who were persecuted or ostracized for acting against the beliefs of their social system are:
Galileo, Socrates, Nelson Mandela, Marx, Engels, Martin Luther King Jr., the Apostles
(in particular Paul), Jesus, Mahatma Ghandi, most of America’s founding fathers, John
Lennon, Che Guevera and, of course, the countless individuals whom no one knows
about because their ideas never became social norms.
 Our severe loyalty to the existing social order thus limits thought.  Most people
are taught to be loyal to the existing social order from the time that they are very young.
This phenomenon can be particularly well observed in our society by the general
abhorrence, and even fear of, communism, dictatorship, and anarchy, but it is also
apparent in Russia and Romania where many people wish to return to communism,
and in China where the democratic protest in Tianamen Square was not supported by the
majority of Chinese.
 Loyalty to the existing social order can also be observed in the willingness of
people to dedicate their lives to working hard in the hopes of rising to the upper levels of
society, and thereby gaining prestige and power, rather than concentrating their efforts on
self-fulfillment or simply enjoying life to the fullest. Loyalty to society is not only
personally restrictive  As one Nobel Prize winner Arthur Koestler commented, “the great
catastrophes of human history are not to be traced back to man’s fundamentally
aggressive behaviour, but to the individual’s excessive loyalty to the existing social
order” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 104).  Some good examples of the effects of excessive loyalty
include both World Wars, the Cold War, the Korean and Vietnamese Wars, the Crusades,
and the famous Bay of Pigs incident, all of which were caused by a general willingness to
fight and die for a certain political or religious ideology.  The individual has very little
control over this drive to be loyal to his society unless he is aware of its existence and
asks himself why it exists.  Since very few people engage in this kind of reflection,
society effectively turns a natural drive to its own use.
 The ability of society not only to manipulate, but actually repress even biological
characteristics is also overwhelming.  In small, non-civilized societies males often use
striking physical ornamentation as a means of threatening and intimidating others.
However, in modern times, people have had to, “adapt themselves to mass society by
toning down male threat display.  In all civilizations the process is for the man to become
more drab...Even an ostentatious bearing leads to social ostracism” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 227).
Even those who rebel against societal norms and oppressions are influenced and
controlled because their actions are a direct reaction to society.  Apparently, “the social
prohibition on the individual’s threat display imposes certain frustrations on him (man),
and we can observe how young people in particular rebel against this compulsion to
conformity with emphatically individualistic behaviour” (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 227).  The
effects of these apparel sanctions on socialization are huge.  In tribal societies, where
everyone knows everyone else, men are frequently adorned with paint, weapons, tattoos,
or piercings, whereas in civilized, anonymous societies the male apparel is conservative
and standardized, and people are conditioned from birth to perceive males dressed in
unorthodox ways (for instance, a teenager with a mohawk, or a man wearing a lot of
jewelry) as threatening.  Modern women are permitted to be a little less drab in their
dress habits than men are because they are rarely perceived as being threatening
(Eibl-Eibesfeldt 227), however, all people must dress in the socially prescribed way in
order to be accepted.  Hence, even the clothes one wears are at least partially dictated by
 Most isolated behaviours governed by society are static adaptations or changes in
habit which do not cause a change in character (Fromm 15).  For example, a Canadian
woman who moves to India may start to wear a sari instead of jeans in order to blend in.
Though the Canadian has altered her pattern of dress, her character has not necessarily
been altered in any way.  However society as a system, is capable of molding character to
a desired cookie-cutter shape.
 This molding is possible because in modern life people have become very
specialized and thus depend on the rest of society to meet a multitude of needs which
they cannot meet themselves.  For instance, a corporate executive living in a metropolis
is not even capable of providing himself with food, water, clothing, furniture, or
medication, and therefore his survival is dependent on his ability to gain the things he
needs through the proper social interactions with others.  From birth, “the stage is set for
him (man).  He has to eat and drink and therefore he has to work, and this means he has
to work under the particular conditions and in the ways that are determined for him by
the kind of society into which he is born.  Both factors, his need to live and the social
system are unalterable by him as an individual” (Fromm 18).  In order to succeed in the
modern world people must fulfill certain socially prescribed steps and roles.  People must
market themselves by nurturing those traits which are desirable to others.  In most cases
if he wishes to attain a high social standing or even a moderate amount of success in life,
the individual is not free to choose which of his talents he will foster and which he will
neglect (Glassner 129).  In order to survive he must develop those traits and
characteristics which society desires him to develop such as diligence, responsibility, and
tactfulness.  At the same time he may be forced to neglect other talents such as writing,
singing, or philosophizing because these talents are not helpful to his career.  Therefore,
“the peculiarity of an economic system, becomes the primary factor in determining his
whole character structure, because the imperative need for self-preservation forces him to
accept the conditions under which he has to live” (Fromm 12).
 Every day, humans comply with thousands of socially conditioned behaviours in
order to survive.  For example, a doctor cannot practice medicine if she refuses to take
the Hypocritical oath, a secretary cannot work in an office if she insists on always
wearing a bikini.  The corporate executive cannot refuse to come to the office if he does
not feel like it, he cannot mock or be rude to his superiors or clients, he cannot wear
sandals to work, and he cannot promote any other companies that his company may be in
competition with.
 Almost all human actions are governed through society by law, politics,
education, economic factors or religion..  The role of schools in socialization is
particularly overwhelming.  From pre-school children are taught to ignore hunches or
natural instincts about whether or not they like another child and at the same time they
are encouraged to be friendly and smile whether they feel like it or not.  Over time the
reflex to smile and be friendly becomes so ingrained that most of the time grown people
cannot even tell if they really feel happy, friendly, or perky (Fromm 22).  Thus, people
are socialized to act in certain prescribed manners in different social settings.  For
example, one is taught to respect teachers whether one feels that they deserve it or not,
and one is taught to always be friendly to peers and distant family members regardless of
the natural emotions one might feel concerning them.  The emotion of friendliness to
anonymous others is conditioned by society to be turned on and off as societal needs
dictate and eventually grows into an automatic response controlled by social situations
rather than personal feelings (Fromm 23).
 Schools also discourage original thinking by putting much more emphasis on
learning facts than on thinking and problem-solving.  Students’ “time and energy are
taken up by learning more and more facts so that there is little left for thinking” (Fromm
48), stifling the individual and causing the ability to think originally to atrophy.
Simultaneously, children are urged to ‘take things slowly’ and taught that many problems
and complex issues are too difficult for them to handle.  They are discouraged from
tackling difficult or taboo problems and thoughts, further limiting any human ability to
come up with a solution for those problems.  Eventually the desire to work on difficult or
complex projects fades and people become heavily dependent on societal gurus and
authorities for answers.  Thus, if people are unaware of this social thought-limitation
process they are in danger of having a good portion of their thoughts controlled by
society, making it virtually impossible for a person to act in any but the socially
prescribed way.  What happens when even thoughts become socialized is one of the
issues which most humans have been socialized not to think about, but at least one
person of significant social importance has ventured some concern over the issue, stating,
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created
them” (Einstein).  Perhaps if original thought were encouraged, rather than suppressed,
half the world’s population would not be living in poverty.
 Once individual and original thought have been sufficiently limited, people
become confused about what they want and turn to society for answers.  As a result,
people are expected to want the same things everyone else wants because everyone is
supposed to be getting answers from the same source.  Therefore, people ‘want’ things
which would be beneficial to the society for them to want, for example, a nice house, a
family, and a stable career.  People are discouraged from wanting things which would be
detrimental or of no benefit to society, for example, starting a revolution, being a
stripper, or living as a hermit (Fromm 244).  Consequently, society through education and
the media effectively cultivates some wants and eliminates others.  For instance, the
current education system is contemplating cutting out art, music, and drama programs
from secondary schools.  Many children, particularly those from lower-income families,
will never have a chance to discover whether or not they like or have a talent for any of
these programs if they are not incorporated into education.  However, society does not
need any more artists and musicians.  Society needs engineers and computer
programmers, and so if artistic and musical talents and desires go unnoticed it is no great
loss to society, regardless of whether or not it is a great loss to the individual or family.
This desire-pruning is done so subtly that sadly, “modern man lives under the illusion
that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want”
(Fromm 252), and is socialized by society to desire to fill just the right niche.
 Anyone who is not socialized properly is dealt with severely.  An extreme
example can be seen in the dramatic increase in juveniles forcibly committed to private
mental institutions for treatment in America.  Since 1980, teenage psychiatric admission
to for-profit institutions has risen 400%, as teenagers who are just slightly deviant in
social behaviour patterns are committed against their will by the court or by concerned
parents feeling the intense pressure for their children to meet societal standards.  The
juvenile is not permitted either a hearing or a lawyer, and actually has fewer rights than a
teenager in jail.  Violating curfew, running away, truancy, rebelliousness at home, using
alcohol or drugs, and having sex are all actually juvenile crimes punishable by sentences
at psychiatric wards where the offender will learn to behave in a more socially acceptable
manner (Mertz 21).  Thus, if people refuse to be socialized by society they are socialized
by force.  In many of these mental institutions, treatment is severe, and if patients rebel
(for example by refusing to be strip-searched) they may be treated with heavy doses of
drugs normally reserved for use on psychotics which have debilitating effects on anyone
with a relatively normal chemical composition (Mertz 21).  Since the consequences of
refusing to conform to society and be socialized by it are so immense, even those people
who are aware of the socialization process and wish to maintain some control over their
own actions by exercising their own will, even in minor areas, are discouraged from
doing so.
 Modern media plays a large part in ensuring that such drastic means as
institutionalization never become necessary for most people. The media, intentionally or
unintentionally, uses a wide range of brainwashing tactics on the human psyche.  Half an
hour of television generally portrays more violent acts than the viewer will ever witness
first-hand throughout the course of his or her life (Bailey 9), conditioning people to
believe that violence (and the need for protection) is far more prevalent than it actually
is.  A University of Pennsylvania survey revealed that television watchers greatly
overestimated the incidence of real-life violence in their own cities, and an American
poll indicated that 42% of people were afraid to walk alone at night in the streets of their
own neighborhood even in areas where actual violence was a rare occurrence (Bailey 9).
Media is also used to deliver ‘expert’ opinions and sometimes skewed statistics to the
general public and society’s acceptance of the media as the supreme authority on the
world only furthers the mass socialization that is begun in the education system.
 Government also furthers mass socialization by encouraging participation in
patriotic activities and community and national events such as Canada Day and
Remembrance Day.  Government also tries to further mass socialization by encouraging a
somewhat slanted view of freedom.  For example, in Canada freedom is often defined as
being able to vote for one’s political party of choice.  However, any cursory glance at a
ballot will reveal that there are only four or five items from which to choose.  A political
party must raise great deal of money in order to be allotted a place on the ballot, hence
one is physically prevented from voting for less powerful parties such as Natural Law,
Christian Reform, the Rhinoceros Party, or the Freedom Party.  People, in Canada,
therefore have absolute freedom to choose anything they want from a certain list of
acceptable choices.  Another good example of mass socialization is the indoctrination
which is usually passed out, particularly to children, on Remembrance Day.  Canadians
are exhorted to remember those who fought for their freedom and are not in any way
called to consider those soldiers who were conscripted or consider the irony of being
forced to fight for one’s freedom.  Due to the fact that people are encouraged to believe
that they are completely free and could never be more so than under the current system,
they are completely unmotivated to attempt anything better.
 People are also strongly encouraged to comply with the government’s policy of
political correctness.  The use of such words such as ‘stupid’ and ‘psycho’, and telling
jokes which may be offensive to others is strongly discouraged.  Even comments which
might be offensive are criminalized.  In such a way, society not only controls a great deal
of thought, but also a great deal of speech which could be potentially harmful to the
existing social order.
 By regulating language and opinions, government, media, and the education
system engage in mass socialization, particularly mass socialization of thought, in order
that all people will adopt the ‘correct’ pattern of behaviour to ensure a smoothly
functioning, self-sustaining society.  The cost of having comply with these societal rules
is, of course, borne by the individual and the family.
 The family is the primary unit of socialization and is fundamentally incapable,
due to its size and exclusivity, of engaging in mass socialization, though it is influenced
to some extent by society.  The family is the institution which pulls the finer strings of
character development and socialization.  It is unquestionably the biggest social influence
during the formative years of life, as the child is almost completely dependent on it for
survival.  Though the steadfastness of character has been debated, most experts believe
that character is almost completely set by the age of three and absolutely unchangeable
by the age of twenty-five (Goleman 26).  Therefore the people whom the child is most
dependent upon during these years have by far the most influence on the child’s
character, a fact well-known even two centuries ago as the Jesuits boasted, “Give me a
child for the first six years of his life and he’ll be a servant of God till his last breath”.
Brain development and nerve connections are 90% formed by the age of six and
experiences in early childhood and infancy greatly affect language comprehension, visual
acuity, and social behaviour.  People raised in environments lacking a particular sound
will be deaf to that sound as adults.  Those raised in an environment lacking horizontal,
vertical, or slanted lines will have extreme difficulty in perceiving these linear forms as
adults (McAuliffe 49).  Similarly, children raised in an environment lacking
opportunity for communication will have difficulty communicating with the outside
world.  Those raised in families where autonomy is not permitted will have difficulties
coping with life on their own.  Those who are not mentally stimulated as children will
develop slower mental growth (Glassner 140).
 Intentionally or unintentionally, “the character of the child is molded by the
character of its parents in response to whom it develops” (Fromm 60).  Character refers
to all malleable human characteristics (love, kindness, sadism, anger, dependence, etc.),
and the degree to which they are developed in an individual (Fromm 52).  The family
environment determines to a greater extent than society does which characteristics will
be developed and to what degree, in effect determining who the child will become and
how they will respond to different situations throughout their lives.
 Family, more than anything else, also has control of a child’s self-esteem, and the
development of complexes and neuroses.  Low self-esteem and limited capabilities will
affect a person’s entire life.  Even something relatively minor such as comparing a child
negatively to its siblings, or treating it like it is helpless and trying to protect it from
reality are can negatively affect the child’s self-esteem and the ability to learn.  Casting
children into gender, social, or other roles also limits future learning and thinking
capacity and ensures that the child will always respond in a given way (for example a
feminine way or a masculine way) in the future (Glassner 157).  Hence, children are
socialized a great deal by the family in that a large portion of human characteristics are
developed in response to the family environment, and are developed so early in life that
they are beyond the control of the individual and of society.  Even people who appear
outwardly to have been completely unaffected by their family environment are often
emotionally affected in subtle ways which may only surface in close relationships
(Goleman 82).
 The most significant way in which families affect socialization is by giving their
children the impression that the children are failures, invariably causing the development
of neuroses (which alter patterns of behaviour) as escape mechanisms.  Persistent
backache, stomachache, compulsions, hallucinations, delusions, obsessions, drug
addictions and alcoholism are often developed as escape mechanisms and can affect
socialization in the extreme.  Though a neurosis may not become apparent until later in
life, the groundwork for development is started at a very young age (Glassner 77)  Once a
neurosis has been started the individual has very little control over its development and
cure.  Phobias (irrational fears such as claustrophobia, arachnophobia, and fear of
heights), manias (exaggerated loves or desires such as kleptomania, pyromania, and
nymphomania), psychosomatic illness, and psychosis are other commonly used escape
mechanisms (Coon 121).  The development of any one of these neurosis will affect
patterns of behaviour until it is cured.
 The family is also the unit which teaches manners and social interaction.  This is
usually done through operant conditioning, in which the child receives a reward for
behaving correctly (such as praise for sharing toys) and a punishment for behaving
incorrectly (such as a spanking for biting another child).  When operant conditioning is
used successfully, children will acquire the desired manners and social skills and
incorporate them into their character.  Inconsistencies in reinforcing desired behaviour or
time lapses between an action and a punishment often prevent family socialization from
being totally effective (Coon 110).  However, neglect to socialize children to some extent
within the family often leads to severe trauma when the child is exposed to the outside
world at an age when it is no longer impressionable and is already set in its ways
 The pressure on the family to socialize children in an acceptable manner is often
overwhelming.  Parents are not only responsible for controlling the development of
biological factors such as aggression and communication, they are often burdened with
the added task of undoing negative societal socialization.   Families are expected to
prevent their toddlers from spewing obscene language picked up from classmates or
passing strangers.  They are expected to teach their teenagers to walk away from fights
even though violence is glorified in the surrounding world.  They are expected to keep
members from strip bars or prostitutes despite the fact that most of the media openly
promotes extramarital sex.  All people are susceptible to these societal pressures, but
small children are particularly impressionable.
 Experiments have shown that children who witness violence first-hand usually
imitate it, while children who witness violence on television are even more likely to
imitate it (Bailey 45).  In one experiment, a group of children watched an adult beat an
inflatable doll, and a second group watched an adult playing with a construction toy.  The
children in each group were then individually placed in a room with a variety of toys and
an inflatable doll.  The children who had witnessed violence towards the doll beat it,
often in exact imitation of the adult’s behaviour.  The children who had witnessed the
adult playing peacefully, and children who had witnessed neither the violent nor the
peaceful behaviour, simply played quietly with the toys and with the doll.  Another group
of children watched the violent behaviour on a television and a fifth group watched the
violent behaviour as part of a cartoon-like television show.  Both of these groups behaved
even more aggressively than the previous three groups had to the inflated doll when
exposed to the same conditions (Bailey 46).  Behaviour witnessed in the media is so
readily imitated, especially by children, that it is often difficult for families to direct
behavioural patterns in any way other than the one portrayed by the media.  Negative
behaviours learned from the media and society, such as drug abuse and violence, may
also have harmful effects on the family, causing strain and family breakdown in some
 After biological, societal, and family socialization has occurred, precious little of
an individual’s life is left up to the individual.  However there are some important issues
over which the individual has control, and many more over which he can take control if
he desires to (Fromm 52).
 The individual has some control over his own character, temperament, and the
commencement of neuroses  (Glassner 79), and a relatively large amount over his
attitude and how he perceives events.  While people usually have natural tendencies in
their temperament to perceive events as positive or negative, the individual has control
over his reaction and can consciously choose at any given time whether to adopt an
optimistic or pessimistic viewpoint in any situation.  The individual is “not free to choose
between having or not having ‘ideals’, but he is free to choose between different kinds of
ideals” (Fromm 49).  The individual can also change his character and learn to control a
neurosis with a great deal of effort.
 The individual can also modify any biological, social, and family socialization if
he is very intelligent, perceptive and determined.  Every day is a series of choices which
are, for the most part, made unconsciously.  For example, one chooses to get out of bed
in the morning, one chooses to eat, go to school, work, talk to people, and wear clothes.
One chooses not to eat a piece of metal for breakfast, do the rain dance on the office
desk, or run over the pedestrians on the way to work.  All of these things are entirely
possible to do.  In fact, there are very few things that are impossible to do.
 Three factors prevent people from attempting unorthodox activities.  The first is
that they have been socialized not to desire to do them or even think about doing them.
The second is the fear if social, family, and natural consequences such as jail, death, or
being fired from a job.  The third  factor is that in order to be free and have control over
his own socialization, the individual must take complete responsibility for his or her
actions (Fromm 38-47).  For example people, in North America, are socialized to pay
taxes.  A person might refuse to pay taxes, but then he or she would not be able to benefit
from any social programs (assuming he or she lives somewhere where people do not get
thrown in jail for not paying taxes) and thus he or she would have to be responsible
enough to make their own arrangements should they ever need the services normally
provided by social programs.  Generally speaking, most people would never be able to
handle this kind of responsibility, and in the present society they are not even given a
choice.  People do get thrown in jail if they do not pay their taxes, and in jail all of their
needs are effectively met.  Thus socialization is imposed on everyone.   Theoretically
speaking the individual has a great deal of control over their own life and socialization,
but it will always require man to accept a huge amount of responsibility if he wishes to
socialize himself, and be free of the benefits and harms of other forms of socialization.
Of course, this is only theoretical.  In reality man has almost no control over his own life,
and probably never will, unless he thinks about it and acts upon his thoughts, and really
what are the chances of that happening?  Without getting assassinated or driven crazy by
one’s exclusion from intimate human contact?

 So, to reiterate, what exactly controls which parts of human behaviour, and how
much control does the individual have in shaping his or her own destiny?  Socialization is
a combination of many factors, including natural, social, family, and individual
influences. Biological influences tend to affect basic human nature and commonplace
universal interactions such as greeting.  Though biological drives such as aggression and
dominance are present in every human being, they can be modified and shaped by
society, family, and the individual.  Social influences affect the mass socialization of
human beings through education, law, and economics, in order that all might conform to
certain social standards and ensure the perpetuation of society.  Societal influences
govern clothing, desires, fears, thoughts, opinions, popularity, success, basic character,
and general behaviour.   Family influences self-esteem, manners, ethics, mental
development, and finer character traits and behaviour.  The individual has an extremely
minuscule control over perceptions, and attitudes, and little more over mental
development, temperament, and character.  The individual can also have control, to some
extent, over biological, social, and family influences, but taking control of these areas
would demand a great deal of responsibility on the part of the individual.  However,
considering the incredible stress, mental suffering, and psychiatric costs caused when
individuals find that submitting to the expectations of society, family, and nature can be
difficult and unrewarding, taking this responsibility might be worthwhile.