Basic Psychology 2
Altruism and Neurotic Suspension
Beyond Kitty Genovese and the Bystander Effect
When introducing the subject of altruism in psychology the case of Kitty Genovese, murdered in New York on 13 March 1964, is often cited. The incident is quoted in support of the notion of ‘Bystander Apathy’ or the ‘Bystander Effect.’
The Genovese case is highly imperfect as an example, for a number of reasons. The incident took place in the early hours of the morning (3:20am) and an important factor was the necessity (and apparent failure) of witnesses to telephone the police. Invoking authority involves a number of additional mechanisms and unknown variables which we would be better off without. For example, it is conceivable that in the weeks shortly before the Kitty Genovese incident there had been a well publicized case of the police prosecuting the person who had reported a crime, while the criminal went unpunished. Almost every Briton is familiar with the name of Tony Martin, the farmer who was imprisoned for shooting a burglar who had repeatedly broken into his remote farmhouse.
A much simpler, and thus better, example of ‘Bystander Apathy’ occurred at a Rotterdam boating lake on 21 August 1993 (the incident features in The Tyranny of Ambiguity; 1st ed. fn. p. 250, 2nd ed. p. 395). A Moroccan girl, Naima Quaghmiri, 9 years old, fell out of a boat in the middle of the shallow lake and noisily drowned. The other girl in the boat, a year or two older, tried to hold her above the water but failed, while approximately two hundred spectators watched. One of the crowd even made a video recording of it. As in the Kitty Genovese case, subsequent newspaper articles discussed whether witnesses should be legally obliged to act, or punished for failing to do so.
The essential mechanism operating here is Neurotic Suspension: being suspended or frozen in a state of neurotic confusion. (Neurosis is here defined in Pavlovian terms as the stress induced when a single stimulus evokes two or more distinct responses.) Neurotic Suspension appears to be particularly strong when collectively expressed, in common with much other crowd behaviour.
The proposed elementary model is Response Displacement. Suppose a male has been exposed to excessive female signalling during the preceding months. He is sitting in a library reading, and a female hovers nearby (the Lingering Signal). He not only continues reading, but intensifies his attention on the book, blocking out the signalling female. Response Displacement also takes place when a male says something to a female who, say, is sitting near him at a bar, and she replies not to him but to someone working behind the bar. She has responded not to him but to a neutral third party. Or an obvious example of Response Displacement is a young female putting her hand over her mouth in response to a friendly comment from a male.
Orthodox psychology would admit that although women are more empathic than men, the latter help more in bystander intervention. I would add that if a male is in a state of Neurotic Suspension, an overt signal from a female, such as a scream or visible expression of fear, is likely to interrupt the suspension and spur him into action. As a society becomes more feminine however, female signals can become more subtle and such overt female expressions might be less likely to occur. If the Neurotic Suspension is extended, there may be displacement activity.
Then we have that Neurotic Suspension is a state of neurotic confusion which can seek resolution in Response Displacement. If Neurotic Suspension is collectively expressed, it will be intensified.
In examining the Bystander Effect and altruistic behaviour in general, games such as Tit For Tat need to be considered, specifically that cooperative behaviour only evolves when there is a likelihood of future interactions. In particular, Hamilton’s Rule states that altruistic behaviour occurs when
br > c
where b is the benefit, r is the relatedness of the individuals concerned and c is the cost associated with the actions. For example, one of a group of birds sounds an alarm on seeing an approaching predator; in doing so it draws attention to itself, making itself a potential target. Even if the alarm-caller is killed, benefit will occur if sufficient of its relatives survive.
A dog can be disobedient, and a horse can be observed making a decision. Humans are not unique in being able to defy their instincts. Nonetheless, following our instincts is usually the easiest and happiest course. Not following them takes effort: the supreme will required not to strike at a moment of extreme rage, not eat, nor follow any number of other sensations intended to encourage us to engage in just such behaviour. Following instincts is the default state. It can be argued (and I believe it to be so) that the more directly a person follows his instincts, the more psychologically healthy he is.
Recreational drugs stimulate, or intensify, or imitate the pleasurable sensations which would otherwise be obtained by natural means. Individuals taking them are only following a basic pattern, “If it feels good, do more.” The hardship they face in limiting or stopping their habitual use of such substances further illustrates the difficulty we have defying the fundamentally instinctive pattern we follow in behaviour. Defying our instincts is like trying not to run while walking down a steep hill.
The following is an example of formalised and exclusive human altruism which is unlikely to be quoted by psychology’s current practitioners. At the beginning of his book Professor Israel Shahak described the incident in 1965-6 which inspired his subsequent political activity in Israel:
I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behavior was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century. Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion – The Weight of Three Thousand Years (1994, p. 1).
I almost feel I should apologize, because in bringing up the Jewish issue again I start to sound like a stuck record, even to myself. However even a superficial encounter with orthodox psychology makes one immediately conscious of the enormous Jewish influence on the subject.
Richard D. Gross’s Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour claims to be (and is apparently accepted as) a general introduction to psychology. The line is clearly set out in the second edition:
Up to the present time no one has ever been able to relate any aspect of human social behaviour to any particular gene or set of genes, and no one has ever suggested an experimental plan for doing so. Thus, all statements about the genetic basis of human social traits are necessarily purely speculative, no matter how positive they seem to be. Rose, Lewontin and Kamin, Not in our Genes (1984) as quoted in Gross (1992, p. 430).
The original “Big Lie” was by Franz Boas: “There is no such thing as race” and the assertion that we are born as a “blank slate.” To claim that Hamilton’s Rule is inapplicable to humans is absurd, and the magnitude of the whopper is evident by the ease with which its falsity can be demonstrated. Different ethnic groups express different rates of donating blood, organs for transplantation etc., but we really need look no further than what happens when someone dies. Then the benefit is the legacy, the cost is naught (could this be a case when the cost is truly zero?!) and the legacy passes to the nearest relatives. The organism maximizes its benefit and minimizes its cost, according to what is good for the genes, even in death. This solution has been applied for thousands of years, if not a great deal longer.
It is true that Western societies behave altruistically to non-relatives, but a decades-long campaign and presently almost continuous propaganda has been undertaken to achieve this.
Frequently in orthodox psychology the essential mechanism – by which is meant the mechanism which is responsible for the bulk of the effects – is obscured or ignored entirely. In Neurotic Suspension (‘Bystander Apathy’) the essential problem is failing to respond to a signal. In the well known mock prison experiment by Zimbardo, the dominant phenomenon (it is obvious to me at least) is EBIAR: Exaggerated Behaviour in Alien Role. EBIAR can be observed in many different situations (e.g. female police officers and security guards throwing their weight around; people who have stopped smoking becoming fervently anti-tobacco).
Consistently failing to identify these essential mechanisms cannot be accidental, and there are political motives behind this failure. For example, admitting the existence of EBIAR is but a short step from acknowledging that the sexes have natural roles, with aberrant behaviour the result when their roles are reversed.
Similarly a most important strategy, Malign Encouragement, has never, to my knowledge, been formally defined. Malign Encouragement is encouraging an opponent to pursue an adverse policy. The obvious explanation for this omission is that the people doing the defining are themselves practising Malign Encouragement.
The following may not be significant, the essential point being that someone else has decided such, so that the following factors are normally omitted from the account. That Kitty Genovese was a lesbian (she lived with her lover), her murderer was a Negro necrophiliac, and the area of Kew Gardens, New York was largely Jewish at that time:
A large community of Jewish refugees from Germany took shape in Kew Gardens after the Second World War. The neighborhood attracted many Chinese immigrants after 1965... (Wikipedia).
The author of the original newspaper report was Martin Gansberg. The report was sensational and inaccurate since it is implausible that “for more than half an hour 38 respectable law-abiding citizens... watched a killer stalk and stab a woman” as claimed in its opening sentence. The attacks took place at different locations and most of the building’s occupants were in bed. The murder did not however take place on the Jewish sabbath (13 March 1964 was a Friday) or else we might have certain Talmudic injunctions, as mentioned by Shahak, complicating the affair yet further.
What then, in light of the above, is the true background of the Kitty Genovese case? The incident received wide publicity in 1964 as an indictment of contemporary society. The implicit message, and almost certainly the context in which it was interpreted at the time, was “You can be murdered nowadays and no one will come to help.” Only later was the incident used to construct the concept of ‘Bystander Apathy’ and, as already noted, it is not a particularly good example.
It was, I believe, a device to instil fear. Readers of TOA will be familiar with a few incidents when females attempted to induce not neurosis, as was usual, but psychosis. This promotes increased suggestibility. A comparable example was the “millennium mania,” during which the media (which is utterly feminine at present) promoted the belief that every device containing a microchip would fail with the change from 1999 to 2000. Computers would freeze, microwave ovens would stop working, airplanes would drop from the sky and so forth. There have been numerous scare stories of disease epidemics since.
Repeatedly exaggerating dangers, thereby instilling fear of horrors to come, serves to promote heightened nervous stress and detachment from reality, i.e. psychosis. Such was the express intention of the British terror-bombing campaign of WWII: remote and unlikely German towns were chosen as targets simply to inculcate the belief that no-one was safe. In Britain, a “war psychosis” was deliberately engineered to motivate the population for war. Instilling fear increases suggestibility and makes a population more malleable.
Race is hardly mentioned in contemporary psychology, although it is often implicit that the “normal subject group” is white. Psychology as currently practiced seems to consist of constructing experiments demonstrating how compliant, amoral etc. white people are, while the all-knowing, all-wise Jewish psychologist conducting the experiment looks on. Then other Jews write books quoting each other for and against, giving the illusion of objective debate, treating each standpoint respectfully, although within strict limits. Anything outside of those limits, which may coincidentally touch on the truth, is “extreme” and very likely to be mendaciously represented, as when Gross in his fifth edition claims that applying sociobiology to humans “removes guilt and responsibility” (2005, p. 894).
When the very reasonable (if not obvious) suggestion is made that behaviour can be hereditary, yet more clouds of obfuscating ink are produced. Then a real novelty – proof is demanded! “Show us the gene” they say, while row upon row of their unproven, and largely unprovable, speculations fill our library shelves. Gross goes on to accuse scientific psychologists of reification and using metaphors, while contemporary psychology groans under the weight of them.
Most if not all of Gansberg, Gross, Rose, Lewontin and Kamin are Jews. The latter, a self-confessed Marxist, ruined the reputation of a decent man, Cyril Burt, because his findings contradicted the Jewish line. (This episode has been detailed by J. Philippe Rushton.) Kamin now sits in his ivory tower like a New Orleans sniper ready to renew the attack on any psychologist who tries to replicate Burt’s results.
At least we have no terminological difficulty describing this behaviour, as a special word already exists for it: chutzpah, which is Yiddish for ‘barefaced audacity.’
In orthodox psychology “animal psychology” includes humans, a convention which further contradicts the claim that “biological altruism” and “psychological altruism” are distinct. The term “human psychology” is mildly heretical and its use here is deliberate. The fact of the matter is that once human behaviour is largely understood (like any science, a complete unravelling is unlikely), non-human psychology is trivial by comparison. I believe that Procedural Analysis has initiated that understanding.
An alternative name for the Procedural Analysis approach might be Quantum Psychology – as in “only as much as is required.” I hope to add to these pages relating PA to orthodox psychology in the future, as time and circumstances permit.