My “Ouija Theory” of human development and behavior attempts to illustrate how human development and behavior is influenced by both nature and nurture, as well as changing knowledge about the human brain and the human spirit (or soul). The model also attempts to demonstrate how cultural practices influence human development and behavior.
For illustrative purposes imagine a ouija board and the game’s heart-shaped “planchette” is the human subject: the “being”. In the game of ouija the planchette is “moved” by four players seated at each pole in a give-and-take of will. As one player’s subconscious intentions weaken, another’s strengthen, and the planchette glides around the board. I hypothesize that, like ouija, there are two opposing forces – nature and nurture – moving each human “being” through the game of life. Each of these forces, or influences on human development and behavior, have two equal and opposing polarities at play.
- Nurture axis: this axis is comprised of the “explicit world” and the “implicit world”. The “nurture” axis includes the forces that are external of the “being”. The stimuli that the “being” responds to:
- The explicit world is the physical, seen and experienced world that interacts with the “being”, including the environment (geography, weather, home, neighborhood, school), the material (objects in the environment) and the presence of other “beings”, such as animals and people (parents, family, teachers, neighbors, friends, foes). This is a hybrid of Bronfenbrenner’s “ecosystems” and the Developmental Niche’s “settings”.
- The implicit world is the unseen, not obvious forces affecting each “being”, such as culture, customs, beliefs, attitudes, rituals, rules, values, styles and structure of interaction with other “beings” (parents, family, teachers, neighbors friends, foes). This is a fusion of Bronfenbrenner’s “ecosystems” and the Developmental Niche’s “customs” and “caretaker psychology”.
- Nature axis: this axis is comprised of the “body & mind” and the “mind & soul”. The “nature” axis includes everything that the “being” is born with – both physically and metaphysically. The corporeal and incorporeal that IS the human “being”.
- The body and mind is the physical, seen mass of the “being” – the ecology of water, chemicals, cells, synapses, organisms, organs, limbs, tissue, bone, color of skin (i.e., and yes, Mr. West, race does matter!). The host which the “being” occupies through life. The “hardware” that runs the human being’s “software” and “operating system”.
- The mind and soul is the unseen character of the “being” – the energy, thoughts, intellect, emotions and spirit. This is in the vein of “qi” found in many Asian belief systems, meaning the “life energy” and spark that sustains living beings. This is the “operating system” which drives a a human being’s thinking and the “software” that is a human being’s personality, ego, psyche and soul. This suggests that the “being” is independent of its thoughts and spirit/soul. In other words, thoughts and spirit/soul are an ecology unto itself affecting the “being”. As Eckhart Tolle discovers in “The Power of Now”, “’I cannot live with myself any longer.’…this was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I [wondered] ‘am I one or two?’ If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.”
- This hypothesis leads one to wonder if science might one day uncover the mechanics of the brain’s “operating system” and uncover what is driving thoughts and the spirit/soul? And discover the difference between the “I” and “self” of each “being”. Might then a human’s thoughts and soul be knowable and thus even controllable?
My Ouija Theory suggests that when the two polarities (comprised of the four opposing forces) are in balance the “being” is literally centered; this is a nod to the Taoist belief in the harmony of the “body, mind and spirit”. However, if one of the four forces is strengthened (+) or weakened (-) the “being” is pushed out of the central comfort zone and literally to the “outside”. The “outside” is where “the other” sits in the eyes of society (the “nurture” axis). Once labeled “the other”, which is in and of itself a cultural force with momentum from the implicit world, the explicit world in which the “being” exists alters they way it interacts with the “being”, thus moving the “being” elsewhere on the game board. Each move across the board sets off a chain of cause-and-effect which one can suppose is an infinite pin-ball-like sequence; this suggests that recapturing harmony and finding a centered balance is tricky business, and possibly futile.
Now imagine that the “mind & soul” is weakened (-), such as the “being” suffering from a moral lapse (e.g., killing, stealing, greed) or psychological obstacle (e.g., schizophrenia, autism, depression). Once again the imbalance of forces moves the “being” to the “outside. Similarly, the “being” is moved to the “outside” if the “body & mind” is altered negatively (-) (e.g., giantism, retardation, lost limb). When the “being” is off-balance the “nurture” axis, compensating, exerts a different pressure/force on the “being” sending it to left or right hemisphere. This raises another provocative question: is the “mind & soul” weakened from a spontaneous moral lapse, or was the moral lapse the result of a change in the explicit or implicit worlds? Or, did something happen to the human being’s “body & mind” that triggered the moral lapse (e.g., trauma, chemistry)? I think it’s possible to imagine that all three forces – explicit world, implicit world and the physical body and mind could affect a human being’s moral compass. Thus, both nature and nurture affect human behavior.
Another example is when external factors change positively (+) or negatively (-) the “being’s” balance and relationship to its body, mind and soul also shifts, resulting in behavioral shift. (See exhibit 6) For example, if a “being’s” home is lost in a flood or if cultural rules change (e.g., the “being” is treated differently by society having reached puberty), the “being” will react. An extreme example of a cultural practice that pushes “beings” over the edge is female circumcision; this cultural practice physically maims the “being”, thus creating negative (-) “body and mind” pushing it on the “outside” of harmony. The imbalance moves the “being” into the territory of “the other” even though the “being’s” culture condones the ritual. Damage has been done because the “being” is no longer intact and balanced. In life, the four forces are in a constant state of tug-o-war.