August 02, 2007

Romance With Behavioural Sciences

Frustrated with a long drawn out academia in the physical sciences -phy, chem and maths in jee and electrical engg in kgp -i thought why not experiment with the behavoural sciences when I started preparing for civil services, and it has been a really fruitful expt. For the first time, studies have been a romance, romance between me and myself; between me and the society that moulds me.

Psychology and Sociology both are considered arts subjects but I find in them much more challenge than any of the physical sciences. For one, nothing is definite in these subjects.

Take for example sociology. Some great thinkers like Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber have given great theories on how society operates, how the sub-structures and super-structures operate etc. Effort behind these theories is to give an empirical justification for all that has passed in history and make predictions for what may happen in future. Though none of the theories have been fully proved correct, most of them have been validated on case-to-case basis.

The beauty in sociology is the non-linearity that exists in society and the course of history. It is said that "History repeats itself". Sociologists basically try to predict future based on the past. Alas! History doesn't always repeat itself. There is too much of non-linearity in societies; structural differences exist in the ways various societies progress.

Good thing is that sociology forces one to think about his self and his surroundings, take cognizance of all that he had taken for granted and appreciate the role of society in his life. Indeed, Emile Durkheim would tell you that "social facts" are THE determining force on how you behave. You are like a 'robot' whose remote is in the hands of society! He further can convince you that religion is society and the Gods you pray are but manifestations of society.

Though we don't subscribe to such extreme views, what is amazing is the amount of hold society has on man! Why do you dress? Yourself or society? Why do you strive for success? What is your definition of success? Is it your definition or that of the society at large? Social facts, though not the only controlling force on behaviour, is a major one.

This brings us to the second factor that controls human behaviour, the "psychological facts" aka the inner self of man. Before reading psychology, I usually did not understand-or rather never cared to understand -why I do what I do. Also, my understanding of my motives and my ideas were surprisingly flawed!

A study of psychology helped me understand and interpret my actions, my thought process and my emotions. It is not like understanding the trajectory or a projectile or may be understanding how to ride a bicycle. It is more about introspecting on my own behaviour, trying to find out latent meanings to manifestations.

Believe me, psyche of a person -his unconscious self -is so dangerously horrible that its good we have an unconscious to hide these thoughts and feelings and protect us from ourselves! According to celebrated psychoanalytic Sigmund Freud, we are innately drawn towards hedonism. Hence every human is pleasure seeking. However, society can't exist if every human is pleasure seeking. What if sex seeking humans start making love incessantly? Diseases will spread, population will explode etc. What if destruction seeking humans (alll humans have an innate tendency towards death and destruction) keep killing each other? Such things don't happen because of society. Now you must be having a faint idea about why Durkheim considered society an external remote that controls and constrains human behaviour!

Society prohibits our innate tendencies to vent out.
These innate tendencies, as a result, become repressed in the unconscious part of our psyche.
Interaction between socially learnt values and innate tendencies lead to human behaviour.
Confusion between social values and innate drives (you will be horrified if ever you know what goes on in your mind!) leads to maladaptive behaviour.

My interactions with sociology and psychology have been nothing short of romance.


Shubhrastha said...

Very well written post.Totally agree to your agree of "romancing" with the subjects...But does not this hold good for all endevours we take up in life?

Shubhrastha said...

Very well written post.Totally agree to your agree of "romancing" with the subjects...But does not this hold good for all endevours we take up in life?

Yashi arora said...

behavioural sciences have always attracted me, any article realted to it draws me. i have the same view that they are introspective....but i was unable to express my feeling in such a way....loved your write up.