Control of behaviour

Within nearly all social groups there exist many factors that seek to deliberately manipulate and control behaviour. Examples of these are written or hidden rules and codes of conduct, reward and punishment, all of which coerce us into complying and conforming.

Level, a child is brought up by its parents to behave in a certain way by obeying the rules of the family. As adults, we must also behave in a way that complies with social rules, if we are to be accepted readily by the society in which we live. Ultimately, it is our own choice whether or not we comply, although often it is not our choice how society treats us if we break its rules.

Internal responses

Behaviour may also be affected by physiological changes or reactions, for example the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, which occurs in response to an internal surge of adrenalin which is triggered by fear. When someone is experiencing intense fear, a physiological reaction takes place within the body, which is respon-sible for encouraging him or her either to run away from the situation (flight), or to stay with it . Likewise the hormone levels in a new mother may affect her nurturing response towards her baby or, as in all animals, the changing levels of the male and female sex hormones promote or inhibit sexual behaviour. Such behavioural responses to physiological or biochemical change are generally outside our immediate control and therefore the element of conscious choice is dramatically reduced.

Antisocial behaviour

Thankfully the vast range of behaviours that we exhibit are adaptable, rational, sociable and optimize our survival. There are, however, a number of behav-iours or patterns of behaviour that certain people may exhibit throughout part or all of their lives and which could be considered antisocial. Such behaviour tends to fall into two categories, neurotic and delinquent. Neurotic behaviour may be habitual or compulsive, and the individual may find it difficult to change his or her ways despite sometimes severe physical discomfort to themselves and/or others. For example, nail biting, or the obsessional hand-washer whose hands may be rubbed raw to the point of bleeding through persistent irrational washing which cannot be controlled. Other behaviours may be considered deviant or antisocial to such an extreme that society feels the need for protection, by placing the individual in an institution. But this must be distinguished from the normal non-compliant behaviour of, for example, young children who are usually noisy, untidy, disobedient and self-willed.

A further category of behaviour disorders are those caused by organic disturbance either genetically or traumatically, for example, the perpetual body rocking associated with some mental handicaps, or the persistent wanderings or mumblings of the demented adult. Unfortunately, much of the study of behaviour by scientists is centred on that which is abnormal, therefore our real knowledge is somewhat limited. However, as the majority of people live together relatively problem-free, we can assume that most of our behaviour is acceptable and sociable.

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