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245: Maximizing freedom, Are pets supernormal family stimuli?

  • Broadcast in Psychology



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In the last live episode of 2020, Dr. Howk and Dr. Lisle discuss:

1. I am in my mid forties and for almost my whole life I have been a strong advocate of much stricter controls of driving, smoking and drinking. Literally my only disclaimer is that I understand controls may lead the behaviour to go underground and so you'd have to allow for that. Otherwise: Bring on the controls of these dangerous activities!  I personally do not own a car, do not smoke and do not drink by the way. Others seem not to feel the same and often strongly say the deaths are an acceptable cost to the ongoing enjoyment of smoking, drinking and relatively unsafe driving.  How fantastic that everyone's cost-benefit-analysis has suddenly shifted so far to now accept infringements on personal behaviour to prevent covid deaths? I say "welcome to the saving lives party; I have been here enjoying it for many years and I welcome you. Perhaps now you are ready to save a few more million lives with some relatively minor additional infringements of personal liberty? Perhaps we could look at driving, smoking and drinking?" Muttered replies ensue. "Oh wait," I say, "covid is special? I've looked at the statistics and yes maybe it is. It seems to be by far the least dangerous of the four and yet we're doing much more about it. Wierd."

2. BYG listeners are sophisticated enough to recognize that and video games represent "supernormal stimuli" that can be problematic because they ultimately get in the way of achieving meaningful goals. But if we are really honest with ourselves, wouldn't we admit that dogs and cats are really just another form of this counterproductive "supernormal stimuli" - meaning that they tickle the reward pathways meant to incentivize family formation but could possible inhibit us from doing the work to form meaningful bonds/offspring with potential mates.