This article has three parts. It deals with somatosensory deprivation as a potential cause of violence. I have scanned and HTMLized much of Dr. Prescott's research (with his permission and consent for free distribution). You can find it online at <>. Outside of E2, please refer to that URL, since it includes improved formatting and images.

Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

This article does not include further hard links for the reason of source authenticity. Feel free to add relevant soft links.


                       By James W. Prescott

 From "The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists", November 1975, pp.


(Introduction  of  the article  in  the "Bulletin  of the  Atomic

James  W. Prescott,  a neuropsychologist,  is a  health scientist
administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a member of the Board of
Directors  of  the American  Humanist  Association. This  article
appeared  in  part in  the  April 1975  issue  of  The Futurist ,
published by the World Future Society, and is reprinted here with
their permission. The views and opinions expressed here are those
of the author and  do not necessarily reflect the position of the
National Institutes of Health.

  A neuropsychologist contends that the greatest threat to world
   peace comes from those nations which have the most depriving
 environments for their children and which are most repressive of
              sexual affection and female sexuality.

                        James W. Prescott

Human violence  is fast becoming a  global epidemic. All over the
world, police  face angry mobs, terrorists  disrupt the Olympics,
hijackers seize airplanes, and  bombs wreck buildings. During the
past year,  wars raged in the  Middle East, Cyprus, and Southeast
Asia, and  guerrilla fighting  continued to escalate  in Ireland.
Meanwhile,  crime  in the  United  States grew  even faster  than
inflation. Figures from the  Federal Bureau of Investigation show
that serious  crimes rose 16  percent in the first  six months of
1974   --  one   of  the   largest  crime  increases   since  FBI
record-keeping began.

Unless the  causes of violence are  isolated and treated, we will
continue  to   live  in   a  world  of   fear  and  apprehension.
Unfortunately,  violence  is  often  offered  as  a  solution  to
violence.  Many law  enforcement  officials advocate  'get tough'
policies as the best  method to reduce crime. Imprisoning people,
our usual way of  dealing with crime, will not solve the problem,
because the  causes of violence  lie in our basic  values and the
way  in  which  we  bring up  our  children  and youth.  Physical
punishment, violent films and TV programs teach our children that
physical violence is normal. But these early life experiences are
not the only or  even the main source of violent behavior. Recent
research  supports  the point  of  view that  the deprivation  of
physical  pleasure is  a  major ingredient  in the  expression of
physical violence. The common as-

p. 11, November 1975, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

sociation of  sex with violence provides  a clue to understanding
physical violence in terms of deprivation of physical pleasure.

Unlike violence,  pleasure seems to be  something the world can't
get enough  of. People are  constantly in search of  new forms of
pleasure,  yet most  of  our 'pleasure'  activities appear  to be
substitutes  for the  natural sensory  pleasures of  touching. We
touch for pleasure or for pain or we don't touch at all. Although
physical pleasure and physical  violence seem worlds apart, there
seems  to be a  subtle and  intimate connection between  the two.
Until   the  relationship   between  pleasure  and   violence  is
understood, violence will continue to escalate.

As a developmental neuropsychologist  I have devoted a great deal
of  study  to  the  peculiar relationship  between  violence  and
pleasure.  I am  now convinced  that the deprivation  of physical
sensory  pleasure  is  the  principal  root  cause  of  violence.
Laboratory  experiments  with  animals  show  that  pleasure  and
violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of
one inhibits  the other . A raging, violent  animal will abruptly
calm down  when electrodes stimulate the  pleasure centers of its
brain. Likewise,  stimulating the  violence centers in  the brain
can  terminate   the  animal's  sensual   pleasure  and  peaceful
behavior.  When  the  brain's  pleasure circuits  are  'on,'  the
violence circuits are 'off,'  and vice versa. Among human beings,
a   pleasure-prone  personality   rarely  displays   violence  or
aggressive  behaviors,  and  a  violent  personality  has  little
ability  to tolerate,  experience,  or enjoy  sensuously pleasing
activities.  As either  violence or  pleasure goes up,  the other
goes down.

Sensory Deprivation

The reciprocal  relationship of  pleasure and violence  is highly
significant  because   certain  sensory  experiences  during  the
formative periods of development will create a neuropsychological
predisposition  for either  violence-seeking  or pleasure-seeking
behaviors  later in  life. I  am convinced that  various abnormal
social and emotional  behaviors resulting from what psychologists
call 'maternal-social'  deprivation, that  is, a lack  of tender,
loving care, are caused  by a unique type of sensory deprivation,
somatosensory  deprivation.  Derived  from  the  Greek  word  for
'body,'  the term  refers  to the  sensations of  touch  and body
movement which  differ from  the senses of  light, hearing, smell
and taste. I believe that the deprivation of body touch, contact,
and  movement  are the  basic  causes  of a  number of  emotional
disturbances which


                Violence against sexuality and the
                  use of sexuality for violence,
               particularly against women, has very
                deep roots in Biblical tradition.


include depressive  and autistic behaviors, hyperactivity, sexual
aberration, drug abuse, violence, and aggression.

These   insights  were   derived  chiefly  from   the  controlled
laboratory  studies of  Harry F.  and Margaret  K. Harlow  at the
University of Wisconsin. The Harlows and their students separated
infant  monkeys from  their  mothers at  birth. The  monkeys were
raised in single cages in an animal colony room, where they could
develop  social  relationships  with  the other  animals  through
seeing,  hearing,  and  smelling,  but not  through  touching  or
movement.  These  and  other  studies  indicate that  it  is  the
deprivation of body contact  and body movement -- not deprivation
of the other senses -- that produces the wide variety of abnormal
emotional behaviors in these isolation-reared animals. It is well
known  that human  infants and  children who are  hospitalized or
institutionalized  for  extended  periods  with  little  physical
touching and holding develop almost identical abnormal behaviors,
such as rocking and head banging.

Although the  pathological violence  observed in isolation-reared
monkeys is  well documented,  the linking of  early somatosensory
deprivation  with  physical  violence  in  humans  is  less  well
established. Numerous  studies of juvenile  delinquents and adult
criminals have  shown a family background  of broken homes and/or
physically abusive parents.  These studies have rarely mentioned,
let  alone  measured,  the  degree  of  deprivation  of  physical
affection,  although this  is often  inferred from the  degree of
neglect and abuse. One  exceptional study in this respect is that
of  Brandt F.  Steele  and C.  B. Pollock,  psychiatrists  at the
University  of  Colorado,  who   studied  child  abuse  in  three
generations  of families  who  physically abused  their children.
They found that parents who abused their children were invariably
deprived  of physical  affection themselves during  childhood and
that their  adult sex life was  extremely poor. Steele noted that
almost without exception the  women who abused their children had
never   experienced  orgasm.   The  degree  of   sexual  pleasure
experienced  by  the  men  who  abused  their  children  was  not
ascertained, but their sex  life, in general, was unsatisfactory.
The hypothesis that  physical pleasure actively inhibits physical
violence can be appreciated  from our own sexual experiences. How
many  of  us feel  like  assaulting  someone after  we have  just
experienced orgasm?

The contributions  of Freud  to the effects  of early experiences
upon later behaviors and  the consequences of repressed sexuality
have been  well established. Unfortunately time  and space do not
permit a  discussion here  of his differences  with Wilhelm Reich
concerning his Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

The hypothesis  that deprivation of physical  pleasure results in
physical violence requires a formal systematic evaluation. We can
test  this  hypothesis  by  examining cross-cultural  studies  of
child-rearing practices, sexual behaviors, and physical violence.
We would expect to  find that human societies which provide their
infants  and children  with  a great  deal of  physical affection

p. 12, November 1975, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

holding, carrying)  would be  less physically violent  than human
societies  which give  very  little physical  affection to  their
infants and  children. Similarly, human  societies which tolerate
and  accept  premarital  and   extramarital  sex  would  be  less
physically  violent  than  societies  which prohibit  and  punish
premarital and extramarital sex.

Cultural anthropologists have  gathered exactly the data required
to  examine  this hypothesis  for  human societies  -- and  their
findings  are   conveniently  arranged  in  R.   B.  Textor's   A
Cross-Cultural Summary 1. Textor's book is basically a research
tool for cross-cultural  statistical inquiry. The survey provides
some  20,000  statistically  significant  correlations  from  400
culture samples of primitive societies.

Infant Neglect/Adult Violence

Certain  variables  which  reflect  physical affection  (such  as
fondling, caressing,  and playing  with infants) were  related to
other variables  which measure  crime and violence  (frequency of
theft, killing, etc.).  The important relationships are displayed
in  the tables.  The  percent figures  reflect the  relationships
among  the variables,  for  example, high  affection/low violence
plus low affection/high violence.  This procedure is followed for
all tables.

Societies ranking  high or  low on the  Infant Physical Affection
Scale were examined for degree of violence. The results (Table 1)
clearly indicated  that those societies which  give their infants
the greatest  amount of physical affection  were characterized by
low theft, low infant  physical pain, low religious activity, and
negligible  or absent  killing, mutilating,  or torturing  of the
enemy. These  data directly confirm that  the deprivation of body
pleasure during infancy is significantly linked to a high rate of
crime and violence.

Some  societies physically  punish their  infants as a  matter of
discipline, while  others do  not. We can  determine whether this
punishment reflects a general concern for the infant's welfare by
matching it  against child nurturant care. The  results (Table 2)
indicate that  societies which  inflict pain and  discomfort upon
their infants tend to neglect them as well. These data provide no
support for the prescription from Proverbs (23: 13-14): "Withhold
not chastisement  from a  boy; if you  beat him with  the rod, he
will not  die. Beat him with the rod, and  you will save him from
the nether world."

Adult  physical violence  was  accurately predicted  in 36  of 49
cultures  (73   percent)  from  the   infant  physical  affection
variable.  The probability  that  a 73  percent rate  of accuracy
could occur by chance is only four times out of a thousand.

Of the 49 societies  studied, 13 cultures seemed to be exceptions
to the theory that  a lack of somatosensory pleasure makes people
physically violent  (see Table 3).  It was expected that cultures
which placed  a high value upon  physical pleasure during infancy
and childhood would maintain  such values into adulthood. This is
not the case. Child  rearing practices do not predict patterns of
later  sexual  behavior.   This  initial  surprise  and  presumed
discrepancy,   however,    becomes   advantageous   for   further

     The Long-Term Consequences of Infant Pleasure and Pain

Human societies differ greatly in their treatment of infants. In
some cultures, parents lavish physical affection on infants,
while in others the parents physically punish their infants. A
study of anthropological data by the author 2 found that those
societies which give their infants the greatest amount of
physical affection have less theft and violence among adults,
thus supporting the theory that deprivation of bodily pleasure
during infancy is significantly linked to a high rate of crime
and violence. The tables below show how physical affection -- or
punishment -- given infants correlates with other variables. For
example, cultures which inflict pain on infants appear to be more
likely to practice slavery, polygyny, etc. In the tables, N
refers to the number of cultures in the comparison while P is the
probability that the observed relationship could occur by chance
which was calculated by the Fisher Exact Probability Test.

                             TABLE 1

    Adult Behaviors in Societies Where Physical Affection is
                       Lavished on Infants

Adult Behaviors                             PercentN Probability
                                            %        P
Invidious display of wealth is low          66     50.06
Incidence of theft is low                   72     36.02
Overall infant indulgence is high           80     66.0000
Infant physical pain low                    65     63.03
Negligible killing, torturing or mutilating
the enemy                                   73     49.004
Low religious activity                      81     27.003

                             TABLE 2

 Adult Behaviors in Societies Where Pain is Inflicted on Infants
                  by Parent or Nurturing Person

Adult Behaviors                             PercentN Probability
                                            %        P
Slavery is present                          64     66.03
Polygyny (multiple wives) practiced         79     34.001
Women status inferior                       78     14.03
Low infant physical affection               65     63.03
Low overall infant indulgence               77     66.000
Developing nurturant behavior in child is
low                                         67     45.05
Supernaturals (gods) are aggressive         64     36.01

The coded scales on infancy were developed by cultural
anthropologists Barry, Bacon and Child 3; on sexual behavior
by Westbrook, Ford and Beach 4; and on physical violence by
Slater 5.

p. 13, November 1975, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Two variables  that are  highly correlated are not  as useful for
predicting   a  third   variable  as   two  variables   that  are
uncorrelated.  Consequently,  it  is  meaningful to  examine  the
sexual behaviors of the  13 cultures whose adult violence was not
predictable from physical pleasure during infancy.

Apparently, the social customs  which influence and determine the
behaviors  of sexual  affection  are different  from those  which
underlie the expression of physical affection toward infants.

When  the  six  societies   characterized  by  both  high  infant
affection  and  high  violence are  compared  in  terms of  their
premarital sexual behavior, it is surprising to find that five of
them exhibit  premarital sexual repression, where  virginity is a
high  value of  these cultures.  It appears  that  the beneficial
effects  of  infant  physical affection  can  be  negated by  the
repression of physical pleasure (premarital sex) later in life.

The  seven societies  characterized by  both low  infant physical
affection and  low adult  physical violence were all  found to be
characterized  by permissive  premarital sexual behaviors.  Thus,
the   detrimental   effects   of   infant  physical   affectional
deprivation seem  to be  compensated for later in  life by sexual
body pleasure experiences during adolescence. These findings have
led  to  a revision  of  the  somatosensory pleasure  deprivation
theory from a one-stage to a two-stage developmental theory where
the  physical  violence  in  48  of  the  49  cultures  could  be
accurately classified.

In  short, violence  may stem  from deprivation  of somatosensory
pleasure  either  in infancy  or  in adolescence.  The only  true
exception in this culture  sample is the headhunting Jivaro tribe
of South  America. Clearly, this society  requires detailed study
to determine the causes of its violence. The Jivaro belief system
may play an important  role, for as anthropologist Michael Harner
notes  in  Jivaro Souls  6,  these Indians have  a "deep-seated
belief  that  killing leads  to  the acquisition  of souls  which
provide a supernatural power conferring immunity from death."

      Infant Physical Affection and Adult Physical Violence

Societies that provide infants with a great deal of physical
affection ('tender loving care') are later characterized by
relatively non-violent adults. In 36 of the 49 cultures studied,
a high degree of infant affection was associated with a low
degree of adult physical violence -- and vice versa. When the 13
exceptions were investigated, it was found that the violence of
all but one (the Jivaro tribe of South America) could be
accounted for the presence or absence of premarital sexual

                             TABLE 3

Relationship of Infant Physical Affectional Deprivation to Adult
                        Physical Violence

High Infant     Low Infant      High Infant      Low Infant
Physical        Physical        Physical         Physical
Affection       Affection       Affection        Affection
Low Adult       High Adult      High Adult       Low Adult
Physical        Physical        Physical         Physical
Violence        Violence        Violence         Violence
Andamanese      Alorese         Cheyenne         Ainu
Arapesh         Aranda          Chir-Apache      Ganda
Balinese        Araucanians     Crow             Kwakiutl
Chagga          Ashanti         Jivaroa          Lepcha
Chenchu         Aymara          Kurtatchi        Pukapuka
Chuckchee       Azande          Zunic            Samoansb
Cuna            Comanche                         Tanala
Hano            Fon
Lau             Kaska
Lesu            Marquesans
Maori           Masai
Murngin         Navaho
Nuer            Ojibwa
Papago          Thonga

Premarital sex punished:
underlined                      Premarital sex permitted: italic

a According to Harner (1972) the Jivaro culture is misclassified
and belongs in column 2 (personal communication).
b According to Derek Freeman, Professor of Anthropology,
Australian National University, the Samoans belong in column 2
(personal communication).
c The Zuni are also reclassified to column 1.

Source: Textor 1; infant behavior ratings from Barry, Bacon
and Child 3; and adult violence ratings from Slater 5.

This table is a revised version updated with information from the
article "Can More Touching Lead to Less Violence in Our Society?"
by Lionel Gambill, published in The Truth Seeker, March/April
1989. Gambill writes:

Subsequent to original publication of this material in The
Futurist in April 1975, cultural anthropologists informed
Prescott of errors in some of the original codings in the
reference work on which the comparison was based. When these
errors were corrected, no exceptions remained. The
Pleasure/Violence Reciprocity Theory, applied to the cultures
listed in that reference work, has a predictive validity of 100%.

The original version of the table from the Futurist is available

The strength  of the two-stage deprivation  theory of violence is
most vividly  illustrated when we contrast  the societies showing
high rates  of physical affection during  infancy and adolescence
against those  societies which  are consistently low  in physical
affection   for  both   developmental  periods.   The  statistics
associated with this  relationship are extraordinary: The percent
likelihood  of  a  society  being  physically violent  if  it  is
physically  affectionate  toward  its  infants  and  tolerant  of
premarital sexual behavior is  2 percent (48/49). The probability
of this relationship occurring  by chance is 125,000 to one. I am
not  aware of any  other developmental  variable that has  such a
high  degree of  predictive  validity. Thus,  we seem  to  have a
firmly based  principle: Physically  affectionate human societies
are highly unlikely to be physically violent.

Accordingly,   when  physical   affection  and   pleasure  during
adolescence  as  well  as  infancy  are related  to  measures  of
violence, we  find direct evidence of  a significant relationship
between the  punishment of  premarital sex behaviors  and various
measures  of crime  and violence.  As  Table 4  shows, additional
clusters of  relationships link the punishment  and repression of
premarital sex  to large  community size, high  social complexity
and  class stratification,  small extended families,  purchase of
wives,  practice of  slavery,  and a  high god  present  in human
morality.  The relationship  between small extended  families and
punitive  premarital  sex  attitudes  deserves emphasis,  for  it
suggests that the nuclear  Western cultures may be a contributing
factor to our repressive attitudes toward sexual expression.

p. 14, November 1975, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The same can be  suggested for community size, social complexity,
and class stratification.

Not  surprisingly, when  high  self-needs are  combined with  the
deprivation  of physical  affection, the result  is self-interest
and high  rates of narcissism.  Likewise, exhibitionistic dancing
and  pornography may  be interpreted  as a substitute  for normal
sexual  expression. Some  nations  which are  most repressive  of
female sexuality have rich pornographic art forms.

Extramarital Sex

I  also examined  the influence  of extramarital sex  taboos upon
crime   and   violence.   The   data   clearly   indicates   that
punitive-repressive  attitudes toward  extramarital sex  are also
linked with  physical violence, personal crime,  and the practice
of  slavery. Societies  which  value monogamy  emphasize military
glory and worship aggressive gods.

These cross-cultural  data support the view  of psychologists and
sociologists  who feel  that sexual  and psychological  needs not
being fulfilled  within a  marriage should be met  outside of it,
without destroying the primacy of the marriage relationship.

   Premarital Sex, Physical Violence and Other Adult Behaviors

Premarital sexual freedom for young people can help reduce
violence in a society, and the physical pleasure that youth
obtains from sex can offset a lack of physical affection during
infancy. Other research also indicates that societies which
punish premarital sex are likely to engage in wife purchasing, to
worship a high god in human morality, and to practice slavery.
Other results are shown in the table below.

                             TABLE 4

  Adult Behaviors in Societies Where Premarital Sex is Strongly

Adult Behaviors                            PercentN   Probability
                                           %          P
Community size is larger                   73     80  .0003

Slavery is present                         59     176 .005
Societal complexity is high                87     15  .01
Personal crime is high                     71     28  .05
Class stratification is high               60     111 .01
High incidence of theft                    68     31  .07
Small extended family                      70     63  .008
Extramarital sex is punished               71     58  .005
Wives are purchased                        54     114 .02
Castration anxiety is high                 65     37  .009
Longer post-partum sex taboo               62     50  .03
Bellicosity is extreme                     68     37  .04
Sex disability is high                     83     23  .004
Killing, torturing and mutilating the
enemy is high                              69     35  .07
Narcissism is high                         66     38  .04
Exhibitionistic dancing is emphasized      65     66  .04
High god in human morality                 81     27  .01

These findings overwhelmingly support the thesis that deprivation
of body  pleasure throughout life --  but particularly during the
formative periods  of infancy, childhood, and  adolescence -- are
very closely  related to the amount  of warfare and interpersonal
violence.  These   insights  should  be  applied   to  large  and
complicated industrial and postindustrial societies.

Crime and physical violence have substantially increased over the
past decade  in the  United States. According  to FBI statistics,
both murder  and aggravated assault increased  53 percent between
1967 and 1972, while forcible rape rose 70 percent.

These   figures  again   raise  the   question  of   the  special
relationship between  sexuality and violence. In  addition to our
rape  statistics,   there  is  other  evidence   that  points  to
preference for sexual violence over sexual pleasure in the United
States. This is reflected  in our acceptance of sexually explicit
films  that  involve  violence and  rape,  and  our rejection  of
sexually   explicit  films   for  pleasure   only  (pornography).
Neighborhood movie  theaters show such sexually  violent films as
Straw  Dogs, Clockwork  Orange, and  The Klansman,  while banning
films which  portray sexual  pleasure (Deep Throat,  The Devil in
Miss Jones ). Attempts to close  down massage parlors are another
example  of  our anti-pleasure  attitudes.  Apparently, sex  with
pleasure is  immoral and unacceptable, but  sex with violence and
pain is moral and acceptable.

A  questionnaire  I  developed   to  explore  this  question  was
administered  to 96  college  students whose  average age  was 19
years. The  results of  the questionnaire support  the connection
between  rejection  of  physical  pleasure (and  particularly  of
premarital  and  extramarital sex)  with  expression of  physical
violence. Respondents who reject abortion, responsible premarital
sex, and nudity within the family were likely to approve of harsh
physical punishment  for children and to  believe that pain helps
build strong  moral character.  These respondents were  likely to
find  alcohol  and  drugs  more  satisfying than  sex.  The  data
obtained  from   the  questionnaire  provide  strong  statistical
support  for  the  basic  inverse relationship  between  physical
violence and physical pleasure.  If violence is high, pleasure is
low, and  conversely, if  pleasure is high, violence  is low. The
questionnaire  bears out  the  theory that  the pleasure-violence
relationship found  in primitive  cultures also holds  true for a
modern industrial nation.

Another  way of  looking at  the reciprocal  relationship between
violence and pleasure is  to examine a society's choice of drugs.
A  society will  support behaviors  that are consistent  with its
values  and   social  mores.  U.S.  society   is  a  competitive,
aggressive, and violent  society. Consequently, it supports drugs
that fa-

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