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 <http://www.violence.de>. Outside of E2, please refer to that URL, since it includes improved formatting and images.
Part 2 is here. Part 1 is here.
This article does not include further hard links for the reason of source authenticity. Feel free to add relevant soft links.
Abnormally low levels of platelet serotonin have been found in
monkeys reared in isolation and also in institutionalized, highly
aggressive children. These findings suggest that somatosensory
deprivation during the formative periods of development
significantly alters an important biochemical system in the body
associated with highly aggressive behaviors. A number of other
investigators have documented abnormalities in the adrenal
cortical response system in rodents who were isolation-reared and
who developed hyperactive, hyperreactive, and hyperaggressive
behavior. Thus another important biochemical system associated
with aggressiveness is known to be altered by somatosensory
deprivation early in life.
It needs to be emphasized here that I advocate somatosensory
pleasure stimulation as a therapeutic procedure to correct the
abnormalities due to somatosensory pleasure deprivation. Such
sensory stimulation can influence brain functioning and it does
not appear necessary, except in rare circumstances, that brain
surgery or electrical stimulation of the brain is required to
alter pathological, violent behaviors. Unfortunately, therapeutic
programs of somatosensory pleasure have yet to be established to
determine the effectiveness of this therapy at the human level.
The success of somatosensory therapy in isolation reared monkeys
reported by Harry F. Harlow and Stephen Suomi 8 when other
forms of therapy have failed in these animals, provide further
encouragement and support for the utilization of touch and body
movement therapies in the treatment of emotional disorders.
On the contrary, our prisons have been designed to maximize those
conditions that are responsible for the violence and imprisonment
of the social offender. It is not surprising that physical
violence in such prison environments is a major problem. The
acceptance of somatosensory pleasure as a form of somatic therapy
will be difficult for our society to accept, as the opposition to
massage parlors in many communities indicates.
Clearly, if we consider violent and aggressive behaviors
undesirable then we must provide an enriched somatosensory
environment so that the brain can develop and function in a way
that results in pleasurable and peaceful behaviors. The solution
to physical violence is physical pleasure experienced within the
context of meaningful human relationships.
For many people, a fundamental moral principle is the rejection
of creeds, policies, and behaviors that inflict pain, suffering
and deprivation upon our fellow humans. This principle needs to
be extended: We should seek not just an absence of pain and
suffering, but also the enhancement of pleasure, the promotion of
affectionate human relationships, and the enrichment of human
If we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives this will also
affect the ways we express aggression and hostility. The
reciprocal relationship between pleasure and violence is such
that one inhibits the other; when physical pleasure is high,
physical violence is low. When violence is high, pleasure is low.
This basic premise of the somatosensory pleasure deprivation
theory provides us with the tools necessary to fashion a world of
peaceful, affectionate, cooperative individuals.
The world, however, has limited time to correct the conditions
that propel us to violent confrontations. Modern technologies of
warfare have made it possible for an individual or nation to
bring total destruction to large segments of our population. And
the greatest threat comes from those nations which have the most
depriving environments for their children and which are most
repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality. We will have
the most to fear when these nations acquire the weapons of modern
warfare. Tragically, this has already begun.
1. R. B. Textor, A Cross-Cultural Summary (New Haven, Conn.:
Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) Press, 1967).
2. J. W. Prescott, "Early Somatosensory Deprivation as an
Ontogenetic Process in Abnormal Development of the Brain and
Behavior," Medical Primatology , edited by I. E. Goldsmith and
Moor-Jankowski (Basel: Karger, 1971), 357-375; and Prescott,
"Cross-Cultural Sludies of Violence," in Aggressive Behavior:
Current Progress in Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research, Brain
Information Report No. 37 (Los Angeles, Ca.: University of
California, Aug. 1974), pp. 33-35.
3. M. K. Bacon, I. L. Child and H. A. Barry, III, "Cross-Cultural
Study of Correlates of Crime," Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology , 66 (1963), 291-300; and Barry, Bacon and Child,
"Definitions, Ratings, and Bibliographic Sources for
Child-Training Practices of 110 Cultures," in Cross-Cultural
Approaches: Readings in Cooperative Research , edited by C. S.
Ford (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1967).
4. J. T. Westbrook, Ford, and Beach, in A Cross-Cultural Summary,
edited by Textor (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1967).
5. P. E. Slater, "Killing, Torturing or Mutilating the Enemy," in
A Cross-Cultural Summary, edited by Textor.
6. Michael Harner, Jivaro Souls.
7. Vietnam Veterans Against the War, statement by Michael
McClusker in The Winter Soldier Investigation: An Inquiry into
American War Crimes (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972).
8. S. J. Suomi, and H. F. Harlow, "Social Rehabilitation of
Isolate-Reared Monkeys," Developmental Psychology , 6 (1972),
9. F. R. Volkmar and W. T. Greenough, "Rearing Complexity Affects
Branching of Dendrites in the Visual Cortex of the Rat," Science,
176 (June 1972), 1445-1447; and M. Coleman, "Platelet Serotonin
in Disturbed Monkeys," Clinical Proceedings of the Childrens
Hospital, 27 (1971). 187-194.
Text republished with the kind permission of James W. Prescott.
Originally appeared in THE FUTURIST magazine (April 1975).
Reproduced with permission of the World Future Society , 7910
Woodmont Avenue, Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20817 USA. WFS is a
nonprofit educational and scientific association with 30,000
members in 80 countries. It serves as a neutral forum and
clearinghouse for information and ideas about current trends and
possible future developments.
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