Human Conditioning And Homelessness

Most everyone knows abut Ivan Pavlov and his dogs, and the psychological study of conditioning and involuntary reflex actions. Each time that Pavlov fed his dogs, he would ring a bell. He did this so often that eventually he could ring the bell, but withhold the food, and yet his dogs would salivate anyway.

On yesterday’s episode of “Anderson” (yes, it appears that Anderson Cooper has sold out to daytime television), he showed an experiment done on humans. Several people were shown a short video of someone being murdered. The death was a fake but the people in the study did not know that. They were even told that it was a real event. At the end of the the video there appeared a photograph of a rose. The people who watched this video were also hooked up to a machine that monitored their vitals, like blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, etc. The machine proved that each time the video was shown, the people viewing it had a physical reaction. They were shown the video several times, each time with the picture of the rose at the end of it. Eventually, when the were shown only the photograph of a rose, they had the same physical reaction as if they had seen the murder video.

These experiments prove that conditioning happens, even to humans.

Take for instance a young person who was beaten regularly and excessively by his/her father during childhood. This child will then grow up as an adult believing, not only that such behavior is normal, but also expected. This may very well lead these people toward a life of violence. Or, may very well lead them to look for an abusive significant other to have a relationship with. We often call this type of behavior cyclical, but really, it’s just the conditioning a person has been under for so long, that leads to it.

Because we are all constantly being conditioned to one thing or another, a person’s behavior and reactions to life’s many and varied experiences is not so easily self controlled.

I bring this up in answer to what is often an excuse in denying help to those in need. We hear a lot of talk about “Self Reliance” and “Personal Responsibility.” Those are all great things that we should all aspire to, but achieving these goals is not like some light switch that can flipped on and off. They are things that we must, like everything else, be conditioned to. And we must admit that not everyone has had the luxury of being raised by people who know how to set a good example.

People who are less fortunate are conditioned towards poverty and failure. It happens first by their own family and others responsible for their raising. Then it happens again in adult life by the more successful people who, instead of positively inspiring the less fortunate, turn on them, the poor and unsuccessful, with contempt, and insults, and creating additional obstacles that hinder success for those who have yet to achieve it.

Everyone who refuses to give a hand up to those in need is just as guilty of causing the conditions that lead to failure as anyone.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless


  1. Thank you for letting me know.


  2. debra c

    This is off subject and I hate to bring depressing news. I know you introduced your readers to “Homeless Man Speaks,” a give-and-take blog of homeless Tony and one of his homed friends. Well, I visited his blog today and learned that Tony has passed away.


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