Homo Stimulus – How behavioural capitalism and stimulus society have created a new human being

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Homo Stimulus - How behavioural capitalism and stimulus society have created a new human being
Homo Stimulus - How behavioural capitalism and stimulus society have created a new human being

 

  • The confrontation of the population with artificially generated stimuli has increased massively in recent decades.
  • Technological development now makes it possible to stimulate all areas of personal life
  • The population became accustomed to fast and short stimuli
  • These are not only passively consumed, but also actively demanded and shaped.
  • The modern stimulus society[1] has come into being
  • This stimulus society has therefore conditioned a new human being: the homo stimulus.
  • The stimulus society, in combination with behavioral capitalism, has ushered in the age of collective individualism.

 

At the beginning there should be a thesis: The world is changing at a rapid pace. But it is not only she who is breaking new ground, but also man himself. The homo stimulus was born, the stimulus man, whose share of the total population is constantly increasing and which will make up a majority in future generations.

An evolutionary development? An adjustment? A product of external influence? It depends on the point of view, but the following pages do not want to repeat the basics of the social sciences, for this there are undoubtedly better attempts, but rather a development of conditioning for fast-frequented stimuli and their end product, the homo stimulus, consider and put these to discussion. It remains a thesis that is intended to serve the understanding of a new reality. The first is already necessary because the changes are obvious and therefore absolutely require new explanatory approaches.

The new human being, shaped by the stimulus society, made the success of behavioral capitalism[2] possible in the first place and represents an essential characteristic of the age of collective individualism. The world of the present and future would be unthinkable without the homo stimulus and therefore it is necessary to name this conditioning, which has never happened before in such a framework, and thus to create a generally understandable basis for understanding and discussion. It is the continuation of the eternal task that each new age imposes on us and at the same time harbours the danger of falling back on obsolete models of the past to explain the present. But it may also be the eternally same flow of humanity into which we enter, but as Heraclitus remarked thousands of years ago, it never carries the same waters.

However, before the new human being is to receive a deeper dedication, it seems advisable to first explain what this scripture understands by a stimulus, i.e. a so-called stimulus and the stimulus society from which the homo stimulus has grown. However, this should not lead to a distance from the scientific standard, at best a shortening.

A stimulus triggers or changes a behavior by acting on a sensory organ. The excitation is followed by a reaction. This reaction can be influenced by past stimuli.

So far at least the psychological definition as it can be found in almost all accepted works. The distinction between reactive (first stimulus, because reaction) and operant behaviour (first reaction, then stimulus) should only be of limited interest at the moment, because these points are simply of secondary importance for thesis and objective.

The basic principle is not difficult to understand and should also be briefly presented here for people who are only concerned with such topics in the minor matter:

The bright sunlight closes the eyes. A pleasant smell of food reminds not only of one’s own hunger, but also of when the dish was last eaten. The human being is therefore constantly exposed to stimuli, which he perceives almost continuously and in a variety of ways, consciously and unconsciously. This view is simplistic, but nevertheless it can be said that a world without stimuli would be difficult to imagine.

But doesn’t he live with it already from the beginning of times in a stimulating society? One could be subject to this judgement if one were to define the concept very broadly, and yet the definition of the modern stimulus society, as it understands this script, is far more specific, more limited and ultimately the term for a historical development that refers to a very specific temporal sequence.

An stimulus society is generally understood to be an association of individuals who are exposed to stimuli which influence a strong frequency, which are usually artificially generated, and who find it difficult or impossible to resist these stimuli, or in some cases do not wish to resist them.

Therefore, there is a demarcation between classical stimuli and a highly frequented stimulus, which has its origin in the commercialized and/or politicized technological development, the progress of which intensifies and thus, together with behavioral capitalism,[3] has ushered in the age of collective individualism in the Western world.[4]

The Cycle of Behavioural Capitalism.jpg

This may sound abstract at the moment, but will be made clear later at the concrete development. Up to this point, however, the definition itself must be deepened.

A prerequisite for the establishment of a stimulus society is the possibility of confronting the individual with the stimuli with great frequency.

This prerequisite of the stimulus society is elementary, because at this point there is a clear demarcation to a general understanding of stimulation. The development of the stimulus society and thus ultimately of homines stimuli cannot be separated from the technological development, which in turn is closely linked to scientific findings and their use by politics (e.g. political marketing), society (e.g. development of social milieus) and above all the economy (e.g. development towards a consumer society and later behavioural capitalism). Rather, it is an inseparable interaction of forces, which, however, will still experience a clear representation.

The stimulation in modern times is mostly done by short, fast and repetitive stimuli.

This statement is an important one, because here a gradual change in the type of perception has been initiated, because the stimuli have a different nature than a few decades ago.

Many of the social media, means of communication or services very often used today[5] offer fast information and entertainment, which do not attach importance to a longer-term occupation with them and were also never thought in such a way.[6] It also remains irrelevant whether first the stimuli were present, or the desire for them. The question is not goal-oriented, because it was rather a dancing together, which became faster and faster. A mutual increase and challenge. It’s supposed to count the result.

The brain is therefore conditioned in a certain way that may not be comprehensible to people who have not yet exposed themselves to this process from a young age, and yet the result cannot be overlooked by them from their own empiricism: be it on the means of communication (e.g. smartphone) of third parties or simply on the faster cuts of films and their comparison with older screen products. Whether a dependency ratio of short and fast stimuli can arise here is not to be discussed at this point. Later, corresponding studies will be linked that suggest this. For the moment, however, another central feature of the modern stimulus society is to be pointed out:

The stimulus exposure is often voluntary

While commercial stimuli (e.g. TV advertising) were often perceived as annoying in earlier days, today’s debate with them is not only based on free will, but is even actively demanded. It is therefore too brief to speak of a “bombardment” because it is a process in which both sides play the role of sender and receiver.[7]

einbettungsprozessenglisch.jpg

So the smartphone is a constant companion and the constant checking of posts, messages and notifications for some people almost secondly standard. The[8] boundary between commercial and private stimuli is becoming increasingly blurred, opening the door to man’s most intimate sphere, which has generally remained closed to earlier “stimulus methods”. This line is now open. The distinction between internal/external motivation or between requested and received stimuli is becoming increasingly insignificant and difficult to distinguish.

A weighty difference that at some point[9] gave rise to a new variety of capitalism, behavioral capitalism, whose model explains the mechanisms described in depth. But we should not go that far at this point, we stick to the usually artificially set stimuli, which originally serve a purpose. But this already suggested the use of the word “conditioning”, in which chains of associations such as “behaviorism”, “framing” or “priming” often emerge, and yet these chains would not be sufficient to describe the development of a new time. But the truth remains the same:

The aim of artificial stimulation is to influence behaviour

This knowledge is not new and certainly not new. It does not matter whether the perceiver is to be moved to a purchase, to a click, only to a look or to a modification of behaviour with the stimulus. And the same goes for you, as always:

Not every milieu or individual reacts equally strongly to the same stimulus. However, no one is completely immune.

It is understandable that not every milieu or individual reacts in the same way to the same stimulus, since they have different views, values and interests. This, too, is not a new finding; otherwise, for example, extensive segmentation in marketing would not be necessary. And yet the difference has to be pointed out again:

This writing is not about whether certain stimuli achieve their goal, but about conditioning and a shift in perception in the direction of short, highly frequented stimuli, or even being driven forward by the homines stimuli. It’s about the global consequences. It is about a world in which the sensory organs are confronted with vast amounts of stimuli and at a breathtaking speed. It is a reality in which there is already a considerable habituation process. It is about how the human being changes in his behaviour and in his contemplation of his own reality. Change the methodology and structure, not the individual appeal. The human being is conditioned and newly shaped.

Many stimuli completely miss their target and/or perish in the sea of stimuli. Nevertheless, they influence the way in which those permanently exposed to the stimuli perceive them.

It would therefore be a misinterpretation to associate the terms “stimulus society” and “homo stimulus” exclusively with more clever manipulation, whether for economic or political purposes. There would be a frightening carelessness, because in fact a shift in perception, a new incarnation, is at the centre, because stimulation may originally have had a commercial-political background, but today the former stimulus recipients are often, if not as a rule, also transmitters and enter into a stimulus dialogue, just think of those millions who seek distraction in Instagram, Youtube and the like.

This process seems to have already been completed in parts of the milieus, in others it is still in an initial stage, beyond which it may not go in some cases.

In the long term, exposure to stimuli changes the way of thinking, perception, decision-making processes and communication of the stimulus recipients.

The homo stimulus is created, the stimulus man.

These changes in perception have long-term consequences for the relationship of consciousness with its environment. At least numerous studies suggest this[10]. The theory of the stimulus society and the homo stimulus only draws the necessary conclusions for a new era.

The human being is reprogrammed in parts. By clever manipulators? No, even by himself, because he accepts the modern stimulus society in many, although not all, cases and makes his contribution.

It has already been noticed that the depth of conditioning varies from environment to environment and from individual to individual. Therefore, only a part of mankind has already undergone the “evolutionary” development into a homo stimulus. Future generations, however, will grow up in an age of collective individualism and thus be confronted with stimuli practically from birth. If they want to enjoy the advantages of a high-tech world of conditioning, they will hardly be able to escape it.

 

This article was written by Andreas Herteux and published by the Erich von Werner Society. It can be found in the scientific networks under the DOI number 10.5281/zenodo.3556810.

 

Footnotes

[1] It is always a question of how terms are translated. In the contrary case it is about the translation of the term “Reizgesellschaft” into English. Here several variants would have been conceivable, however in the end “stimulus society” was chosen. But why not “irritable society”, “irritant society” or “stimulated society”? All this would have been possible, but it would distort the view, because it is not about a society that is stimulated, but also stimulates itself. For this reason it ultimately became “stimulus society”. This formulation is more neutral and leaves the action open. Of course, this decision does not have to be followed.

[2] Cf. First Foundations of Behavioural Capitalism: Inventory of a New Variety of Capitalism, by Andreas Herteux, published by Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3981900651, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3469587

[3] First Foundations of Behavioural Capitalism: Inventory of a New Variety of Capitalism, by Andreas Herteux, published by Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3981900651, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3469587

[4] Herteux, Andreas, The Age of Collective Individualism, e.g. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/aherteux

[5] Just think of services like WhatApp, Snapchat, Youtube or Instagram.

[6] For example, short entertaining and informative videos, the presentation of large numbers of posts, in which the brain filters out interesting ones in fractions of a second, and the familiarization with the constant beeping of the smartphone. This implements a habituation process that manifests itself in a change in perception.

[7] It does not matter whether this interaction is only carried out by humans or also by a machine/CI. Reference should be made here to absorption in the sense of the behavioural capitalism model.

[8] Of course we are exaggerating a little at this point, but the human-smartphone symbiosis is also a perceptible reality.

[9] First Foundations of Behavioral Capitalism: A New Variety of Capitalism Gains Power and Influence, Andreas Herteux, Erich von Werner Verlag, 2019, ISBN 978-3981900675, DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3469568

[10] These are not speculations. In the meantime, there are strong indications that support the thesis:

  • The attention span decreases with the sensory overload (cf. study by the Max Planck Institute: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09311-w).

Perhaps it would make more sense to note, however, that it does not sink, but is conditioned to short and fast stimuli.

  • According to observations, parts of the brain become measurably more active and sensitive during intensive smartphone use for thumb stimuli. A positive effect. In general, manual dexterity outside the usual professions is likely to have increased. But that is again only one thesis.
  • Some studies suggest that intensive use of digital media, which are responsible for a variety of stimuli, increases anxiety, attention disorders, lack of exercise or depression, or creates perception problems. An example from Great Britain:

(https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/62be270a-a55f-4719-ad668c2ec7a74c2a.pdf)

The list can be continued for a long time, but there is no question that the studies are more in the direction of proving a damaging effect of the stimuli than a beneficial one. It is then a pleasure to present preliminary theses, such as that visual media would shrink the cerebral cortex of children, as a fact. However, the studies only allow this conclusion to a limited extent and further causes are open. (Examples: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/adb.12570 or alternatively

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195549) As this is a new phenomenon, there are of course no diverse interpretable long-term studies available and even then one will face the problem of comparison groups in the future.

The only thing that remains important for us is that the intensified sensory overload has consequences. The human being is reprogrammed and conditioned by the stimuli. Whether this is to be evaluated positively or negatively should not interest us at the moment, because in a networked world with manifold influencing factors this is not as easy to decide as some would like it to be. Perhaps the world of collective individualism needs far less of the old, but all the more of the stimulus people? Nevertheless, it should be noted that this is a two-way process, both on the part of the sender and on the part of the recipient, of adaptation and habituation.

 

 

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