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Avoidance Theory Module

Please click here to see the Avoidance Theory Power Point Presentation. 

Avoidance Theory revisits Maslow's Hierarchy through the lens of modern neurobiology and evolutionary psychology. 

It shows how all behaviours of  placental life forms are the result of  how our system hunts continuously for the lowest level discomfort available from moment to moment given the resources within and external to each individual. 

The reference to placental life forms is due to the proof held in the PowerPoint presentation which focuses on humans but can equally be applied to other placental life forms which face a similar survival challenge when their physiology is  instantaneously changed at birth. This happens when the umbilical is severed. It is likely that Avoidance Theory applies to all organisms with a central nervous system.  

Avoidance Theory deals with innate physiologically derived sources of pleasure such as the orgasm in humans by showing how they orientate the discomfort avoidant learning systems to optimise reproductive behaviours.

The theory shows how many behaviours that seem to be innate can be explained through the lens of Avoidance Theory. This means that humans and all animals require few innate traits to be passed through the generations via our genetics in order for complex survival behaviours to be generated.

Evolution has amplified the capacity for us to experience discomfort in a number of forms from simple physical pain to fear, anxiety and disgust for all animals to more cerebral forms of discomfort such as jealousy and shame in humans. Discomfort provides both the motivation and measure for our learning systems to experiment with and optimise our mix of avoidant characteristics unique to each one of us. 

Avoidance Theory challenges Maslow's assertion that once basic needs are met humans are motivated by the need for self actualisation. 

Instead Avoidance theory proposes that for billionaires, beggars and bears all behaviours whether building a rocket or searching for scraps of food are driven by the need to avoid re-experiencing the extreme levels of discomfort generated in the first months of life or during subsequent traumatic episodes. 

Avoidance Theory does not stem from observation of human behaviour instead it provides an explanation for the fundamental purpose of all behaviour. As such it is more readily falsified than most observation based motivation theories that rely on a process of collation, analysis and hypothesising. 

For example Avoidance Theory predicted that the pain threshold for humans would be at it lowest level around the time of birth. Research published in 2015 by an Oxford team proved that prediction to be correct.

Other predicted physiological outcomes do not appear to currently have any research data that might enable falsification. For example, Avoidance Theory predicts that the amplitude of discomfort levels in new-borns will peak in the first days after birth and then diminish more slowly than the reduction in amplitude of blood glucose levels.

The rapid replacement of the automatic regulatory role of the placenta, umbilical and body system after the umbilical is cut prevents death and explains the fundamental orientation and motivation for all behaviour from that moment until the individual dies. 

Unlike the body the separated placenta and umbilical do not have the inbuilt learning systems or physiology for survival and therefore die after being severed. The body takes over that system's role very quickly after the umbilical cord is cut. A rapid transition is imperative as the highest resting continuous energy consumption per Kg experienced by placental animals exists when the umbilical is cut.

The attached PowerPoint presentation provides a more in depth introduction to Avoidance Theory. 

Other modules that might be of interest:

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