Behaviour Patterns: Tolerance and Avoidance

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” Plato

Understanding the whys and how’s of a subject sharpens the perception as a wider conception. For example: How the car engine works and why does it work can help the mechanic to repair and maximise the use of the vehicle. The mind is the engine or drive of a person life taking them in the direction they perceive is best route. In a similar fashion the overview of the mind is linked to the behaviour of the person. The mind is the most complicated piece of apparatus in the universe that scientist, theologians, and philosophers still can’t come to a unanimous conclusion on why and how it works in one small spectrum of this phenomena.

A car enthusiast may not know the complete picture of the car but still loves to tinker at the weekend to enhance its performance because of its owner passion. I am that enthusiast who enthusiasm leads me to explore under the bonnet of our psyche about the mind. The intricate models of Psychology (a passion of mine) can be overwhelming to assimilate but fascinating to discover.

I will endeavour to explore and explain one component close to my heart(psychology) is the first part of this series, the topic of Tolerance and Avoidance. I believe they are closely linked in behaviour strategies. The article about modern genetic engineering in plants discovering the benefits due to climate change in plants of their resilience of two substrates Tolerance and Avoidance. The article said “Drought-responsive genes in C3 or C4 photosynthesis plant species are a rich source of target genes for genetic engineering to improve drought tolerance; identified important candidate genes underpinning drought avoidance and tolerance through systems biology””.

The useful technologies the scientist researching will enable crops to have an equilibrium in the species mechanism to benefit humanity in times of unpredictability due to climate change. In Psychological terms the landscape of behaviour patterns is uncertain from unpredictable events from conception to the fully grown adult in society. The seasons of a person life will have an effect intrinsically sometimes not manifesting till later in life. The coping strategies learnt from childhood and beyond will influence a behaviour pattern.

The why and how a person acts are not apparent to the individual because it is a pattern that can be hidden(subconscious) or not recognised at times. There are many precursors to a person behaviour that can’t be explained in one post. The developing self-continues to be influenced as one reference said” cultivate it’s behaviour from the surrounding in which he(she) is nourished. For example, parents and friends as a surrounding to a teenager, where they influence the teenager’s life and actions and so on alters his/her behaviour”

Tolerance is an interesting word in etymology that gives a clearer picture. Toleration is derived from French root word to carry, the opposite to avoidance. Another perspective of the word says” The specific religious sense is from 1609; as in Act of Toleration (1689), statute granting freedom of religious worship (with conditions) to dissenting Protestants in England. In this it means “recognition of the right of private judgment in matters of faith and worship; liberty granted by the government to preach and worship as one pleases; equality under the law without regard to religion.”

Further research of tolerance from a psychological perspective I came across a scientific paper explaining the neural reward processing modulated by approach- and avoidance-related to personality traits. Before we explore the findings in layman terms the brain has two switches Aversion (Avoidance) and one switch reward. It involves a lot more than opposing switches but that’s the top-down model I mentioned (limbic system is used from bottom-up model).

The question of nature and nurture not nature verses nature led me to this significant paper on the BAS and BIS neural pathways in the brain. The paper defines “The behavioural activation system (BAS) is conceptualized as a motivational system which primarily responds to stimuli of reward and non-punishment. In contrast, the behavioural inhibition system (BIS) is considered an attentional system sensitive to signals of punishment and non-reward, promoting inhibition of appetitive responses and an increase in arousal and attention to relevant cues.

To illustrate this mechanism: Imagine a child has two choices or two types of parenting. Parent number one says: If you eat all your cabbage, you can have a reward of a few sweets after dinner (BAS). Parent number two says” If you don’t eat your cabbage you are going to bed early (BIS). In summary the article concluded that the approach or motivation of a person behaviour is linked to the personality traits that needs further investigation. In the experiment of monetary rewards, it says in the results of the data” The analyses for the contrast “anticipation of reward (1 Euro and 20 cents) versus anticipation of no reward” revealed increased activation in the right ventral striatum including the nucleus accumbens.” This section of the brain is the motivation of behaviour linked to the Basal ganglia system which I have mentioned extensively in my book What are You Afraid of? Take the fear out of fear.

For quick 2-minute video of Nucleus Accumbens role in the brain

The behaviour of an individual is not just biological systems in the brain it’s the innate qualities of the person. “Character is thought to reflect conscious, maturation-related influences on personality, while Temperament is thought to reflect instinctive, biologically-based influence” Jackson, C.J. and Smillie, L.D. (2008) ‘How Introspections Concerning Cloninger’s Concepts of Temperament and Character Influence Eysenckian Personality Structure’, Current psychology (New Brunswick, N.J.), 27(4), pp. 257–276. doi:10.1007/s12144-008-9039-5.

In a previous post I showed the evidence of how genetics has input into who we are as a disposition towards genetic behaviour.

Examining several pieces of the jigsaw there is tremendous causation for variety in a way a person acts, the why! This is just the beginning of discovering the traits of tolerance in a person persona. Added to the equation lets go back to the example of the mechanic. Imagine the car new owner discovered the vehicle has been abused and neglected for several years. They never serviced the car, forgot to maintain it, and drove the car recklessly. The results will become apparent with the car in due time. The smooth transition of gear change and ease of the braking system to make the journey maybe dangerous or uncomfortable due to neglect. The brain of a person will adapt to unhelpful responses if damaged by trauma or neglect. For example, the roots of tolerance may be linked to parenting of a child. One source said in conclusion of its paper “examining personality development, transactions between child and parent over time are crucial, and these complex, dynamic relations can only inform the trajectory to adult personality when multiple individual characteristics of both entities (i.e., organism and context) are carefully considered.”

Our perception of tolerance may have a shadow from the past in form of experiences and beliefs systems. The self-report of how see our tolerance is not always accurate because of bias so why not ask a friend for frank appraisal of your tolerance level.

I did a personality test as part of my research for a book I’m working on earlier. I knew my archetype and was curious If it had changed, it is still the same INFJ. The test isn’t definitive but gives you idea of your persona. The conception of tolerance has its limits because we all have our likes and dislikes. The different types of tolerances is comprehensive in the academic scale because Distress Tolerance have Symptoms and Disorders that clinicians are interested in.

“A study on human behaviour has revealed that 90% of the population can be classified into four basic personality types: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trusting and Envious” I would say that a person personality type according to this has a strong influence towards tolerance. For example, my personality is Optimistic, I would go one step further even since a young child I believed I was eternal optimist. A hereditary trait I have inherited thanks to my grandmother, the old Victorian mantra “get on with it mentality. (lol) I always endeavour to look for the positive in people or the lessons learned in life. Imagine a pessimistic personality would be less tolerant of others and themselves.

In conclusion of this introduction to tolerance. The reasons I have put forward of a person tolerant nature are not conclusive but like an enthusiastic patron of the mind, it is the beginning to see the mechanics of the process of behaviour from different substrates. The next post explores the limitations of tolerance and how it is linked to avoidance. One reason I miss my beloved wife Kate (she has passed on), because she had a low tolerant level because of her fiery nature. She was the yang energy as I am more like the yin, so we balanced each other. Tolerance has its limits and how can we navigate the this behaviour pattern? Will be one question to explore from an objective perspective.


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About Stephen Hyne

I am creative and curious about life. I have a passion for the brain and the psychology of human behaviour. I love the renaissance art, culture and architecture. Music is my best friend follows me on my life journey of discovery.

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