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"A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark." - Chinese Proverb

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Gulf War Syndrome




NIMH Meeting Announcements

The Australasian Critical Incident
Stress Association Conference

The Right Response in the
21st Century

Location: Carlton Crest Hotel
Melbourne Australia
Friday October 3, 2003 thru
Sunday October 5, 2003
For further information
please contact the conference organisers:
Conference Website: conference2003/

6th Annual Conference
The University of South Dakota
Disaster Mental Health Institute

"Innovations in Disaster Psychology:
Time for a New Paradigm?
Reflecting on the Past:
Looking to the Future"

Radisson Hotel
Rapid City, SD
September 18-20, 2003


JUNE 26-29, 2003
Reno/Lake Tahoe
72 Hours CE Materials included. Markman,
Stanley, Doherty, Hendrix,
Olson, Weiner-Davis, Covey,
Bray, Love, Pittman, Glenn,
Epstein, Glass, Carlson, Gray
- 200 top experts.
Phone: (202)362-3332
Hotel from $65

29th Interamerican Congress of Psychology
July 13-18, 2003
Lima, PERU

6th European Regional Congress
of the International Association
for Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP)

July 12-16, 2003
Budapest, HUNGARY
Contact: Dr. Marta Fulop
MTA Pszichologiai Kutatointezet
Victor Hugo utca 18-22
Budapest, Hungary-1132

Minnesota International Counseling Institute:
Global Mental Health in a Turbulent World

July 27-August 1, 2003
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Minnesota International Counseling Institute
CSPP/Department of Education Psychology
University of Minnesota
178 Pilsbury Drive, SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA


DHS Under Secretary Michael D. Brown announced the first 219 grants of what will ultimately total approximately 7,000 grants worth $750 million in direct assistance to firefighters from the 2003 Assistance to Firefighter Grant program. For the full story, go to:


"Why can't we all get along" is the often-cited phrase when national discussions focus on race relations, class divisions or gender differences. But men and women, whites and blacks, poor and rich, or disabled and able-bodied often bring pre-set ideas and expectations to the table, rather than an open mind. That precludes complete understanding, says a Penn State researcher.

"Everybody brings to a relationship a set of cultural values (i.e. cultural contracts) that helps constitute that person's identity," says Dr. Ronald L. Jackson II, African-American associate professor of intercultural communication. "Therefore, conflict begins when people with different values attempt to coordinate their relationships. At that critical moment when differences are recognized, a certain amount of negotiation takes place between people, especially those representing widely different cultures."

Jackson, the first communication specialist to develop and articulate the cultural contract theory, says there are at least three different kinds of cultural contracts: ready-to-sign, quasi-completed and co-created cultural contracts. His research can be found in his new book, "African-American Communication: Exploring Identity and Culture" (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003), co-authored with two other reseachers . The full story is at


13 June A United Nations Security Council delegation has arrived in Burundi with praise for all the parties working towards a peaceful and successful political transition, and an invitation to all armed groups that have not done so, to join the peace process. For full story, go to:


With insecurity threatening to derail Afghanistan's entire political process and the country's drug production turning the old Silk Road into a new "opium-paved road," two top United Nations officials called on the international community today to beef up deployment of security forces there and provide other vital assistance. For full story, go to:


There is a growing body of literature exploring the interface of mood and anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. Curr Opin Psychiatry 16(3) 2003 For the complete article, go to:


Although commonly associated with the illness schizophrenia, the severely and persistently mentally ill include people with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses. Medscape Psychiatry & Mental Health 8(1) 2003 For the complete article, go to:


The effects of aging are more than just physical, according to the latest edition of the Medical Minute, a service of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Memory often suffers with advanced age, and as family and friends pass away, many older Americans feel more alone. These feelings of depression and confusion are too often wrongly considered a normal part of the aging process. Family and friends play a crucial role in helping to identify symptoms and get older loved ones the early help they may need. Family support and a strong social network, plus general good health, help reduce the risk of depression. While dementia cannot currently be cured, early treatment can slow or arrest it in many cases. Read the full story at


With summer fast approaching and long, sun-filled days on tap, a vitally important but often overlooked topic begs discussion. Our vision is so central in our lives that we usually take it for granted. However, our eyes are amongst our most fragile organs. They need proper protection from the hazards of the environment, the sports arena, the workplace and other elements of everyday life. According to the latest edition of the Medical Minute, a service of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, one of the greatest threats to your eyes is invisible. The scientific evidence is piling up: long-term exposure to invisible ultraviolet radiation can damage our eyes and lead to vision loss. Everyone - including children - is at risk. Read the full story at

Cultural And Environmental Effects On Pro-social Behavior

It is impossible to regard the individual outside the social environment where he grows up and develops. He is a product of the natural and social environment in which he lives. His biological heritage is molded, directed and rebuilt under the conditions of his social environment. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the views of different investigators and theorists concerning the effects of environment on pro-social behavior.

Early Background

In Freudian psychoanalytic theory (1933) the idea of the individual is rather difficult to accept. According to this theory, man resembles a plaything in the grip of dominating inferior instincts of which the sex instinct and the propensity for death and destruction are foremost. However, if the pleasure principle and destructive instincts were all that guided the behavior of each individual, there would be no human society. History and everyday life are both filled with examples which testify to exactly the opposite. The fact that there is human society is due to such things as human heroism, human goodness and moral principles. Unfortunately, the so-called "law of the jungle" often makes a breach in social life. However, the mere fact that these are individual breakthroughs with which society copes, indicates that the Freudian understanding of dominating and destructive instinctual activity does not reflect the reality. This type of activity exists, but does not always dominate. Formulating and popularizing a general theory of the human personality based on the ordinary sexual urge and some psychopaths' urge for death and destruction distorts the human condition and is certainly not acceptable as a total explanation. These concepts are upheld by a number of prominent scientists who argue with the seemingly logical facts of psychopathology and crime detection. However, they are nothing but discouraging mass suggestion to the average man who is unfamiliar with scientific thinking. The same can also be said for young people whose moral restraint is still unstable.

The ideas of those who broke away from Freud did not change substantially. Jung (1923) in the elaboration of his ideas about the conscious and the unconscious, and Adler (1951) in his Individual Psychology, did not fully understand the role and significance of the social factor. This can be more clearly seen in the neo-Freudians such as Fromm (1947). Many other authors, in spite of their deep reasoning and detailed research, have defined the human personality without taking the social links and the specific human consciousness into consideration (e.g. Allport, 1937, 1950). Modern existential writers such as Frankl (1956) also regard the personality as being dissociated from the influence of the environment. Existentialism brings the idea of existence to the fore, implying that the unconscious internal life of the individual is somehow independent of the objective world. Personalism (Stern, 1922), Holism (Smuts, 1926), Gestalt (Kohler, 1930) and authors who uphold various ideas about the layer structure of the personality (Schultz, 1964) also treat it as more or less dissociated from its environment.

Personality and Environment

The unity in the structure of the personality built up in continuous interrelations with the environment, especially the social environment, has been emphasized by others. Conceptions based on the physiological trend were developed by Sechenov (1952) and Pavlov (1927). According to Sechenov, all activities of the organism are determined by the environment. The same reflex principles underlie both neurophysiology and psychology. Pavlov developed these principles still further. His teaching on conditioned reflexes raised the problem of the signal role of external stimuli and the dependence of reactions on the past experience of the organism. The nervous system was not similar to an automaton, however, since one and the same stimuli could cause different reactions, depending on the individual experience of each person. This was already a form of prediction, of forestalling the changes in the environment on the basis of the past experience of the personality. The principle of the conditioned reflex which brings about the connections between organism and environment, between personality and environment, as well as the teaching on the higher nervous activity, acquires a new meaning in the light of later physiological research.

Many investigations (Moruzzi and Magoun, 1949; Moruzzi, 1964; Rheinberger and Jasper, 1937; Rossi, 1962; Zanchetti, 1965) have given more insight into the cortico-subcortical connections and their unity in the formation of the regulating mechanisms for maintaining equilibrium between organism and environment. The polysynaptic route has been studied from the receptors to the cerebral cortex passing through the reticular formation and activating the cerebral cortex in the presence of receptor excitation. The descending effect of the central sectors of the nervous system on the work of the analyzers to their ultimate receptory function has been established.

Consciousness and Cognition

The physiological mechanisms for maintaining the organism's equilibrium with nature and the social environment for forming the indestructible link between the individual and his social community most often occur below the threshold of the conscious. Man is not usually aware of the course and nature of these regulating and balancing physiological mechanisms. Frequently, the ultimate psychological result of these mechanisms also escapes consciousness. According to this way of thinking, the activity of the individual does not take place only in the form of a simple stimulus-response connection.

The complicated process which goes on inside a computer is similar to what goes on inside the human brain. Like a computer, the brain takes in information, processes it and gives back an answer. In humans the process is called cognition. Cognition refers to the process of knowing. Knowing is one of those internal constructs which cannot be directly observed. We infer that another person "knows" if he emits certain verbal symbols or if he acts appropriately in a given set of circumstances.

Cognition is one of the most important behaviors of the human organism. However, attempts to understand cognition have been hampered by the fact that what happens in the brain or mind cannot be seen. Without this inside information, theories of cognition have had to rely on external signs of cognition as exemplified in behaviors, many of which take the form of language. From these signs, attempts are made to determine what is really happening inside the human brain or mind.

While learning theory may help explain human behavior, children always seem to be doing something unexpected. For example, operant conditioning can explain some aspects of how children learn a language. Parents reinforce children as they learn and begin to use new words. However, once children have acquired a number of words, they begin to use these words in new and novel ways. They say things for which they may not have been reinforced. They talk about things they may never have experienced. It therefore seems that more is going on in the child's mind than the formulation of associations between stimuli and responses.

Unlike computers, children and their thought processes cannot be taken apart and thoroughly examined. So human cognition must be explained in theories instead of solid facts. Children's behaviors are observed, and attempts are made to explain those behaviors and the thoughts responsible for them by using one theory or another. Learning theory, information-processing theory and structural theory are all based on observations of the same subject - human children. Each approach views the developing child from a slightly different angle. Therefore, each comes up with an explanation of cognition which is slightly different from the others. Since the three theories look at the same subject from slightly different perspectives, a combination of all of them probably offers a more well-rounded explanation of cognitive development than any single theory does.

Social Environment

From the interaction between the hereditary and congenital qualities of the individual and the characteristic features of the social and natural environment, both the health of the individual and his education and development are built up. In actual fact, the environment is not always able to prevail over certain qualities of the personality. For example, the environment cannot change temperament to such an extent as to basically alter its reaction under particular conditions. However, the environment can often shape the personality sufficiently to make it possible for the individual to put his capabilities to the most valuable use. On the other hand, the environment can have such a bad effect that the individual's capabilities are suppressed or extinguished.

Man remains largely unconscious of environmental effects. This is usually because they are the natural continuous environment which rarely shows changes of great amplitude. On the other hand, there are effects for which the receptors have not yet been established, such as the electromagnetic field (Petrov, Traikov and Kalendjiev, 1964; Lissman and Machin, 1963).

The formative effects of the social environment on the individual are of special psychological significance. The relations between the personality and the social environment are most often realized through the mechanisms of suggestion. The large role played by suggestion in public life has been pointed out by Bechterev (1973/1932). Social environment with its prestige, its requirements for the individual member of society, and its generally accepted concepts and tastes, imposes subordination on the individual. The social environment exercises a suggestive influence on the individual in an unconscious manner - not only through fear of the power of the collective or through blind subordination, but often the individual accepts suggestions in the absence of any fear or subordination - suggestions which are in harmony with the generally accepted norms and views. Society has exercised a powerful and sometimes insurmountable influence over the individual since the beginning of man's existence.

The force of social suggestion, when it is developed to the point of mass morbidity, can be clearly seen in "psychic epidemics". One type, "Political epidemics", occur when a society or a nation, caught by the suggestive effect of an idea which is harmful to the interests of humanity, can fanatically perpetuate brutal mass outrages which are in radical contrast to the culture of the time. An example of this would be Hitler's Germany.

Psychic epidemics may originate outside the sphere of political life. For example, religious epidemics can also occur. An example might be the phenomenon that took place in Iran or the more recent phenomenon of suicide bombers. Psychic epidemics may appear outside of religious movements. All psychic epidemics are nurtured by the mental attitude of the given society or community in which they originate. Old beliefs were expressed in mystic poetry in a number of national sagas and legends. They often assisted in inducing mass psychosis. In some cases, these legends have a purely national character. In others, they have acquired international significance.

The environmental effect is especially strong on young people. No matter how eloquent or strong words may be or how effectively they are "supported" by regulations, norms and the law, they cannot suggest and induce a lasting desire for the cultivation of sensible habits. They also cannot give rise to the urge to search for an enlightened outlook if they are not backed up by personal example and a stable social environment. Only in this way can the suggestions which come by word of mouth from leaders, teachers, educators and others be gradually transformed into convictions, consolidated under the effect of the suggestions of the harmonious social environment. However, when the environment is not healthy, when there are conditions which cause mental disorders, psychic epidemics may appear.

Prosocial Behavior

During the past fifty years or so there has been a growing interest among psychologists in the study of pro-social behavior (Bar-Tal, 1976). Most of the research has focused on the specification of situational conditions which either promote or inhibit the amount of helping that an individual is willing to give to the needy. Related research has been concerned with organismic variables and has specified personal, familial and cultural antecedents of pro-social behavior.

In addition to personal and cultural factors, a potent determinant of social behavior has been shown to be the social pressure put on an individual (Allen, 1965; Asch, 1956; Milgram, 1965). However, research has demonstrated that individuals conformed less when the direction of the social pressure they were confronted with was opposite in direction to their previously held values (Snyder et al., 1960; Vaughan and Morgan, 1963). Applying this to the issue of pro-social behavior, social pressure in the direction of egotism should be least effective with children who hold values of sharing and cooperation. Conversely, social pressure in the direction of altruism should be least effective with children who espouse norms of competition and individual rather than group achievement.

It has been suggested that different sociocultural backgrounds affect:

A. Children's adherence to norms of social responsibility, which produce

B. differential amounts of pro-social behavior, and is related to

C. a child's resistance to or compliance with an egotistic or altruistic social pressure.

Madsen (1967) found highly significant differences between children from different subcultural settings in Mexico. Rural village children and lowerclass, urban children behaved in a much more cooperative manner on an experimental task than did urban middleclass children. Madsen's study was motivated by anthropological observations (Lewis, 1961; Romney and Romney, 1963) of child-rearing practices in different Mexican settings.

In a second study, Shapira and Madsen (1969) found children of Israeli Kibbutzim (rural communal settlements) to be more cooperative than urban, middleclass Israeli children. In this study, the magnitude of the difference in cooperative behavior was greater for boys than for girls. That children of the Kibbutz would be highly cooperative in an experimental task was predictable from observations of childrearing practices and parental values in the Kibbutz as reported by Spiro (1965).

Previous experiments (Madsen, 1967; Shapira and Madsen, 1969; Madsen and Shapira, 1970) have demonstrated the existence of substantial differences in the degree to which children of different subcultures cooperate or compete on an experimental task. In a study of 7-9 year old children, Kagan and Madsen (1971) found Anglo-Americans to be far more competitive than were children in a small Mexican town. Mexican American 7-9 year olds were approximately midway between the other two groups in their degree of competitive responding. This study also included 4-5 year old Anglo-American and Mexican American children. The results indicated a substantially higher level of competitiveness among 7-9 than among 4-5 year old children within both cultural groups. These findings of both developmental and cultural differences on this dimension of behavior are of sufficient importance to warrant additional verification and extension.

Nadler, Romek and Shapira-Friedman (1979) studied the attitudes of social responsibility and pro-social behavior of Israeli city and kibbutz children. They also studied the effects of "altruistic" and "egotistic" social pressures. Children were asked to donate some or all of a valued reward they had earned previously in favor of poor children. It was found that kibbutz children had higher scores on the social responsibility scale and were more generous than city children. Females had higher social responsibility scores and gave more than males. City boys appeared to be the least helpful to all other groups. With regard to social pressure, only the egotistic pressure manifestation affected pro-social behavior.

There have been several investigations which have attempted to relate personality variables to the willingness to help others (see Staub and Sherk, 1970; Wilson, 1976). Unfortunately, most of these studies have yielded low and often inconsistent correlations (see Gergen et al, 1972). The variable of social responsibility appears to be an exception to this, however. This variable assesses the degree to which a child feels it is within his range of responsibilities to get the "group work" done (Harris, 1971). It has been shown that this variable is consistently and positively related to pro-social behavior of children (e.g. Harris, 1971; Midlarsky and Bryan, 1972). When an individual has internalized societal demands for social responsibility, he acts in line with these norms and helps the less fortunate members of his group (Berkowitz, 1972).


The achievement of peace rests on an understanding of aggression, violence, and evil. However, it requires us to go beyond that material to include not only what is usually conceived as prosocial behavior but also the use of aggression in a struggle with violence and evil. Therefore, these topics must be considered in conjunction with one another. The attainment of peace requires us to have an understanding of aggression, and the pitfalls of violence and evil, as well as the various paths that may lead toward a peaceful world. Aggression is often violent, yet aspects of aggression may be necessary for the achievement of peace. We need to examine violence and the ways in which it may be controlled and then turn to an examination of evil followed by a discussion of peace. This may be accomplished through what we learn from the study of social learning theories, emotional bases of aggression, biological perspectives on aggression, conflict theories, personal violence, community violence, societal violence, structural violence, conceptions of evil and its experience, the ambiguous role of religion, peace through strength, peace through negotiation, peace through justice, peace through personal transformation, and developing cultures of peace.


Adler, A. (1951). Individual psychology, New York: The Humanities Press.

Allen, V.L. (1965). Situational factors in conformity, in L. Berkowitz (ed.) Advances in experimental and social psychology, Vol. 1, New York: Academic Press.

Allport, G. (1937). Personality: A physiological interpretation, New York.

Allport, G. (1950). The nature of personality, New York.

Asch, S.E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity. Psychology Monographs, 9.

Bar-Tal, D. (1976). Pro-social behavior: Theory and research, Halsted: New York.

Bechterev, M.V. (1973). General principles of human reflexology, (originally published 1932), Arno Press, New York.

Berkowitz, L. (1972). Social norms, feelings and other facts affecting helping and altruism. In L. Berkowitz (ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 6, New York: Academic Press.

Frankl, V.E. (1969). The will to meaning: Foundations and applications of logo-therapy, New York: New American Library.

Freud, S. (1933). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis, London.

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Kagan, S. and Madsen, M.C. (1971). Cooperation and competition of Mexican, Mexican-American and Anglo-American children of two ages under four instructional sets. Developmental Psychology, 5(1), 32-39.

Kohler, W. (1930).Gestalt Psychology, London.

Lewis, O. (1961). Life in a Mexican village: Tepoztlan restudied. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

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To search for books on disasters and disaster mental
health topics, leaders, leadership, orgainizations,
crisis intervention, leaders and crises, and related
topics and purchase them online, go to the following url:


The Roots of Prosocial Behavior in Children

by Nancy Eisenberg and Paul Henry Mussen


Book Description

What kinds of childrearing practices foster the development of helping, sharing, and other prosocial behaviors? What roles do biology and culture play in the development of prosocial behavior? This book reviews and summarizes scholarly research that has been devoted to the development of prosocial behavior in children, and examines the various factors and influences that contribute to children's prosocial development, including the media, parents, peers, biology, culture, personal characteristics, and situational determinants. The authors argue that prosocial behavior can be learned and is modifiable, and they suggest techniques for parents, teachers and others to enhance prosocial development. They attempt to communicate the advances in the study of prosocial development that have taken place over the past decade and highlight questions previously unaddressed by researchers, and suggests areas for future work. This text is well-suited for undergraduate and graduate courses in child development and social psychology.

Additional Readings at: Prosocial Behavior in the search engine. Also try looking here for Moral Development.


Contact your local Mental Health Center or
check the yellow pages for counselors, psychologists,
therapists, and other Mental health Professionals in
your area for further information.

George W. Doherty
Rocky Mountain Region
Disaster Mental Health Institute
Box 786
Laramie, WY 82073-0786


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