Saturday, November 12, 2016

Big Trouble in Little Iowa

I recently wrote at length on Trumpism viewed through a behavioral lens. I thought I'd post this as it's a more simplified, digestible version. 

What we've seen in this election, more than anything else, is the rural cultural identity of the white/Christian/heterosexual/gender-conformist reacting against the notion that they are no longer considered superior. This narrative has been playing out on the right for decades, growing in strength alongside the rise of multiculturalism, feminism, LGBT awareness and strength. To hear the mythology, one would think these different groups are somehow taking over and oppressing the WCHGCs. Yet examine the actual events and one finds no removal of rights, but rather modest requests for polite inclusion - bake a gay cake too, say happy holidays instead of Merry christmas, add a girls soccer team, build a wheelchair ramp, don't mention Jesus in your opening statement, don't bully a feminine boy, try to hire some more women and minorities. This is hardly oppression. 

As a behaviorist, I think of the term "exctinction burst". This describes the tendency for people to engage in maladaptive behaviors (anger, yelling, violence) when behaviors they have previously been reinforced for engaging in are no longer reinforced - or placed on "exctinction". It's a natural process, and ought to fade in time, as long as the reinforcement is withheld. Unfortunately, if people remain in social groups that cling to these chauvinist behaviors (we include thoughts as behaviors), they will remain reinforced, and in a perpetual state of anger. This is especially true as the cosmopolitan dominated media and academia remain dominated by progressive values that oppose chauvinism.

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