How Violence Can Become an Addictive Brain Game

Explore the complexities of violence and its underlying causes. Expert researcher Jaime Eduardo Calixto Gonzalez discusses the biological, psychological, and social factors influencing violence. Gain insights into the brain's role, self-regulation, and the need for change.

How Violence Can Become an Addictive Brain Game
Understanding the brain's vulnerability and its impact on behavior is key to addressing violence in society. Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay

Violence is a multifaceted issue influenced by various factors, including biological processes, psychological states, and social environments. To better comprehend the triggers that lead individuals to exhibit aggressive behavior, it is crucial to develop a heightened awareness of these underlying causes. Jaime Eduardo Calixto Gonzalez, a researcher at the Faculty of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), delved into this topic during his participation in the New Dialogues cycle, organized by the General Directorates of Humanities Dissemination and Science Dissemination.

Calixto Gonzalez highlighted that violence can become addictive to the brain. However, it is essential to note that the brain itself is not inherently violent or prone to aggression unless it perceives a sense of winning or gaining something. This realization underscores the importance of detecting and acknowledging the levels of violence within society. Over the past 25 to 26 years in Mexico, there has been an alarming increase in violence within homes, schools, and other spheres. The researcher emphasized that individuals who were subjected to violence as children often perpetuate it as adults, unwittingly replicating the patterns they learned. By focusing on identifying violent behaviors in language, body language, and communication styles, people can become more aware of the need for change.

During his talk titled "Biological or Social Violence?" held at the auditorium of the Casa de las Humanidades, Calixto Gonzalez pointed out that when an aggressive individual receives secondary gains or rewards, others witnessing this behavior tend to imitate it. This observation stems from the notion that resorting to violence to attract attention is easier for individuals. Considering these insights, it becomes apparent that a combination of various factors contributes to the levels of aggressiveness observed within a society. Thus, it is crucial to recognize one's environment and prevailing conditions.

The researcher further explained that when individuals lose something that brings them happiness, their ability to remain calm and at ease diminishes. Consequently, a build-up of anger occurs, which can eventually erupt when these individuals encounter triggering situations. The brain's inherent desire to be right, defending one's absolute truth against others, plays a significant role in perpetuating conflict and violence. In such an environment, individuals tend to overlook their violent tendencies and disregard the violence displayed by others. Alarmingly, approximately 1.2 percent of the global population suffers from a condition called alexithymia, which prevents them from recognizing their own emotions as well as those of others.

Accompanied by Ángel Figueroa Perea, the General Director of Humanities Dissemination, Calixto Gonzalez emphasized the vulnerability of the brain, a marvelous and privileged organ that influences decision-making processes, behavior generation, and learning. Making approximately 2,160 decisions a day, the brain's integration determines the propensity for violence or rationality. The prefrontal cortex considered the most intelligent part of the brain, has played a crucial role in reducing human violence over time.

Calixto Gonzalez noted that the ability to understand limits and anticipate the consequences of one's actions is what facilitates social normalization. However, when the prefrontal cortex is impaired, and fear and guilt dominate an individual's behavior, the risk of developing sociopathic, psychopathic, or serial killer tendencies increases. While damage to this region is commonly associated with athletes engaging in contact sports such as soccer or boxing, it can also occur due to head injuries sustained at home or through migraines.

Remarkably, the brain takes less than 500 milliseconds to evaluate another person's facial expressions, enabling the identification of emotions such as anger, happiness, or confusion. During the ages of 7 to 14, the brain learns to perform this cognitive function. It is distressing to note that 89 percent of the world's population faces problems stemming from their experiences during this critical period of life.

To effectively address these issues, it is imperative to comprehend the factors that shape our behaviors and exercise control over them. Calixto Gonzalez emphasized the significance of self-regulation and highlighted the role of breathing in managing mental health. Engaging in conscious breathing helps activate the cerebral amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotional processing, effectively blocking impulsive reactions. By promoting good mental health, individuals can navigate through challenging situations without resorting to violence.

The researcher also pointed out that anger, as an emotion, is not inherently bad. However, exercising violence as a response to anger should be avoided. Stress, for instance, should be experienced for a limited duration of up to 90 minutes. When stress exceeds this timeframe, individuals may face difficulties in controlling their emotions, requiring support to manage their violent tendencies.

Moreover, Calixto Gonzalez highlighted the importance of crying as a basic and necessary expression of emotions. However, individuals should not cry for more than 11 minutes, as extended periods of crying may indicate underlying personality disorders.

Understanding the intricate interplay between biological influences and the social environment is crucial. This knowledge offers individuals an opportunity to identify and address triggers that lead to aggression. By engaging in self-reflection and promoting a conscious awareness of violent tendencies, people can gradually dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate aggression in society.