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Dmytro Taranovsky
December 24, 2000

(Added on May 11, 2003)  Note: Upon further observation and analysis, I found that while the model presented here is general and very useful, it is too incomplete.  Complex learning, advanced cognition, the level of personality specificity, and other phenomena are inadequately explained.    I believe that a more detailed yet both general and correct model exists that covers the gaps of the model for human psychology presented below.


Psychology is the study of human thought and behavior. While reasoning can lead to information about consequences of actions, to determine whether an action should be done, a system of values is needed since no logical rules state what should be done without using a value as a premise. Thus, the thought consists of a way of reasoning and a system of values.

A theory that is understood by a person cannot completely explain human behavior since a person who knows the theory can purposely choose an action that is not predicted by the theory. Thus, psychology cannot possibly be complete. Every scientific theory is a model of an aspect of the world. Models are used for prediction. Models are not the reality and thus cannot directly disprove a religion. However, since no evidence contradicts to the model below, the model has not only scientific but philosophical significance.

People gather all of the information from their feelings (feelings, broadly defined, include thoughts). Pleasure (also called happiness) is defined as the aspect of feelings that makes people to achieve more of it. Pain is negative amount of pleasure (and is something that people avoid). Thus, the system of values is to achieve maximum pleasure. 

(Added on May 11, 2003) Note:  A person can be motivated only by his or her desires.  Someone else's suffering is not a motivation to help unless the person wants to help.   In this paper, pleasure is defined in a technical way to include all desires.  Selfishness refers to deficiency of the desires to help other people.  People whose desire to do good exceeds contrary desires to benefit oneself  should be praised to reinforce and protect the desire.  The desire to do good is partially intrinsic (like the desire to eat), it can be self-reinforcing (it is good to desire to do good), and it is consistently reinforced (good is what one should do; people usually claim that they reward people for doing what they should), so it persists against other desires.

Humans think (and learn) by forming associations (that is connections) between objects. An object can be anything real or imagined: a person, a physical object, a trait, an action, or even a feeling. Although animals other than people probably do not feel, they (especially higher animals) act as so they feel and their behavior is often best modeled as a consequence of feelings. The associations are formed in brain. The associations that cannot be readily retrieved at a conscious command are called unconscious. Humans are distinguished from other animals be their ability to form complex associations.

The types of associations formed depends on structure of the brain, including the chemicals inside neurons. Much of the structure is genetical. The genes are mostly determined by evolution--genetic characteristics beneficial (to survival and reproduction of the organism) in the past had multiplied. For example, humans have capacity to learn language because the capacity assisted in communication and thus survival and reproduction. The general model of associations to achieve pleasure is made more complete by studying tendency to form associations (conditionability) directly or through brain structure or evolution. (Since animals differ, the general model without some specifications can be ambiguous in predictions.) Conditionabilty can, of course, be altered through associations.

Pleasure is determined by biological feelings (such as taste, thirst, and physical pain) and psychological feelings (feelings that do not have a clear external base). Biological feelings can generally be effectively controlled only by changing the external cause.

Psychological feelings occur because of, often conscious, appraisal (evaluation) of perception. The feelings include curiosity (when information is unexpected), love (when an object that causes pleasure is in contact with you), achievement (when you overcome an obstacle), anticipation (when you expect pleasure), motivation (when you want to do something), empathy (when you enjoy making others feel good), and humor (when something is correct from one perspective but clearly wrong from another perspective). These feelings tend to cause pleasure. Psychological feelings can be controlled by changing the appraisal. Much of anticipation is unconscious, causing pleasure to be associated with some events or things. Love may be unconscious anticipation due to an object (often a person).

Each of the feelings has a continuum of values and is best measured as real number. All but humor have negative values: negative anticipation is fear (when you expect pain), negative curiosity is avoidance of new situations, love--hate, achievement--guilt (when you did something wrong or did not overcome an obstacle), motivation--inhibition, and empathy--revenge (pleasant feeling when enemy is hurt). Feelings are usually composed of several of the basic feelings described above. For example, anger consists of pain, motivation, and revenge. Depression consists of pain, inhibition, and close to zero curiosity.

Each natural event is caused by other events and/or chance. Free will is the ability to choose an action. If all actions are caused by previous events or chance, the organism does not have ability to choose. Thus, free will cannot refer to natural events. Instead, free will refers to supernatural aspects of human thought and behavior. Therefore, free will cannot be explained scientifically.

Associations can be between two events (classical conditioning); or among a situation, an action, and a consequence (operant conditioning). When the observer is not involved in the events, the association is called observational learning. Observational learning is weaker than direct experience. Action is chosen based on associations between the action in the situation and pleasure (or pain) of the consequences. The associations are weakened by delay between action of the organism and consequences. Power of will is the ability to sacrifice pleasure temporarily for increase of pleasure later.

Below are several of the simple (and true) predictions of the model. If mathematics is taught by showing algorithms for each problem, students will find associations between problems and the solutions given; students will be able to solve the types of problems they studied but probably not other types of problems. Memories are retrieved when things connected with the memories are thought thus creating an association to retrieve the memory. Depressed people are more likely to recall sad feelings because of connection between being sad and sad feelings. A belief in rewards and punishments after death influences people with large power of will the most; for most people immediate reward is more important than an ambiguous reward promised to be given after death. From experience, good things cost much; high cost is associated with high quality, so high cost of clothes makes people think of the clothes as more beautiful. When a person sees his friends use and enjoy drugs (such as tobacco and alcohol), the person will associate the drugs with pleasure and is more likely to use the drugs. Viewing reinforcement of altruism creates an association between helping people and pleasure thus causing enjoyment of giving assistance and increased tendency to help. If most blacks encountered are stupid, a black is more likely to be treated as stupid.