The causes of violence

By Dr Graham R Little PhD AFNZIM

© 2005 Graham Little


Violence continues to be a major issue throughout the world. If the causes of violence could be identified then it would follow that by moderating those causes violent acts would decrease. Society would become less violent.

Currently there is much empirical evidence supporting the proposition that exposure to violence begets violence. There is also acceptance that models (theories) are useful tools for orientation to research and its coherent interpretation, and in the understanding forged by the integration of empirical data and theory creation of effective policy that will reduce violence.

This paper explores the notion that causes of violence can be identified and can be altered so that violent conduct is reduced. The approach is from within the overall model of the person developed by myself and contained in the papers at this web site

The conclusion is that from within the model the current causes of violence can be fully understood. That moderating social aspects of violence will be fraught with political tensions as the need to contain excesses of a few will clash with the rights of many. Further, that this approach cannot guarantee the reduction in violence.

The arguments from the model suggest that the immediate mediation of violence to which everyone is likely to agree is the thrust to develop better choices within the individual, the paper concludes with a summary of some of the practical ways that could be implemented.


Introduction. 2

The nature of cause. 3

Causality in human affairs. 4

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour 6

Explanation and causality of violence in humans. 7

Discussion of the causal model 8

Can we then decide cause?. 11

Can we socially moderate violence?. 12

Mediation of violence within the individual 12

Opportunities for mediation of violence in the individual 14

Violence references. 17



The aim of this paper is to provide a coherent model of violence enabling better interpretation of empirical data leading to effective policy formation for the progressive reduction of violence in society.

Empirical data abounds, all clearly describing the relationship of exposure to violence to subsequent enactment of violence. There are variations in the data between ethnic groups, but these do not specify some ethnic groups more susceptible rather it relates to issues of poverty, disenfranchisement and consequential problems of income, family and education. (See references 1 through 7.)

There is no question that reduction of violence is a social and political aim, the issue is ‘how?’

The issues of causality and models in interpreting violence, and I suggest in social science generally, is well put in the following quote.

“Ever since Herbert Packer published "Two Models of the Criminal Process" in 1964,(1) much thinking about criminal justice has been influenced by the construction of models. Models provide a useful way to cope with the complexity of the criminal process. They allow details to be simplified and common themes and trends to be highlighted. "As in the physical and social sciences, [models present] a hypothetical but coherent scheme for testing the evidence" produced by decisions made by thousands of actors in the criminal process every day.(2) Unlike the sciences, however, it is not possible or desirable to reduce the discretionary and humanistic systems of criminal justice to a single truth. Multiple models are helpful because "multiple versions of what is going on, existing side by side, may legitimately account in different ways for various aspects of the system's operation."(3) For thirty-five years now, the major models have been Packer's due process and crime control models.” (Reference 7)

I suggest it is reasonable to derive from this quote:

  1. Models are useful to research.
  2. Model creation in social science is difficult because of issues of multiplicity of causal factors.
  3. An effective model will enable better judgement and greater coherence than would occur in absence of a model.
  4. Finally - and this is a liberty - in the absence of definitive models that embrace issues of cause and its nature, variables of social science and their nature, and theory creation in social science, then it is best to carry forward multiple models enabling at least the bringing forward of the multiple factors.

I must state that I agree fully with the notion “it is not possible or desirable to reduce the discretionary and humanistic systems of criminal justice to a single truth” this could be rephrased as it is not possible or desirable to reduce the discretionary and humanistic systems of human causality to a single truth. I agree with both, one must relate to other, solve my expression of it, the latter, then you resolve the detail of criminal conduct. But I disagree with the option of carrying forward multiple models; such is not necessary if adequate theory creation processes are applied to the problem of causality in human affairs.

This paper is based on a model, a general theory of the person, which embraces all of the issues as outlined and definitively deals with them, it resolves the issue of cause, and knowledge and of theory in science then applies the tools to the issue of causality in the human-environment system (see for full and detailed description of the model).

This paper is offered tightly within the bounds of the causal theory of the person; the process is by way of deductive reasoning from within the bounds of the theory applying the theory to the issues of social violence. A full and detailed account can be offered of the causes of violence, and from the integration achieved, specific policy initiatives are offered for what would be agreed course of action in reducing violence.

The nature of cause

Cause is precisely defined as a relation between classes of relation between classes of event[1]. This means that if AèB is a regularly observed relationship between events A, and B, and if AèCèB is the mechanism of AèB, then this is described as the ‘cause’ of AèB. This analysis of cause gives rise to the universal mechanistic postulate, given in full in the papers analysing cause, which states in its reduced form ‘there is always a mechanism’.

The additional factor in cause is the start point; the cause of AèB is AèCèB which would appear to leave open the question ‘why A?’ The answer is that the cause of ‘A’ is AaèA, that is the cause of A is the system leading to A, this in turn caused by the system leading to it, etc. At all times there is necessarily an approximation to cause, since final cause implicates every event in the universe prior to, and leading to the event in question.

The general conceptual structures and relation are given precise form via the ultimate and immediate effects of W. Ross Ashby, in particular the arrow having a precise definition as “if a perturbation is applied to A, then the ultimate effect is a change in B” In this instance, the immediate effect of a change in A is a change in C, hence the ‘relation between classes of relation’ in the definition of cause is a ‘relation between ultimate and immediate effects’, which leads to a set of tools for establishing the mechanistic structures underlying events. The crucial postulate of the mechanistic postulate is then that there is no fundamental set of events, that is all events have precursors we are able to conceptualise using the tools, with the results that any AèC can be so analysed in AèDèC, and any AèD analysed into AèEèD, and so on, this creating another infinite regress with cause again being an approximation.

The results of these two circumstances is that ‘given A, then B’, with the cause being the mechanism through C. If this is not sufficient, then we may need to explore precursors to A, and explore further the underlying mechanistic structures between A and B, but eventually we will be able to say that the factors have reached a point that they make negligible contribution to our understanding of the causes of B.

There is no demand that cause operates in proximity; proximity is perhaps a function of some particular mechanism, but this would necessarily be described in the detailed analysis of the mechanism; the point is that proximity is not a function of cause, which can operate across the universe, provided there is a communication channel between the events.

Cause is however absolute, that is given A then B, every time; this is important since is separates out statistical relationships from causal relationships by an issue of principle. The mechanism cannot help itself, if the values of variables fall within certain ranges, the ‘A’, then B follows; the system cannot choose. In effect it is the mix of the values to the variables that chooses. In cases where variables are linked by statistical relationships so that A only gives B 15% of the time, then this is not cause, there is much more than A and B active in the system, with the statistics inferring that, and meaning we have not conceptualised the system with the aptness nor accuracy required. In short, statistical relations mask our ignorance.

Statistical relations need to be understood as follows:

  1. That there are many more routes between A and B, these routes determined by the precise details of A, or by the values of the variables within which A is necessarily embedded. In either case, we are not bringing these to account. For example:
    1. There are A1, A2, A3…, with each of details of A leading to a different route, with only one of those routes going to B. If we were merely observing A, without the detail, then we would see B occur ‘occasionally’, that is statistically.
    2. Alternatively there may be different E (E1, E2, E3…), where E is the environment of A, with say only E1 leading to B. Then again if we were merely observing A, and not A within E, or if we were not able to note the relationship A makes with E, such as in the case of a photon, then we would necessarily only have statistical relationships.
  2. This variability may occur at C that is in some intermediate state between A and B.  So that C may have a range of values, with only one or a few of those leading to B. Or alternatively, the environment in which C is embedded may influence the mechanism to B, and again if we not observing these, then we will be left with statistics.
  3. Finally, the variability may be in B, that is there may be variations in values those causing us not to see B, but to see D, or F, etc, or that the environment in which B embedded may influence the final value of B.

This understanding of cause is not obtuse or abstract, because all the empirical data relating environmental and psychological circumstances to acts of future violence is statistical, there are no definite causal linkages offered in any literature, because the literature does not have the causal models guiding its efforts and enabling it to make definite causal statements, which is what makes this paper unique. In understanding the data it is crucial to understand this important difference between cause and statistics.

Specifically, for example, exposure to violence is known to statistically result in increased risk of future violence. In the causal model I show that this statistical link is due to the exact variability discussed above, in that the mental structures arising from exposure to violence are greatly mediated by pre-existing mental structures (1b above), and that the violent act is mediated by various factors intermediate between the exposure and the action, such as the person choosing to not adopt violence (2 above), not to mention that the exact situation within which violent urges occur (3 above) such as the person to which violence is considered having more power.

Causality in human affairs[2]

The theory is summed in the diagram below. The diagram is precisely a diagram of immediate effects as derived from the system PersonçèEnvironment.

The terms are defined as follows

Key points relating to the theory are as follows.

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour

The model above is intrinsically conservative in the sense of people re-enacting pre-existing patterns of conduct. There are strong reasons for this conservatism, as I detail below.

All pre-existing mental sets are causal in that once initiated they occur without involvement of attention, they occur based on the neural flows. It is only the attention mechanism that can mediate a neural flow. Pre-existing mental sets if acted out, are exactly acting in ways the person has in the past.

Imagine an undesirable action:

These circumstances do add to change being difficult especially in adults. Second, that no matter the level of commitment or development of skill, there will be much ‘backsliding’ in attempts at change. Change will only succeed when the majority of mental sets reinforce the new actions, and there is the core of will to want the new actions, which is likely to entail self-images based on the new actions, not merely skills detached from self-images.

The analysis leads to the proposition that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Second, that moderating mental sets will have more influence if enabled early in development. Third, factors that reinforce moderating mental sets will enable use and application of those mental sets.

In practical terms this analysis means that for violent offenders:

  1. The rehabilitation programs as typically conducted will have markedly limited results since rehabilitation involves processes more akin to Alcoholics Anonymous, with extended life long processes entailing changes to all ones worldview and mental sets, supported by self-images built on the depth of desire to change.
  2. That the violent offender will typically re-offend.
  3. That understanding of adverse consequences can enable activation of moderating mental sets when they might otherwise not be active.

Background argument to these points is bought out below.

Explanation and causality of violence in humans

We can use model above, making it specific to violence such as below.

Mental sets are formed with the person that embraces the circumstances within which the person develops, and moderated by the person’s individual life and worldview choices. Some of these choices will contain violence that then becomes consolidated into mental sets within the person that if allowed would result in violent conduct.

It is important to understand this model; it is exactly as the equation for a pendulum to an actual pendulum, to find the period we must go a measure the length. So, for an actual person, we must use the model to review and research the actual mental sets, so here I have merely tried to make an example as fully illustrative as I can.

It must not be assumed that every violent person has mental set structures as portrayed; that would be to totally misinterpret the model. Every person will have his or her unique mental set structures, and these can only be established by discussion and analysis of the person. What I wish to convey is how the model can be used to create causal explanation, the form of the answer, for there is no one answer that will fit for all people, although there are patterns that emerge.

Discussion of the causal model

Overall features of the model show include the following.

The table below reviews and discusses each of the mental sets of diagram 6 – violence.

1.    RP1: the initiating event.

a. These could and do include the following:

i. Poverty and circumstances of depravation relative to others.

ii. Emotions arising from close relations, spouse, children, parents, and other relatives.

iii. Acceptance of violence within culture or sub culture.

iv. Disputes over assets.

v. Family history of violence.

b. There are likely many others, and each of these can be made more detailed and specific, but more detail etc, is not the point and misses the point. The relationship between these factors and actual violence can only be statistical, that is if a person falls into one of these categories there is a greater likelihood they will resort of violence. The question is ‘does this represent cause?’

c. Emotion, Thought, Attitude associated with the interpretation of the initiating event is immediately engaged.

d. From this, the other mental sets are then engaged, this can only occur via two feedback loops, first from the general level of energy and nature of RP1, this can then flow through the brain following the paths as directed by pre-existing brain structures, and so engage the other mental sets. Second, the person can actively seek interpretation through the attention mechanism, actively engaging with other mental sets in the search for interpretation and response.

e. In this example, only the first feedback loop is active that is there is no feedback loop from the Attention system to the reacting part of RP1, so the process within the person is substantially reactive (historical intent is being allowed or colluded with, since it is only by active engagement of attention is free will and choice engaged).

2.     RP2: the input mental set developed from cultural and social factors.

a. The key to understanding this mental set lies in the development of attitudes to violence; in short it is via this mental set that the person broadly develops their worldview as it relates to violence.

b. Contents of this mental set are developed over extended time and engagement with the cultural or sub-culture where there may be very mixed messages in relation to violence. It is not to be assumed that any direct En2 inputs are occurring at the same time as En1, the initiating event occurred, rather the inputs of En2 are to be seen as historical background inputs creating the world view and psychic structures within which events of En1 occurs.

c. In this example, say, the person is of a cultural group that passively condones violence, and has various world view cognitions that interpret the events of En1, the initiating events, as ‘wrong’, ‘biased’, ‘demeaning’, ‘violent’ etc.

3.    RP3: moral and conscious restraint.

a. En3 are those events and circumstances and inputs relating to moral and ethical restraint. Again, these environmental circumstances are historical inputs contributing to the worldview of the person and to the formation of what is popularly called conscience, ethics and integrity.

b. It is from these inputs that the person knows ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – noting these issues as socially and culturally bound.

c. An important aspect will be understanding and concern at the consequences of violent action, if it is seen as being effective or not, opportunity for immediate release, but the ongoing results are adverse, etc.

d. Understanding of alternative behavioural options will also influence the extent the violent actions are enacted.

e. In this particular example, this mental set contains Thought and no Emotion, the consequence is that it will have limited force or influence in shaping responses that are not moderated quite strongly by choice or free will in the form active attention.

f. Again, the conscience exercised is not necessarily free of emotion, if for example, there were emotional weight behind the ethical restraints, and then the overall response of violence would be a ‘balancing’ of for and against violence. Second, with substantial emotional content, then it would be expected the person would show remorse as the more rational mental sets asserted themselves and the consequences of the action was reflected upon.

g. The person with mental sets as above would likely show little remorse as regards the acts of violence in relation to the initiating events of En1, the person thus has limited restraint under circumstances of En1.

h. The lack of Emotion in RP3 does not mean the person has no conscience, it only means that the potential restraining factors in relation to the initiating events of En1 are likely to be less effective than they would be if the person had a greater investment in those factors by way of emotional commitment.

4.    RP4: the mental set through which the response occurs.

a. In this example the Attention system is passive, so the response of historical intent since only active Attention can establish current intent.

b. The mental set consists of Emotion and Attitude, so Thought and hence reflection is not part of the set. In this example, the person is then colluding with the urges within them, denying the application of free will.

5.   RP5: Contributing habits.

a. The key to understanding this mental set lies in the person’s behavioural history.

i. Do they have behavioural history of violence?

b. The behavioural history has formed habits of violence which are unconscious, containing no Thought or Emotion, they are merely ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, they are experienced as ‘urges’ arising from within the person, and depending on the world and understanding of the person of their own psyche and how it works, they may be seen as ‘spontaneous and true reflections of me and what is right for me’ (arising for example from the popular opinion often supported by more measured comment that spontaneity reflects the true person).

6.   RP6: Specific circumstances similar to En1 contributing to the experience of En1.

a. For example the mental set created by:

i. Beatings as child with feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, injustice, and the need to flee to protect oneself.

ii. Experience of poverty and the despair of it.

iii. Experience of being robbed, or cheated.

b. The feelings generated contribute to the overall experience.

7.   En7: is understanding of the consequences.

a. En7 is part of mental sets RP1.

b. Specifically, circumstances of En7 can add weight to the restraining forces of RP3. For example:

i. A manager may restrain from verbal attack on a subordinate on the understanding of that while they may ‘get it off their chest’, it will not get the job done, and could easily lead to personal grievance.

ii. Or, robbing that old person in that location would mean certain capture and punishment best avoided, or the person I am confronting is more powerful than me.

Can we then decide cause?

Did the person do it:

It is not possible to reduce the model to a single factor; causality in human affairs is not that simple. It is also not possible as a matter of principle to determine the ‘cause of violence’ in a society or some group in society.  There are statistical methods that offer propositions that people with certain histories and associations are statistically more likely to be violent. But the crucial point is that this is not cause, merely statistical relations between different groups in society. Being precise within the model, then people with certain histories and associations causally could have one, some or all of:

As made clear by the model, such dispositions do not causally lead to violence since the final enactment of violence involves many more mental sets within the person than those derived from prior experience with violence.

From a legal point of view the issue is ‘did the person have a choice?’ In all possible cases, the answer is ‘yes they did’. There are only three situations that enable mitigation.

Can we socially moderate violence?

The model offers conflicting views and as such tends to reflect the known reality, for example.

The model cannot determine between these social choices about guns. Both positions are strictly correct and both are part of the causality of violence as it arises in the model. The first proposition places emphasis on the choices every person is capable of making in the use of guns, the second places emphasis on the environment and social circumstances and implies that mediating these factors will reduce violence through mediation of the mental sets related to violence.

Arguments such as those about guns thus are not psychological arguments but social and political, reducing to the issue: if some minority of the population fail in their restraints about the use of guns, should the majority be restricted by legislation in their ability to own guns to contain the excesses of that minority? I offer no resolution to this question, it is an issue that can and must be dealt with within the political structures and norms of the society.

The model can be read as positing that a society that accepts guns without the people in the society assuming accountability and restraint that goes with such a choice, can reasonable expect the use of guns to increase in disputes, and while the overall level of violence may not increase, the intensity of the violence will. Examples would be the numerous nations where guns suddenly proliferate without development of any of the moral background to moderate the use of guns; such places are inevitably violent to a degree that makes say, American circumstances appear serene. In America there is a strong moral underpinning involving guns, and it is this that mediates the use of guns, although it can still be argued gun use should be reduced further by containing the distribution of guns.

I do not wish to enter any gun debate, but guns are a clear and direct example of how the model can be applied and the nature of the answers it will produce. I suggest that other factors offering social mediation of violence would lead to similar political and social choices and tensions, for example reducing violence in advertising, and on TV would lead to identical arguments as for guns.

The social mediation of violence will be politically difficult and potentially in conflict with other social factors, such as freedom of choice and the right of choice, or freedom of speech. There are no right or wrong options as these issues arise in the model of causality in human affairs because both sides, of say the gun debate or the violence on TV debate, are strictly correct, and no decision can be made on the grounds of psychological causality because data will always be found to support both sides of the debate.

Mediation of violence within the individual

The model shows that both environmental factors and factors internal to the person play their role in violence. The impact of the environment is not immediately causal, rather it leads to intermediate psychic structures I call mental sets, which at its simplest leads to urges to act violently and/or erodes the restraints from other aspects of social and cultural and moral conditioning that might otherwise contain the urges to violence and lead to alternative actions.

Curbing the social and environmental factors that induce the undesirable mental sets inevitably requires some form of social control which can lead to political tensions as some seek the controls for what they see as high moral motives, while others see only what to them are unnecessary restrictions on their right to choose. In rather simple summary, curbing the factors that could induce urges to violence is to seek to curb complexity in the person, and ensure direct and more socially acceptable actions.

The alternative approach to dealing with the issue is to focus on the structures within the person, it is the reverse of controls in that rather than reducing the options in the person by eliminating those derived from ‘undesirable’ factors we focus on extending the range of options available to the person, ensuring they have the skills and the will to make better choices.

I must declare a certain personal preference at this point. I believe that social causality lies in collective personal causality, a society without people is not a society at all, it is merely a collection of artefacts, often leaving us wrestling with the interpretation of what they were for. All causal dynamics of society in groups and associated systems is via individual human actions. The consequence of these arguments means that such as Marx, focused as he was on social causality seen as independent of individual causality, is little more than historical interest, an early and pioneering thinker, but sadly inadequate in his grasp of cause and its impact and manner of that impact in human affairs.

If society is to develop, we as people need develop, and social development is in fact prefaced on the sum of our individual development. Hence I tend to favour actions that extend, and tend to oppose those that restrict. The future of the human spirit lies in aptness of personal choice amid the untidy clutter of social complexity, we need go forward not back if humankind is to be all it is able to be.

The aim of efforts to mediate violence by development of the individual is two fold:

  1. To develop in the person insight, skills and aptitude with alternative courses of action so that while dispositions to violence will remain as is, there are also more fully developed alternatives within the psychic structures.
  2. To provide a stronger more rounded worldview that despite any condoning of violence in his or her own group sees the application of violence as the inappropriate act of a loser, at very least the person has the depth and breadth of judgement to determine when and when not to adopt postures of violence. Aims that seek to develop and broaden the person’s ability to judge, to develop more and more effective lines of action for any given situation, and that consolidate the use of reflective Thought in determining action and assessing outcomes of actions are likely to be acceptable to all, hence do not adversely cut across other, equally commendable social aims and processes.

Moderation will only occur when:

I suggest there is much able to be done that falls well within the approach as outlined, whether or not these action would mediate violence to levels desired remains to be seen, but the process of curbing those factors is equally no sure route to reduction of violence, evidenced in the fact that those not subject to the violent predispositions may be violent, and those that are subject, are not always violent. Many, many factors can go into the final enactment of any behaviour including violence, and frequently any one of those factors is able to provide the driving force to restrain the behaviour given the individual will to do so.

Opportunities for mediation of violence in the individual

1.  Education and development of alternative mental sets.

a. I encountered a program called ‘Skippy’s friends’ at the World Mental Health Federation conference two years ago. Here, a program was offered new entrants at school, 5-7 year olds, on how to deal constructively with everyday social events and tensions. Initial data was very positive. This type of activity fits exactly with the model, where mental sets are being developed offering alternatives whereby daily events can be managed, this also building self-esteem and confidence.

b. There is no reason why such coaching and programs could not be offered at every level right through university, and even adult programs.

2.   Promotion and development of positive mental health.

a. Other than the models offered here and through the web site I know of no other definition of mental health that does not resort to ‘absence of mental illness’. This has to be a dreadfully inadequate conception of mental health.

b. A prescriptive definition of mental health implies a manner of functioning of the psychological processes within the person, so that the following applies in a mentally healthy person. The following is the definition of mental health as it arises from within the model (see the papers at the site for more detailed discussion).

i. Integration: There is an integrated quality to their thoughts and attitudes giving rise to a consistency in their reactions across various situations.

1. The person has no extreme mental sets, with the overall pattern of their psychic structure exhibiting an integrated quality, with a balanced relationship between attitudes and reactions in one mental set as compared to another.

2. Nouskills will enable the identification of extremes and the developing of self-statements, self-arguments and attitudes that moderate the extremes and provide the balance.

ii. Poise: Within the functioning of a person’s life there are no great swings of mood, emotion or attitude that are not related to events of significance to them.

1. Follows in part from effective integration, and further supported by nouskills that enable self-management of states and development of a calmer demeanour when under stress and pressure of circumstance. Also indicative of integration, with no extreme mental sets.

iii. Transitions: There is an ease of transition from one role to the next.

1.They have the skills to shift from one role to another, to allow transitions between mental sets that do not exhibit marked breaks of conduct.

c. It is suggested this positive definition be adopted, and appropriate educational programs then developed that so focus people on the stability, content and overall quality of their own mental state.

i. Suitable programs could be offered from early childhood education through university and through adult continuing education and development.

ii. Programs would necessarily focus on development and insight into nouskills as the primary tool whereby people can mange their own psyche.

iii. These program would necessarily embrace the types of causal model and understanding of human psychology as a necessary base to providing the person with the understanding that they can restrain and moderate their own urges and in fact it is only they who can, and if they do then a better, more fulfilling life will eventuate.

3. Use of advertising to promote and convey the appropriate messages consistent with the above educational programs.

a. The advertising support should focus on permission giving, ideally in a direct, non-moralistic way.

b. We today promote tolerance of mental illness, yet we offer nothing on the development of greater mental health.

i. I go as far to suggest that promoting and developing better understanding of our psyche and how it works, the causal models as developed here, would go along way to moderating and gaining acceptance of people who are mentally ill. In short, goals of acceptance would be better achieved for mental illness by developing in people better understanding of mental health, and that mentally ill people can be spiritually sound, but bounded by their illness.

c. Use of advertising as well to stress on people that issues of violence in society are not things that belong or can be dealt with by ‘them’. We each are in some part accountable for our society, and what happens in it. We cannot have our own way, and we need to better accept and live with the diversity, and what for one is proper restriction for another is an imposition they will never accept. We need understand how our personal choices are part of overall social development and we need to challenge people hard on these issues in the manner we challenge over issues such as driving habits.

4. Improvement in counselling options and delivery, supported by advertising and registration of practitioners.

a. There is much in psychology that is simply intellectual nonsense.

b. Choices need made on what is and is not causal in human affairs. Again, I know of no model that is as thorough as the one offered. And while it may be in error in some details, the manner of its construction cannot be wrong. It is time that someone somewhere made some serious decisions on these issues since for now we do not much more than waddle about complaining of this and that, with not serious action on issues and actions that could help develop the better society.

c. People need to be confident that what they offered is effective, they need first to understand how they work, and the limits and strengths of how they may mediate themselves. People need to understand they need to develop alternative means (nouskills) enabling a broader range of options for themselves.

5. Recognition of the causal reality that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and that there will be no change in behaviour without deep conviction in the person to change.

a The process of change is well known and understood by Alcoholics Anonymous. They know that until the person hits bottom in their own eyes change is moot, no matter the protestations or apparent enthusiasm.

b. It is about time this was recognised by prison programs and the like, rehabilitation is moot without deep and serious conviction on the part of the person; such commitment I call a spiritual commitment.

i. Much less ‘belief in the inherent goodness’ of humankind, and more faith in hard edged change processes based on the reality of causality and what change really needs to be successful in a person. This debate a mixed and confused understanding of psychological causality and the need to be a humane society and of being seen to be humane.

6.   Better use of consequences to drive personal restraint.

a. The likelihood of being caught, and the likely consequences, both in terms of punishment and social consequences, can and will impact the extent that the person implements social demands for restraint.

b. Using the example above RP3, the person has no emotion associated with the moral and ethical constraints as required by society, hence the implementation will lack force and intensity within their psyche.

c. The likelihood of capture and the nature of the consequences can provide a level of concern and anxiety where none might otherwise exist. There is mixed evidence that increased sentences will reduce crime. I do not think on its own it will, but the issue does have its place in proper causal understanding of human activity.

d. While reduction in violence is the aim, this cannot be guaranteed by any environmental action, and this includes increased sentencing. However, causally we are able to state that by ensuring effective use of consequences we will build in people mental sets with stronger potential for restraint.

i. We need understand however, that the application of this constraint occurs within a complex structure of mental sets, and without effective balance and development within the system, it can and will be of little consequence or influence in moderating violence.

ii. We need understand the complexity of causality in humans and implement programs better integrated with that understanding so enabling in people the balance that leads to moderation.

e. As a minimum I think we need do better analysis of sentencing in light of objective understanding of the causal structures and be less swayed by analyses based on social philosophical views on the inherent goodness of people; the issue raises the fundamental problem with any and all environmental actions designed to curb psychological tendencies, namely that there are always issues in conflict, in this case it is use of punishment set against concerns for being a humane society.

The model strongly infers that the greatest percentage of offenders will re-offend, that even very high quality rehabilitation programs will likely be effective only on a minority of offenders. The aim must be to attack the core psychic structures in those young enough to be influenced, for a sufficient time as to moderate first offending (building and extending the efforts such as Skippy’s friends). Use of this overall program would aim to progressively reduce ‘new’ offenders, so that over time total offending will eventually reduce. This package of activities is no ‘quick fix’, and for greatest effectiveness needs enacted as an overall, coherent strategic effort over quite long periods, if not becoming an aspect of the overall ‘flavour’ of a free, democratic society.

It is my firm opinion arising from this analysis that there is much we can do that we do not yet do, or do very well. If we really want a free and open society with less violence, I see us having little choice but to move down the path I have outlined with greater conviction and application.

Violence references

1.      Violence!: Our Fastest-Growing Public Health Problem. John Langone. Little, Brown. Boston. 1984.

2.      Understanding Violence. Elizabeth Kandel Englander. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, NJ. 1997.

3.      Violence and the Prevention of Violence. Editors: Leonore Loeb Adler, Florence L. Denmark. Praeger Publishers. Westport, CT. 1995.

4.      Knives, Guns, and Interparent Violence: Relations with Child Behavior Problems. Ernest N. Jouriles, Renee McDonald, William D. Norwood, Laura Collazos Spiller, Paul R. Swank, Holly Shinn Ware. Journal of Family Psychology. Volume: 12. Issue: 2. 1998. Page 178.

5.      Impact of Exposure to Community Violence on Violet Behavior and Emotional Distress among Urban Adolescents. Steven E. Bruce, Albert D. Farrell. Journal Title: Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. Volume: 26. Issue: 1. 1997. Page 2.

6.      Witnessed Community Violence and Antisocial Behavior in High-Risk, Urban Boys. Deborah Gorman-Smith, Dimitra Kamboukos, Laurie S. Miller, Richard Neugebauer, Gail A. Wasserman. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. Volume: 28. Issue: 1. 1999. Page 2.

7.      Four Models of the Criminal Process: Kent W. Roach; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 89, 1999


[1] See the full analysis of cause at

[2] See the papers at the web site for full development of the model of causality, knowledge that underlies this general theory of the person.

[3] Ashby, W. Ross, Design for a brain, Chapman Hall, London 1960.

[4] I have shown that ideas do shape mood and conduct; it follows that humans are subject to self-fulfilling tendencies. Much of our understanding of our psychology was and still is derived from quite inadequate models in religion and poor theories, such as Freud’s. If we believe there is a soul and this directs how we act and feel, expresses ‘us’, then we are not especially likely to manage ourselves with any great intensity. Or, if we believe the mind is separate from the body, then some people will act and talk consistent with that, whether or not it is objectively true. In short, our model of our self will feedback via and have a self-fulfilling quality on our mood and conduct.