Tag Archives: Freud

It’s Not All About Sex: Freud’s Myopic Focus

If behavior is a set of inkblots, Sigmund Freud seems to have found sexual content in almost all of them. A number of his contemporary fans continue the trend.

Why does a man smoke a cigar? Well, it could be an oral fixation or evidence of latent homosexuality. Why would a woman? Penis envy.  Why would a single guy buy a speedboat? To impress the ladies with his slick phallic symbol. Why would a woman buy speedboat? Call it sexual confusion.

To these folks, human behavior is all about sex and mating, all about libido in its many wildly disguised forms.

Even before becoming more consistently scientific in my orientation, I had doubts about the sexual-concerns-reside-beneath-everything generalization. In fact, and somewhat ironically, as I’ve studied some primatology over the past decade, my perspective has actually shifted away from seeing our kind as less-hairy but just as horny apes with mating always on our minds. Instead I see a social animal very concerned with “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” To put it in the words of the title to Dale Carnegie’s famous book.

We are social creatures who display a great proclivity for generating implements and inventing behaviors that help us thrive in our social environments: achieving and defending status (and undermining competitors’ as well), in forming and maintaining alliances that are presently strategic or more of an investment in a potential future social pay-off, AND raising, protecting, and best providing for our children.

A recent, loosely scientific study got me thinking about this. Particularly about the children part. Yes, we do a lot for them. Why? Well, sure, they carry our genes. The how, however, is perhaps the more interesting question. And it may shed some light on the why.

Consider the semi-corny title, subtitle and first paragraph of this Eurekalert news release –

Brain size and a trip to Disneyland: How parental concerns could increase the size of our creative brains

Evidence from Disneyland suggests that human creativity may have evolved not in response to sexual selection as some scientists believe but as a way to help parents bond with their children and to pass on traditions and cultural knowledge, a new study published in the inaugural issue of the International Journal of Tourism Anthropology suggests.

Of course, the why of creativity is not an either-or proposition. Either it is to entice the ladies and gentlemen into getting down or dirty, or it’s a means by which parents pass on cultural learning and perhaps greater social fitness of children.

But the article does shed light on what is very evident in contemporary society: Trips to Disneyworld, piano lessons, soccer league membership, outings to museums, toys galore–parents do a lot to educate their children and excite their minds. Why? Not just to give them a leg-up on their future competition at getting their genes in the proverbial gene-pool. To set them on their way to being successful members of their social groups.

Yes, part of that is to assure they one day will be attractive to members of the opposite sex. But there is more to it than that. Quite a bit more.