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The Self-Enjoyment Paradox: 
In Search of Csikszentmihalyi’s Radical Remedy

This was originally written for Washington State University’s PSYCH-384 Course under Alexandra Stubblefield.


A poison dart frog ascends a tree, carrying a young tadpole on its back. A young artist rushes, nearly late for class, navigates dingy and squealing subways, seas of yellow cabs flowing through streets, and rivers of humanity hyper focused on reaching their destinations across sidewalks through Manhattan. A carpenter places stock between a spindle and tailstock quill on a lathe, turning to activate the machine, and readies a tool to realize a perceived design. When thinking back to the phenomenological experiences of daily activities, for example, when putting one’s shoes on, where is the sense of “self”? Does one think, “now I will move the left finger to the right to touch and sense the texture, to grab the thread?” Most likely not. What is revealed in such a hypothetical situation is that while “I will” was momentarily communicated, sensory-motor activity is oft in flight, sans notions of self. This reality is highly experienced in sports, art, analysis, and many activities where increasing skill meets up with increasing challenge—the foundation of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, had called “flow”.

Csikszentmihalyi’s main research area of forty years explored “cultural evolution, play, and adolescent development” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014a, p. ix). His early life, he had been driven through experience of World War II, to find a “radical” remedy for the “systemic fault in the human condition” (p. xiii). The main body of Csikszentmihalyi’s work focused on “psychic energy, or attention” (p. xv). This work explored enjoyment and creativity beyond the work of prior psychological theorists, and it was this work that resulted in two days of conversation with Martin Seligman after a chance encounter in Kona Village, Hawaii in the 1990s (Claremont Graduate University, 2021). The results of this meeting are sensed Seligman’s 1998 APA Presidential address, that positive psychology is “a reoriented science that emphasizes the understanding and building of the most positive qualities of an individual: optimism, courage, work ethic, future-mindedness, interpersonal skill, the capacity for pleasure and insight, and social responsibility” (APA, 2008). Today, Csikszentmihalyi’s findings on human capacity for flow have been called “the secret to happiness” and it is backed by both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Yet, while qualitative and quantitative self-reports are one thing, neuroscience is another—what is flow within perception, and more so, what is operating at a neurophysiological level that “creates” it?

What is Flow?

To be blunt, flow is defined as optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014c, p. 212), which is associated with optimizing experiences of goal directed behavior that produces positive affect (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014d, p. 206). Yet Csikszentmihalyi’s studies examined not generalized goals like completing a college degree, but examined right down into the weeds of experience, in flight, solving challenges, even right down to making coffee, or washing a spoon. In terms of positive psychology, ordered information flow (i.e., sensory perceptions) leads an ordered consciousness, where ordered consciousness is associated with optimal experience—the “‘bottom line’ of existence” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014c, p. 209-211). Csikszentmihalyi’s research defines flow as the optimal experience of opportunity and ability from the perspective of a researcher, and anxiety and boredom from an experience perspective (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014c, p. 212). Flow is correlated to a dimension of comfortable pleasure to strenuous enjoyment (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014c, p. 230). Yet, while clearly relatable, a paradoxical finding had found that those “in flow” lack perception of self (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014b, p. 141; Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 2014, pp. 221-223). Flow was discovered to nourish self, but self “destroys enjoyment” (p. 223). Csikszentmihalyi offers an Occam’s explanation:

Only when actions depart from expectations, when unlikely intentions are fulfilled, does an “I” become justified as an explanatory construct. In subjective experience at least, the free self becomes a reality when action bears witness to its existence… After successfully coping with unlikely challenges, the “I” might reappear in consciousness as the “me.” But it is a different “me” from what it had been before; it is now stronger and more competent (Smith, 1968, 1978; White 1959). (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014b, p. 223; citations preserved)

Paradox oft is a result of unexamined assumptions (a play on Goldratt’s theory of constraints), and it is these that concealing additional relationships. As to examination, Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi (2000) challenged the field to explore the “neurochemistry and anatomy of flow” (p. 12). Positive psychology research is awash in numerous studies, and many more continue to date, yet it may be worth taking up the challenge to execute a literature review of the neurophysiology of the paradox of flow and self-concept (herein the self-enjoyment paradox [SEP]) and offer an assessment of future applications.

Literature Review

It is worth reviewing neurophysiological aspects of the components of the SEP of self-nourishment (identity nourishment [i.e., nutriment]) and self-induced-enjoyment-destruction (i.e., suffering). There is ongoing extensive research in self-concept perception as it relates to psychology and neurology. Yet, as flow is a relatively new concept, there is less neurophysiological research into perceptive “ordered information flow”. That said, within the constraints of SEP, the evidence that flow is absent self-concept, whereas the recollection of self-concept destroys flow, leads a researcher to investigate neuro-intercorrelates of self-concept and flow. It is difficult to execute a literature review on SEP itself, due to a lack of research in this area, however one may investigate how and where self-concept and flow interact, or rather, how self-concept and flow moderate each other, if there is moderation at all, or if there are iterations of moderation occurring where select permutations demonstrate selectivity? In the pursuit of “ordered information flow” (it’s happening in the construction of this literature review), four categories around the topic of main concern will be sampled from literature, 1) neurophysiology of self-reference (i.e., self-concept), 2) neurophysiology of flow, 3) flow associated neurophysiology, and 4) an analysis of SEP and neurophysiology. In final discussion, some observations, research questions, and implications will be considered.

Neurophysiology of Self-Reference


First, as it is evidenced that self-concept is paradoxically absent in flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014b, pp. 141-142), it is valuable to review existing literature regarding neurocorrelates of self-concept as an activity of self-referencing. The depths to which one processes information yields stronger recall (i.e., memory), this is known as the­ depth of processing (DOP; Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Self-reference yields strong DOP, demonstrating enhanced recall, otherwise known as the self-reference effect (SRE; Higgins & Bargh, 1987; Symons & Johnson, 1997). SRE has roots in research on “self-reference as an encoding device” (Rogers et al., 1977, p. 679). SRE had been studied with clever experiments using response-time tests to adjectives etc., to explore research questions.


Numerous researchers have demonstrated that the cortical midline structures (CMSs) of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and posteromedial cortices (PMCs) are central to self-reference (Christoff et al., 2009; Kelley et al., 2002, Moran et al., 2006; Northoff et al., 2006; Schmitz et al., 2004). Compelling research from Philippi et al. (2012) had discovered that those with lesions in the mPFC had destroyed SRE. A later study by Dégeilh et al. (2015) found that the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) plays central role to adolescent self-reference.

There is research that attempts to resolve some doubt as to the function of the mPFC, ACC, and PMCs. Araujo et al. (2013) attempted to differentiate self-referencing by employing meta-analysis of self-traits and other-traits using response-time tests across 28 publications and 31 studies with different participants (pp. 1-2). Araujo et al.’s findings found that while self-traits activated the mPFC, other-traits activated the mPFC as well, though to a lesser degree (p. 7). In Amodio & Frith’s (2006) review of literature, it is proposed that ventral mPFC is activated in self-referencing, and dorsal mPFC is activated for other[-referencing]. That said, considering the extensive results and meta-analysis, including Araujo’s findings, the mPFC, ACC, and PMCs are evidenced neurocorrelates of self-referencing, and this is sufficient for the purpose of investigating SEP. In this regard, mPFC, ACC, and PMCs activation is expected to be attenuated during flow.

Neurophysiology of Flow


Early flow research relied on self-reports, namely the experience sampling method (ESM) (Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014; Csikszentmihalyi, 2014c). These self-reports are valuable in providing both qualitative and quantitative data (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 2014), where its ESM was/is used for heuristic use in describing patterns of individual daily experiences, evaluating common experiences of situations, and studying emotional dynamics and “other subjective states” (p. 49). ESM reports allowed the discovery of nine dimensions that moderates flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), these nine dimensions had been categorized as antecedent, experience character, and consequence (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1992). Antecedents of flow are 1) equalized challenge and skill, 2) clarified goals, and 3) feedback[ed] was given immediately (Hancock et al., 2019, p. 102836). Experiences of flow are 4) focusing concentration, 5) merging activity and awareness, and 6) controlling of outcome (p. 102836). Consequences of flow are 7) time distortion, 8) self-awareness loss, and 9) intrinsic reward (i.e., autotelicism; p. 102836). Self-awareness loss concomitant with flow is assumed in SEP, it is reasonable to assume that of the nine dimensions, that the self-awareness loss is required. In this regard, where quantitative neurophysiological is expected to attenuate mPFC activity, and possibly additionally moderate ACC, and/or PMCs activity.


It is worth considering physiology with respect to flow, before entering neurological studies. Early psychophysiological studies of flow from de Manzano et al. (2010) used non-invasive measures of muscle tone, head movements, thoracic respiration, and heart period and blood pressure (p. 304); results found decreased heart period, increased smile (i.e., zygomaticus major/the smile muscle [p. 303]), increased respiration depth, decreased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), decreased cardiac output (increased heart period [HP], and decreased systolic blood pressure [BP]), decreased full-width-at-half-maximum (FWHM), decreased maximum blood pressure (MaxP), and decreased MaxP-minimum blood pressure (MaxP-MinP; p. 306; [p. 306]). Keller et al. (2011) measured heart rate variability and salivary cortisol; results found decreased heart rate and variability and mental workload (p. 852; [p. 850]). While useful to infer some aspects of flow from a physiological measures, this leaves weaker inferences as to neurology, which later studies address.


Ulrich et al. (2013) used arithmetic tasks to induce flow (p. 195) while under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with arterial spin labeling (ASL; p. 195). This research found increased blood flows in the left putamin, increased flow in the left inferior frontal gyrus (lIFG), increased blood flow in the posterior cortical regions (PCR), significantly decreased blood flow in the mPFC, and significantly decreased blood flow in the left amygdala (p. 199). These findings of significant decrease in mPFC neural activity corresponds with expected attenuation of self-concept/self-referencing.

Flow Associated Neurophysiology

Self-Reference and Sensorimotor Processing

Regarding SEP of self-referencing absent flow, there are additional studies that are related. Early studies have found that self-referential activity is stimulus independent (Teasdale et al., 1995, Antrobus et al., 1970). This has been confirmed by Goldberg et al. (2006), through research on self-introspection and sensorimotor categorization tasks, having found evidence of segregation between cortical regions responsible for each task (p. 330). As with other studies, during introspection Goldberg et al. found activation in the mPFC and lateral aspects of the PFC, with activation favoring the left hemisphere (p. 332). This activation was markedly diminished during sensorimotor processing (p. 337), in agreement with Kelley et al. (2002) and an additional study from Gusnard et al. (2001). Considering evidence of the absence of self during flow, and that sensorimotor activation also demonstrates an absence of self-related cortical regions, it may be helpful to explore some additional tangential areas associated with flow.

Tangential Areas of Flow

Enjoyment. One of the fundamental benefits of flow is its proportionality to enjoyment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975; Jackson et al. 2008). Jo et al. (2019) had used a series of Google images associated with intrapersonal happiness, interpersonal happiness, and 200 neutral events, requesting participants to evaluate induced happiness and happiness of those in the images (p. 3). Jo et al. found wellbeing-related regions of the CMS’s mPFC, pregenual ACC (pACC), and PCC/Precuneus (p. 7). It is notable that the dopamine reward system (DRS) had not showed activation, namely the ventral tegmental area (vTA), nucleaus accumbens (NAcc), and putament, etc., however additional modeling did reveal nAcc activation and its association with reward seed systems (p. 7).

Depth of Processing (DOP). As SRE demonstrates increased recall, it is worth exploring the DOP model from a neurophysiological perspective. Otten et al. (2001) studied DOP through a recognition memory test of 280 words shown after either a prestimulus cue of “O” or “X” indicating semantic (animacy; deep encoding) or non-semantic (alphabetic; shallow encoding) properties, followed by a test for recall (p. 401). Semantic word recall was associated with the left inferior frontal gyrus, and the anterior and posterior left hippocampus, where non-semantic word recall was the left anterior hippocampus (p. 405). Notably, after investigating subsequent memory effects, the ventral left front cortex demonstrates increased activation (p. 405). 


Ulrich et al.’s (2013) finding of decreased blood flow (i.e., less mPFC effort) in the mPFC during flow is congruous to mPFC’s established central role in SRE. This is additionally congruous with Gusnard et al. (2001), Kelley et al. (2002), and Goldberg et al. (2006) demonstrated segregation between self-reference and sensorimotor processing. Effecively the physiology of SEP is established physiologically. Additionally, when considering studies of enjoyment with respect to neurophysiology, well-being is associated with the CMS activity and the DRS (Jo et al., 2019). As flow is associated with decreased activation in CMS (namely mPFC), the knowledge that mPFC is activated in wellbeing demonstrates additional paradoxical effects in flow, which may lead to some questions as to how and when wellbeing is assessed. Considering research starting initially with ESM relied on interruption, it is possible that the interruption to complete an ESM self-report cued physiological response that changed states from sensorimotor processing to self-reference.


There is a great deal to comment on here beyond the scope of this literature review. Thera are many research questions relating to potential “selfing” bias in ESM and Flow State Scale (FSS; Jackson & Eklund, 2004) measures. Is it possible that enjoyment occurs through oscillations between flow and self-referencing (i.e., possibly emotion [e.g., joy]), is this oscillation parallel or serial? Additional literature review recommended to examine self-reference and enjoyment. Considering Dégeilh et al.’s (2015) revelation that SRE “seems to be a consequence of better encoding of the information than processes taking place during recogntion” (p. 1975; emphasis added), this adds weight the concept of self-nourishment. Given the role of the CMS and mPFC in self-reference, is it possible that the “self” is a misnomer? It seems the CMS may be responsible for a sensorimotor-reference effect rather than self-reference effect. This seems to better align behaviorist and humanist perspectives.

To continue, a kind of meta-top to bottom processing is at play, perhaps recollection of self, destructive of enjoyment, is due to flow-interruptive speech related areas (i.e., traditionally seen as Broca’s and Wernick’s areas) which produce neurosynaptic impulses as a result of sensorimotor phoneme formations of “I” and “self”. As tightly bound to language, self-recollection is socially conditioned, and reinforced through childhood development. Earlier self-recollections used in language used in socially dependent situations (i.e., when developing skills), are no longer needed when skills are sufficient. Does an adult need to tell their mother “I’m doing my homework?” No. An adult just does it (or not, depending on development). As an adult navigating the world, or a member navigating a skilled community, no-longer useful schemas and their associated events scripts can be detrimental to tasks at hand. 

This does not just apply to the fields of psychology, because if this is that case, then what if descriptive sciences themselves are obfuscating higher realizations (it’s happened before) by holding back an as yet developed community of practice, of language (i.e., practice domain) that directly modulates local distributions of distal to proximal (i.e., world) senses sans self? These questions also bring to light additional physiological aspects of the working memory model (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974), and quite possibly physiological aspects of Freud’s original ideation of the pleasure principal and reality principal (here uncompressed for purposes of what’s about to be mentioned).

Maslow’s (1943) self-actualization is better titled flow-actualization; “self” is but a mere artifact not of neurology, but language. Pre-conceived language in literature primes for self-reference. Evidence of the SRE seems to have inspired tremendous efforts to empower memory through persistent social selfing in pursuit of personal gains—self destroys flow. It appears that overcompensation to improve memory through SRE manipulation is all over business, academia, media, and politic; overextending self/I/me through questionnaires, self-reports, diagnostics, case studies, analysis, interpretation, peer-review, practice, leadership, politics, mental health, and education. A core variable of experience is that which leads to the destruction of enjoyment is the very thing increasingly dominating social discourse—self, and its sibling, other, and its in-group, us, implying them. Another way to say this, is to enjoin another field in entirety, that of linguistic anthropology: the sign of self is linguistically relative to a destruction of cultural, linguistic, and cognitive enjoyment (i.e., optimal experience). Unfortunately, the profit of destruction is in re-construction. More research is suggested to understanding SEP through uncovering neurocorrelates of self and self-associated perceptions. It would be nice to look back having born witness to a “radical remedy before the Four Horseman saddled up again” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014a, p. xiii)—the remedy, or weapon, is the language science leads society with, or against, itself.


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Linguistic Anthropology: On Bodine’s (1975) Prescient “They”


Having born witness to a rapid adoption of “they” in preferred gender pronouns in the past decade through prior management in a digital marketing agency, currently operating as a General Manager/Chief Executive Officer in a LGBTQ+ supporting organization, and in friendships spanning the same, if not years prior for some outliers, the use of “they/them” as singular pronouns has been an interesting progression. That said, the question as to the use of the pronouns is nuanced, where linguistic anthropology has already “tapped the egg”, revealing something akin to a bursting of a bubble of male dominant ethnocentrist grip on social mores in conditioning language competencies and performances. From the field of linguistic anthropology, Ann Bodine’s (1975) study on “prescriptive grammar movements” concomitant with the diminishment of “they” due to “social motivations” is quite revealing of the context within which language will/is/had shift|ing>|ed>1. This shift may be akin to both the artificial and natural selectivity in biological sciences. Herein, it is proposed that a “grip” on cultural performances is backpropagated2 to operant conditioning of competencies and performances simply as a result of institutionally systematized excuses3 for cultural preferences in these. 

An Occam’s Razor to “They”

To summarize, it is entirely possible, in the Occam’s approach, that the use of “they” in LGBTQ+ communities of practice sharing in a practice of identity exploration, is most likely a “return to the middle” from a period of at attempt to constrain language use in culturally emergent democracies. Early efforts as revealed by Bodine, may reveal through subsequent study, combined with psychological and sociological theory, that constraints on linguistic freedom in speaker pronouns simply lead to reactance and a behavior attempting to recover freedom in sexual behaviors (see psychological reactance theory [PRT; Brehm, 1966]) resulting in a sudden burst through glass ceilings of attempted simplifications of social structures via institutional influence in moving toward rigid dichotomous world views through its associated rigid dichotomous language, due to a simple psychological reality of a fundamental attribution error (Jones & Harris, 1967; Ross, 1977) attributing male dominant ethnocentric successes to dispositions of dichotomous affects, thoughts, and behaviors (i.e., attitudes) rather than the fact that they (ha!) had been situationally privileged by mere starting conditions of planetary human profligation anchoring4 these attitudes, and adjusting them toward greater and greater dichotomies as pressured by democratic processes unleashing an intermixing of cultures, languages, and thoughts (i.e., linguistic relativity).

Bodine’s Prescience

Bodine (1975) uncovers evidence that, prior to the 19th century, “they” had wide use in English written (E-language variety), that it was alive and well in singular indexation, and that an “authority of grammarians” and a staunch effort to assert “androcentric social order” had occurred (Bodine, 1975, pp. 130-134). Even effort to align5 the “sex-indefinite ‘he’” became polarized, “he must represent a male; she a female; and it, an object of no sex… But the plural they equally represents objects of all the three genders” (p. 135; Ward, 1755, pp. 459-460; emphasis retained). Bodine even uncovers arguments that “the proscription against singular ‘they’ constitutes a social injustice” (p. 138). Bodine uncovers near damning evidence of an effort to enforce gender bi-modality, revealing what today can be seen as behavioral modification (i.e., punishments and reinforcers via authority) used to enforce a bi-modal view of gender, where Bodine ends with a prescient conclusion:

Personal reference, including personal pronouns, is one of the most socially significant aspects language. As such, it is particularly likely to become the target of deliberate efforts to bring symbolic representation of interpersonal relations into line with the way those relationships are structured in either the ideal or behavioral patterning of the members of a speech community. With the increase of opposition to sex-based hierarchy, the structure of English third person pronouns may be expected to change to reflect the new ideology and social practices, as second person pronouns did before them. (Bodine, 1975, p. 144; emphasis added)


With respect to Bodine’s statement, pending consideration of communities of practice, it is apparent that different communities of practice may lead, lag, join, oppose, tolerate, or accept personal pronouns reinforcing sexual-relations propagating topologies of not only E-language, but I-language (Chomsky, 1986). I-language is rather fitting for the colorful spectrum of those exploring the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Now, that said, it may be worth noting a further Occam’s razor approach, it seems possible that language pronouns might also be moderated and mediated by what Lee et al. (2004) found while studying on emotion and phoneme relations, along with Hung et al.’s [2017] study on the bouba-kiki effect—it may simply be a case of motor/emotion moderation of language use preferences. Further support for the field of linguistic anthropology is suggested, however, the author pauses, because if this knowledge is used for stronger manipulations of antecedents and consequences to continually reinforce sexual bi-modality, a larger PRT may be a result, as seen in the 1960s and 1970s, though it stands without reason, that this might just be a desired outcome for chaos (see Lawson & Kakkar’s [2021]).


1 See Multi-Valent Linguistics markup (Hodges, 2021).

2 Backpropagation is a well-known concept attributed with the learning functionality in neural networks both biological and artificial (Lillicrap et al., 2020).

3 See Sykes & Matza’s (1957) article on techniques of neutralization (i.e., “excuses” [Scott & Lyman, 1968], where herein it is proposed that attempts to systematize grammar (i.e., competency), and distributions of morpheme propagation (i.e., performance) is a matter of techniques of neutralization working in advance (Sykes & Matza, pp. 666-667) of preferred (cultural) outcomes as a result of cultural kurtosis via in-group selectivity as framed by more powerful “shares of voice” across a plurality of language communities and communities of practice continually reinforcing what Inoue (2006) seems to point out in a “linguistic topography of affect and… hierarchy”.

4 See Tversky & Kahneman’s (1974) article on anchoring and adjustment heuristic, which describes the process within which individuals estimate based on initial conditions, and subsequently adjust estimates biased by initial conditions (pp. 1128-1130).

5 See Stokes and Hewitt’s (1976) article on aligning actions, operationally defined by two criteria: (1) activities “… crucial to the process in which people create and sustain joint action by aligning individual lines of conduct when obstacles arise in its path” (p. 838; abbreviated for readability), and activities “… sustaining a relationship between culture and conduct… in the face of actions that depart from cultural expectations or definitions of what is situationally appropriate” (p. 838). 


Bodine, A. (1975). Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: singular ‘they’, sex-indefinite ‘he’, and ‘he or she’1Language in Society, 4(2), 129-146.

Brehm J. W. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. Academic Press.

Chomsky, N. (1986). Knowledge of language: Its nature, origin, and use. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Hodges, R. A. E. (2021, October 21). Multi-Valent Linguistics. 修行会.Retrieved from業-business/analytical-engineering/multi-valent-linguistics/.

Hung, Styles, S. J., & Hsieh, P.-J. (2017). Can a Word Sound Like a Shape Before You Have Seen It? Sound-Shape Mapping Prior to Conscious Awareness. Psychological Science, 28(3), 263–275.

Jones, E. E., & Harris, V. A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 3(1), 1-24.

Lawson, M. A., & Kakkar, H. (2021). Of pandemics, politics, and personality: The role of conscientiousness and political ideology in the sharing of fake news. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.

Lee, C., Yildirim, S., Bulut, M., Kazemzadeh, A., Busso, C., Lee, S., & Narayanan, S. (2004). Emotion Recognition based on Phoneme Classes. In Proc. ICSLP

Lillicrap, Santoro, A., Marris, L., Akerman, C. J., & Hinton, G. (2020). Backpropagation and the brain. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 21(6), 335–346.

Inoue, M. (2006). Vicarious language: Gender and linguistic modernity in Japan. University of California Press.

Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 10. (pp. 173-220). Academic Press.

Scott, M. B., & Lyman, S. M. (1968). Accounts. American Sociological Review, 33(1), 46-62.

Stokes, R., & Hewitt, J. P., (1976). Aligning actions. American Sociological Review, 41(5).

Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664-670.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science185(4157), 1124-1131.  

Ward, W. (1865). An essay on grammar. Scolar Press Fascimile.

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Sociology: On Prostitution & Moralogical Drives

First, I’d like to open with Thio et al.’s rather poignant and diminished case at the end of covering prostitution, “both oppression and empowerment theories are one-dimensional in focusing on one aspect of prostitution…” (as cited in Thio et al., 2019, p. 236; Weitzer, 2009, p. 215). It is clear, when taking a page from various fields, that there are varying ways to express polarization, where fields altogether are embracing greater technical capabilities is assessing it, along with assessing proposals for minimizing it. That said, something of interest occurred when watching Neumann’s (2019) Sex Trafficking in America—realizing that Phoenix Arizona’s own law enforcers are also, in a way, are demonstrating phenomena underlying theories of deviancy with respect to other cities, states, nations, and global regions. Compared to Phoenix Arizona, other places on the planet have legalized prostitution, some have not, and some have limited it (Thio et al., 2019, p. 233). Phoenix’s officers are in fact, demonstrating aspects of positivist and constructionist theory when enforcing a change in how it handles prostitution, namely in the change in approach to labeling “women and girls” as victims rather than criminals, and labeling pimps as sex traffickers (Neumann, 2019, 00:05:07). To some people in “other places”, Phoenix’s own police may be deemed deviant with respect to their own norms, so here is an opportunity to apply theories of deviancy at an arm’s length perspective.

Weitzer’s Paradigms As Base

Weitzer (2009) considers two paradigms in opposition, namely an oppression paradigm, where “sex work is a quintessential expression of patriarchal gender relations” and the empowerment paradigm, which “focuses on the ways in which sexual commerce qualifies as work, involves human agency, and may be potentially empowering for workers” (p. 214). Later, Weitzer proposes a polymorphous paradigm integrating various aspects to divest from this polarized view (p. 214). Generalizations and dramatic language in the oppression paradigm and the qualification of sex commerce as work in the empowerment paradigm are seen across Bradley-Engen and Ulmer’s (2009) own article on exotic dancing. Exotic dancing is seen by some as a “relatively coercive experience, in which women have little control… a dancer is compelled to modify her physical appearance to adhere to a male ideal…” (p. 30) and when objectively considering normative behavior uses further drama, “hostile, competitive, and isolating… women is expendable…” (p. 43). To others, exotic dancing has a “… more favorable image… there is a high degree of agency… others are less vulnerable, have more control over their work, and derive some degree of psychological and/or physical pleasure…” (p. 30). Breadley-Engen and Ulmer even mention a “more dynamic approach” of both perspectives (pp. 30-31).

In Forrester’s (2016) article on pornography, the oppression paradigm is covered by journalism reporting feminist campaigns targeting the harm of pornography—“it wasn’t a private matter but a political expression of male power”. Catherine MacKinnon is quoted using more dramatic language, as porn is “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women” (Forrester, 2016). Forrester continues bouncing back and for the between paradigms, only to close with the effects of consolidation as moderated by the internet, and lower pay for pornography stars, closing with “some will find that cause for horror, others for celebration”.

With respect to the polymorphous paradigm of a “constellation of occupational arrangements, power relations, and worker experiences”, it would seem that this is at play in Bradley-Engen and Ulmer, and Forrester, where raw sociological enquiry seems less inclined to polarization in Heyl’s (1977) interactionist study of house prostitute training, though one may imply a certain level of “high class” professionalism within which it studied. That said, Heyl’s own mention of women learning more aggression in employing “the hustle” is noteworthy as a potential aspect of the empowerment paradigm (pp. 549-550), where Heyl mentions that call girl “difficulty in learning to hustle stems more from the fact that it involved inappropriate sex-role behavior” (p. 550). This is interesting and may demonstrate in a grater context evidence of oppression paradigm in the author’s own employment of “appropriate” sex-role behavior. Heyl’s article clearly differentiates streetwalkers to call girls and escorts (p. 549)—important for approaching this very discussion.

Oppression Paradigm in Theoretical Evidence

Considering the change in Phoenix’s policing strategy, one can easily consider this as a defining deviancy up(Moynihan, 1993), as the laws were revised to place prostitution in the realm of sex trafficking (00:04:00). Constructionist relativism is seen in labeling theory at play with stronger labels for pimps receiving permanent consequences as “lifetime sex offender” (00:48:50). “I know it seems like a big to do here, but we have to kind of make it that way, we know that, for you guys…” (00:06:24) strikes a chord of appeals to a higher authority in techniques of neutralization justifying not what they had done historically, but what they are doing and going to do in the future (Sykes & Matza, 1957, Scott & Lyman, 1968). While this may be difficult to see within the frame of Phoenix, from an visitor’s perspective or from a foreign perspective, it is a justification. 

Something further to consider is the police officer’s own contribution to differential association (Sutherland & Cressey, 1977) in reinforcement of the very deviant behavior they are fighting against (00:08:47). While difficult to consider, from one perspective of normalization of prostitution across cultures, a use of Kat exclusively seems deployed as a justification of the enforcement through sad stories (Scott & Lyman, 1968, p. 52). While Kat’s case is specific, sociological theory is useful in considering the behaviors of social movements, including police officers in enforcement. 


Considering Weitzer’s polymorphous paradigm, it seems in hindsight that studies such as Heyl (1977) and Griffith et al. (2013), along with popular articles of press represent a more balanced approach of paradigms, but… what utility is balance if there is a normal distribution assumed between the left of one paradigm vs. the right of another is not the case? What if the distribution of phenomenological evidence “on the ground” difficult to reveal as evidenced in some articles and journalists’ own accounts relay is skewed or bi-modal? It is clearly a different experience across the typology of sex workers (Thio et al., 2019, pp. 222-227). Even then, it is also possible that Merton’s strain theory is at work more so in some areas than others? Do strain adaptations favor certain types of sex workers over others, and are there mediating factors? 

Would Phoenix’s police officers and the state be as aggressive in defining deviancy up if strain was not leading to adaptations in more strictly justifying what some parts of the globe would consider puritan authoritarian conformance upon its people in matters of “basic biological drive”? It’s as if strain theory has a base and a ceiling, where strain is not only a promise of success with little support (i.e., ceiling), but also a mandate of joy consumption rather than satisfaction (i.e., base). Would the question of “biological drives” simply be written off by such individuals as one of Scott & Lyman’s accounts? What a quagmire—is humanity’s appeal to higher authorities in justifying attitudes that may be overly aggressive in administering a decentralized religious preference for ubiquitous human behaviors further accounted for as justified by moralogical drives conveniently obfuscated by bureaucratic “affairs of state”. Affairs shaming, labeling, controlling, conditioning, and paving the way to a future idealized world through accounts and its component of techniques of neutralization… all at arm’s length without breaking the coveted constraint against recognizing a state sanctioned religion. Anomie and strain seem very much at play, squeezing the population simply… to work, a work celebrated as “blood, sweat, and tears”.


Bradley-Engen, M. S., & Ulmer, J. T. (2009). Social worlds of stripping: The processual orders of exotic dance. The Sociological Quarterly, 50(1), 29-60.

Forrester, K. (2016, September 19). Making sense of modern pornography. The New Yorker. Retrieved from

Griffith, J. D., Mitchell, S., Hart, C. L., Adams, L. T., & Gu, L. L. (2013). Pornography actresses: An assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis. Journal of Sex Research, 50(7), 621-632.

Heyl, B. S. (1977). The madam as teacher: The training of house prostitutes. Social Problems, 24(5), 545-555.

Moynihan, D. P. (1993). Defining deviancy down. The American Scholar, 62(1), 17-30.

Neumann, J. [Director] (2019). Frontline: Sex trafficking in America [Documentary]. US Public Broadcasting System.

Sutherland, E. H., & Cressey, D. R. (1977). Criminology, 9th edition. Lippincott.

Thio, A., Taylor, J., Schwartz, M. D. (2019). Deviant behavior, 12th edition. Pearson.

Weitzer, R. (2009). Sociology of sex work. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 213-234. 

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Linguistic Anthropology: On Locutionary & Illocutionary Acts, A Clarification

First off, this took quite a bit of study of Austin’s (1962) How to Do Things With Words, and in particular Lecture VIII and VIX (pp. 94-119). This took some time unpacking only to be stunned by a revelation that inflection and in reading allowed Austin’s words to readily be understood. Austin’s outlines of valences in examples helped tremendously (pp. 101-102).


On the question of what illocutionary acts are, before operationalizing illocutionary, it is important to understand that Austin’s illocutionary act is parallel to locution. Further helpful is locution’s etymology in the 15thcentury is cited as a “style of speech”, from the Proto-Indo European root *tolkw- which means “to speak” (Harper, 2022). This is illuminating in that when experimenting with applying styles of speaking to Austin’s own writing, it becomes apparent that a simple definition of illocutionary act is insufficient, for it truly is the concept that is more valuable to communicate rather than mere description, though an effort to communicate conceptually seems greater. To go straight at it, the locutionary act of stating “it truly is the concept that is more valuable to communicate than mere description”, is inclusive of an illocutionary act which would state “trust me, concepts are more valuable than description”. To take this further, a perlocutionary act1 of the same would be “the reader was stopped and reminded to read conceptually rather than descriptively” (i.e., “by writing that it is the concept that is more valuable to communicate… the writer was… reminding the reader to reciprocate by reading conceptually…”). 

Austin mentions, “to perform a locutionary act is in general, we may say, also and eo ipso to perform an illocutionary act…,” (Austin, 1962, p. 98; italics preserved2) which conveys an inseparability of locutionary act with illocutionary act—these are not separate acts but act simultaneously [in the same play of an “utterance’s” doing]. This is further evidenced in, of locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary, “three, if not more, different senses or dimensions of the ‘use of a sentence’ or of ‘the use of language’, (and of course there are others also)” (pp. 108-109; parenthesis preserved); senses and dimensions of the use of a sentence implies a that perhaps the locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary are as implicit frames. While there are possibly more accessible ways to communicate this in post-modernity, an argument as to the interchangeability of “act” as grounded by “a fixed physical thing that we do, as distinguished from conventions and as distinguished from consequences…” as constrained by acceptance rather than compliance (p. 106) is best left in a memo library, yet it is entirely expedient in unpacking Austin. That said, with this information now covered, it is possible to move to an operational definition of illocutionary act within which a not-illocutionary filter may expediently collapse neurological wave states to arrive at a pragmatic example.

An Operational Definition of Illocutionary Act

To increase accessibility, it is now possible, after literature review, to operationalize illocutionary in standalone from Austin’s theory. Austin’s illocutionary acts are a dimension of language use (pp. 108-109) as measured by conformances to a local distribution of conventions (p. 105) mediating (e.g., inflection, force, etc.) language production in the conveyance of force (e.g., informing, ordering, warning, undertaking etc. [p. 108]).

Examples of Illocutionary Acts

A troublesome issue growing up was the difference in language use between the mother (R.H.) I had been born of, and the father (R.M.H.). R.H.’s convention of force in conveying a command (i.e., force) was to say something to the effect of “clean your room”, where R.M.H.’s version would be, “please, clean you room”. The difference in ethnographies of both parents played into this variation, however the illocutionary acts of both parents had meant “clean your room, now” in the language use of the community. This was a very confusing and ambiguous situation, yet it became apparent in the facial expressions of both parents if movement was not engaged in attending to cleaning at that very moment. “Please” was enjoined in R.M.H.’s familial frame with a conventional force of an order (i.e., exercitive)—cleared up after departing the household to the enlist in the U.S. Army).

Another example is a very common use of “make sure” which peppers business and common language, at least in the community of practice of tech and digital marketing. An example would be, “we need to make sure we make that meeting on time”. There’s an implied locution of a warning simultaneous with an order here through “making surety”. The illocutionary act could be “you are being ordered to be on time”. For completeness a perlocution could be “you are being persuaded to want to make it a surety to others that you will be on time”.

A final example would be in the locutionary act of uttering, “due to the weather class is cancelled”, which is essentially framing up an intention so summarizing judged as a matter of convention. This convention can be seen in a great variety of expressions prefixed with “due to… A [it has been determined to] B”, yet offers uncertainty as to those responsible for determining B. The illocutionary act of this same expression would be “class is cancelled because of the weather” even possibly suffixing “, it wasn’t our/my fault”. For completeness, as above, so below, the perlocutionary act would be the consequence of “abort the routine of preparing or expecting to come to class, it is cancelled”.


While the readings on locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts had been deeply satisfying, I wonder at a continual theme playing out in some linguistic anthropological writing. Is it possible that “running with examples” out of convenience in demonstrating a conventional force of “knowing the matter” perhaps obfuscates the principle of that which the examples model? In other words, in this literature review, is it possible that there is much more to these acts that Austin had seen? It seems now as if there are multiple valences to any singular speech act, as acts in a play running simultaneous, where matters of convention are employed in moderating and modulating utterances. This is altogether fascinating and warrants deeper investigation, because if this is the case that these acts are simultaneous, then it makes a matter of speech, far more worthy of investigating at a linguistic anthropological perspective along with neurological, psychological, and sociological perspectives. If this is the case, then it may be said that utterances concomitant with an ability to work simultaneously in different frames, which seems congruous to Jakobson’s (1960) model of the multifunctionality of language. Of course, these interpretations could be invalid, but the principle of Austin seems efficaciously communicated in three acts simultaneous in… How to Do Things with Words rather than of… How to Do Things with Words


1 Auston (1962) considers perlocution as a planned, intended, and purposed use of language having come about under an awareness language’s “effects” on attitudes, where the reference to this plan, intention, or purpose is “obliquely” or devoid of reference (p. 101). A locutionary act might be “that’s how you’re going to put the bowl in the dishwasher…”, which when read with a particular inflection reveals the perlocutionary act of “shame, stop, [remember the agreement on loading the bowls in the dishwasher]” (demonstrating the consequence [p. 102]).

2 Austin (1962) literally plays with the reader in using “eo ispo” (p. 98; italics preserved), having a page prior foreshadowed “warning” about repeating “someone else’s remark or mumbl[ing] over some sentence, or we may read a Latin sentence without knowing the meaning of the words” (p. 97; MDL employed for readability)—Austin is an exemplar of parapraxical writing (i.e., writing demonstrating statistically significant density of parapraxis per unit of [to be defined] as compared toward population[s]).


Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford University Press.

Harper, D. (2022). Locution. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved from

Jakobson, R. (1960). Linguistics and poetics. In T. A. Sebeok (Ed.), Style in language (pp. 350-377). MIT Press.

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Adenovirus 36 (Adv36) & Obesity

Adenovirus 36 (Adv36) is associated with “weight gain, obesity… [and] metabolism changes” with a prevalence of 22.9% in adults across the United States, Turkey, Italy, South Korea, Czech Republic, China, Sweden, Poland, Mexico, Finland, Chile, and joint study by Belgium and the Netherlands (Fernandes et al., 2021). Adv36 has been associated with a 4x increase in body weight (p. 1343). This is something to keep in mind when considering weight stereotype, because it can, and has personally helped to bust stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminations that are defined as resistant to reason. While seemingly out of left field, a “saving face” approach breaks dichotomous finger pointing. Therefore, a Durkheim (1895) “social fact” was employed in opening, as a kind of inoculation interrupting typified social scripts (i.e., expectations). Place this social fact aside for the moment, as there was a great deal of content this week in the SOC-360 course, and this discussion shall continue with 1) an operationalization of stereotype as illuminated by sociological theory will be, 2) analysis of each article, and ending with 3) a minor discussion following analysis. Sometimes “things” are not as “they” seem, yet sociological theory still very much applies.

Operationalizing Stereotype

Before entering discussion, it is helpful to operationalize “stereotype”. Washington State University’s Daffin & Lane (2021) help define stereotype as “beliefs about what are the typical traits or characteristics of members of a specific group” (p. 9.4). In Gordon Allport’s (1954) definition, it is an “exaggerated belief associated with a category. Its function is to justify (rationalize) our conduct in relation to that category” (p. 191). Allen (2000) associates stereotypes with the “development of beliefs concerning the traits supposedly possessed by most members of a society” (as cited in Igbo, Onu & Obiyo, 2015, pp. 1-2). Allport’s own use of “justify” is conceptually employed by Scott & Lyman’s (1968) typology of accounts in consolidating Sykes & Matza’s (1957) techniques of neutralization as “justification” (p. 51). To this end, it is helpful recollect that these techniques of neutralization (i.e., justifications) “neutralize, turn back, and deflect in advance” of deviant behavior (R. Hodges, personal communication, March 30, 2022). Therefore, it can be said that stereotypes are working in advance of motivational patterns running counter to social controls, where control as a measure, rather than a law, is as an “appeal to a higher authority” of generalized “morality” where truth be told, deviancy is defined down (Moynihan, 1993) by a more salient “higher authority” of locality (i.e., familial groups, language use topologies [i.e., communities of practice etc.]).

An Analysis of Articles

Articles were examined per SOC-360’s module on Physical Identity: Glamour’s article by Dreisbach (2012) concerning weight stereotyping, Smithsonian Magazine’s article by Tucker (2012) concerning the valuation of attraction, Today’s article by Katz (n.d.) titled “The Importance of Being Beautiful”, Men’s Journal article by Hill (2014) on building “bigger action heros”, a fashion model’s talk on the fact that “looks aren’t everything” (Russel, 2012), and Sgargetta’s (2009) documentary following Paul PJ James’ weight gain to weight loss effort at “understanding obesity”. For the purpose of narrowing an analysis with respect to justifications (i.e., stereotypes) with respect to future deviation in bifurcating society through arousal (i.e., prejudice) and behavior (i.e., discrimination) will be examined.

Dreisbach. Dreisbach’s article communicates results of a Glamour poll that was designed and guided by Rebecca Puhl, from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Through the results of the study of women, an “out of control” bias had been demonstrated in assigning 1) “lazy”, “sloppy”, “undisciplined”, and “slow” to the overweight, and assigning “conceited”, “superficial”, “vain”, “self-centered”, “bitch”, “mean”, or “controlling” to the thin (Dreisbach, 2012). These exaggerated traits attributed to those “overweight” or “thin” failed to accurately assess traits of individual attitudes (i.e., affect, cognition, and behavior). Dreisbach (2012) then writes about “pay[ing] a considerable price for these stereotypes” where some earn significantly less than “normal-weight peers”, and psychological impacts to mental health as measured by impairment in social relations. 

Interpretation. This article reveals beliefs of typical traits, and when considering techniques of neutralization operating in advance to neutralize, turn back, and deflect future deviant behaviors against social controls of equality, it may be realized that describing a person as lazy will make it easier to treat someone more unequally, as is reported to be the case in Dreisbach’s communication of literature’s findings. In this, two deviations from the center of a distribution of generalized strain induced goals of “exemplar” are in flux; on the one hand is the prevailing view of beauty of thinness as arrived at from earlier deviancy (skinny was at one time a sign of lack of wealth, then deviated from), and on the other hand is the acceptance of “overweight” as being arrived at through strain adaptations amidst the context of the current “one standard deviation” from the mean of what is considered beautiful. Techniques of neutralization are therefore not used just by one side or another, but in clearing the path to future motivations against perceived controls.

Considering prevailing social unacceptance, as measured in the studies Dreisbach communicates a unification of theories explaining deviancy emerged. It is proposed that a density of control as described by control theory (Hirschi, 1969) moderates a dimension of perceived threat or elimination of freedom as described by psychological reactance theory (PRT; Reynolds-Tylus, 2019) mediating a significance quest as described by significance quest theory (SQT; Kruglanski et al., 2019) restoration of freedom socially accepted. In the pursuit of restoration, techniques of neutralization are working in advance, even when individuals socially work them against each other, as an aunt says so beautifully, “I can have a cookie if I want to,” to which another excuses their discrimination toward her as “neurotic behavior.” Yet not so fast, because another deviancy is at play, where to an outside observer the appeal to the higher loyalty of “competitive market” justifies future behaviors against both in denying both as victims of socio-economic conditions leading to said thoughts, feelings, and actions (i.e., attitudes). Think of all the behaviors in the future toward the traits described, the retribution to the “mean”, the elimination of recognition of the “vain”, the exposé of the “superficial”, total institutions forced onto the “undisciplined”, stigma applied to the “sloppy”, the fight against the “controlling”—there are numerous motivations toward future behavior, deviant, and it is further proposed that there are clusters of these around each strain adaptation described, plus the missing scientist adaptation (the etymology of scient-ist simply means, “to know”; R. Hodges, personal communication, 2022, February 12). 

Tucker. Tucker’s (2012) article discusses Hamermesh’s pulchronomics, that is the study of the economics of beauty. A halo effect has been studied and evidenced (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977), thereby demonstrating that positive information about a person leads to a presumed assumption of positive trains. Beauty is information, and therefore only makes sense to qualitatively “positive information”. Tucker’s reporting seems a continuation of a theme of not only stereotype, nor not only prejudice, but in these cases discrimination, offering additional evidence in support of motivated behaviors as pre-messaged by excuses (i.e., techniques of neutralization). “Homely quarterbacks earn 12 percent less than their easy-on-the-eyes rivals” and “‘Hot’ economics professors… earn 6 percent more than members of their departments…” (Tucker, 2012). Hamermesh’s suggestion that “there’s not much we can do” about pulchritude seems no different than an excuse of “biological drives”, however stepping back, “not much” might benefit from some operationalization. 

Interpretation. Tucker’s (2012) article is a gateway to a sociological call to action for a great matter of social ills seems to gravitate around facilitating increasing not “beauty” but the frequency of transactions as a result of changing definitions of “beauty”—most likely the result of innovative adaptations to strain. Perhaps Hamermesh is right, but perhaps not.

Katz. Katz’s (n.d.) article on the importance of beauty, again is a continuation of a theme, however in this case demonstrates remarkable evidence of justifications. Katz quotes Dion, a social psychologist asserts that the findings that beauty “goes against the cultural grain” of “talent, intelligence, and hard work” (as cited in Katz, n.d.). Again, the halo effect is mentioned, but then is purported to “defy human reason”, and the “horns effect” leads to stigmatization. Dion’s findings that “opinions of… adults… influenced by the appearance of… children” (as cited in Katz, n.d.) left questions. The results of Dr. Ellen Berscheid’s research of the handling of beautiful children, and Walster & Clifford’s evaluation of how teachers rate students based on appearance (as cited in Katz, n.d.) seems as yet more ammunition for those to proclaim more boldly, “well, everyone does it.” Halo effect does not merely extend to individuals, but also associates (Sine et al., 2003), as Katz as well (n.d.) mentions in discussing the halo effect onto a homely partner from a “good-looking woman” in marriage. 

Interpretation. It would seem, that Katz’s article is a collection of justifications (i.e., techniques of neutralization) possibly empowering a readerships potentially future behaviors of deviant prejudice and discrimination. Katz’s article is as an account of excusing human behavior due to “biological drives” against earlier society’s moral deviancy against King George and an aristocracy’s arbitrary behavior in regulation of social behaviors, otherwise known as another justification an “appeal to higher loyalties” of “a supreme law of the land—under God”. As shared earlier in this course, research has consequences, and especially research that is absent a multi-cultural frame to prevent fanning the flames of potential justifications en route to prejudice and discrimination—primacy effect in research distribution in public may yet favor some motivated deviant behaviors by making eliminating their obstacles more easily by providing salience to evidence used in accounts of excuses and justifications. As to Katz’s (n.d.) reference to a “mishmash of clichés, grammatical errors and sloppy writing”, please spare the appeal to higher loyalties of descriptive elegance, as a noted progenitor of sociological theory generation Barny G. Glaser attests, it’s the concept that’s important, not the description (Glaser, 1978), and “biological drive” excuses quite possibly are obstructing a great matter of scientific discoveries (of course, this attestation evidences deviancy, to which, in communication is followed by a smile, typical of a culture of acceptance rather than mere tolerance). Oh and as for the comment that “perhaps by arming us with the knowledge and awareness of why we discriminate against the unattractive…”—Gordon Allport quite emphatically says this approach doesn’t work, what does work is social contact, that is, more frequent contact between different peoples (Allport, 1954 [i.e., desegregation]). It appears it’s still a work in progress, but then again, “it’s a work in progress” can oft be, an excuse.

Hill. Hill’s opening that “actors spend more time in the gym than they do rehearsing” reminds me of a growing trend initially seen while enlisted in the U.S. Army—why did it seem that soldiers, especially special operations soldiers, always seemed like “normal” human people absent the bulk of mass of muscle? Why did police officers when young appear more like the people they were charged with protecting, yet today, are much more massive? Testimonies of “raising the bar” seem echoed and parroted, as if trumping the party line (Hill, 2014). Another justification in advance, of what? Everyone’s doing it seems to be a refrain, “… trained primarily for aesthetics” (Hill, 2014). The “hungry look” and “lean out” while dangerous, attracts attention (Hill, 2014). “Pudgy… can’t swing”, “get jacked on deadline”, and “ripped leading man” are yet more stereotypes (Hill, 2014). Homes of actors feature gymns and offices (Hill, 2014), and the promise of “money, fame, and success” are put forth as motivating factors by Mark Twight, a trainer (Hill, 2014). Drug use is involved to get the look, where stunt doubles for actors receive low pay and slam hits of drug cocktails leading to high risk for severely damaged health (Hill, 2014). It is only fitting that a quote from Fight Club is revealed to grace the center of what is proposed to be the most infamous gym for Hollywood, “quit your job, start a fight, prove you’re alive”, where later Twight is quoted as “we’re selling this male ideal” (Hill, 2014). The halo effect of an ability to shape the body translates to a perception of good acting (Hill, 2014). 

Interpretation. Refreshingly Hill’s (2014) article ends with deviancy within a greater deviancy, a call to “true awesomeness”. Rick Yune from Fast and the Furious says, “you see Clint Eastwood point a gun–and you believe it. It’s not the physical. It’s what you put behind it.” (Hill, 2014). After reading, it seems, yet more on the theme only more on justifications of the industry’s demand generation behaviors in shaping and molding an audience through the affects that Asch, Milgram, and Zimbardo discovered many years ago on social conformity. The audience has been primed, not just merely by justifications of “biological drives” to see such superhero bodies but perhaps a stronger stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination contingently reinforced by observational learnings where Hollywood itself stepped into a power vacuum of Merton’s strain, offering a dramatized roadmap to success as adapted, yet obscuring the tremendous burden that it places in resources, time, and commitment on a single individual requiring massive inequities between actors and audience members just to support said maintenance of success’s adaptations. The audience hath been abused.

Russel. Cameron Russel (2012) had been a model for a decade, approaches transformation and superficiality of look. She describes “winning a genetic lottery” and defining beauty post biological biases, of “tall, slender figures, femininity, and white skin” (00:02:59). Russel self-describes modeling photos as “constructions by a group of professionals”, and relays “they aren’t me” (00:05:56). Russel describes “free things” for the way she looks in “real life”, getting a dress for free after forgetting money and escaping a traffic ticket for running a red (00:06:17). Russel reveals her insecurity, an answer that she doesn’t offer “on camera”, because she has to “think about what she looks like, every day” (00:07:27). Russel uses her position as an appeal to greater awareness of perceived image and perceived success.

Interpretation. Considering biological salience of “beauty” (Yarosh, 2019), I am left simultaneously impressed upon by lessons of neurophysiology, especially with respect to neural correlates of aspects of melody, namely pitch and its assemblies of harmony and dissonance in narratives. Considering the differentiation between harmony and dissonance in resolved and unresolved harmonics, psychobiological moderation/mediation in the perception of harmony super-positioned with a psychosociological moderation/mediation in social deviations of said harmony seems at play. While Russel may currently “win”, it’s not really winning, but a matter of a maintenance of prevailing perspectives of beauty empowered by economic structures simultaneously moderating/mediating demand and supply curves in what is conventionally perceived as “competition”. Analogs to “system perturbations” (Hayes & Barnett, 2002) may in fact, like prior, create situations within which “deviant” strain adaptations to these same economic structures of increasing immobility may favor revolutionary adaptations resulting in change of dominant beauty ideologies as measured by varying valences of social distribution (e.g., global, national, state, region, industry, family, community etc.). When the share of voice of a tiny monoculture of exemplars of “beauty” command super-majority status in wealth and income acquisition, surely this is correlated to increasing strain leading to deviation, as seen in Russel’s appeal on stage of a “construction” rather than who she really is.

Spargetta. A self-report by James in Spargetti’s (2009) documentary reveals, “15 years of training has just come undone in two months,” James says (00:07:02). Numerous stereotypes of weight are employed in the film right at the outset, and some science is employed, for example physiological information with respect to leptin and satiation is communicated as the “stretch signal” (00:13:11). Value judgements are numerous with respect to weight: “rude shock” (00:05:53), “kilos of mud” (00:06:00), “disciplined not to continue eating as much” (00:09:47), “strong he is in character, he won’t let that happen… he’ll go back to good eating habits” (00:09:50), “poor choices” (00:12:31), “fell down” (00:12:50), “sloven” (01:56:02), and “who isn’t that in tune with their own body” (01:13:00). A counter deviancy is presented against a perception of market conditions favoring obesity (00:14:15, 00:24:54). Even James can be seen employing techniques of neutralization when shopping a grocery store (00:14:15). “Strange things” happening to the body (00:19:00) which exaggerate the perception of already known correlations reveals exaggeration. Labeling theory and control theory is at play in explanations of a friend, Michelle, joining James in losing weight, though later not showing up for further training (01:00:00). Michelle picked up on labeling (00:40:13, 01:03:03) finally confronting James about it being demotivating and walking separate ways (01:04:50), expressing happiness concomitant amongst a master status of “fat” (01:07:28).

Interpretation. As with Russel, Michelle is of particular interest, as it would seem that as increasing strain meets up with awareness of label, it appears that justifications are coming just as Sykes & Matza professed—operating in advance to not only normalize “fatness”, but to perhaps, re-center a distribution of fat to skinny image which would require social power (i.e., initial torque generation) to move the distribution the other direction. What to James are perceived as excuses, are really justifications in advance normalizing deviant behavior against the context of an already stereotyped social expectancy of a “successful” body image as defined by reductionist approaches to health: namely longevity and absence of disease (i.e., disease-based model of medicine). In these social movements, justifications are again, mediating stereotype in advance, thereby subtly or grossly altering the course of societies, depending on the share of voice in replicating said justifications in public discourse.


Adv36. As to this discussion post’s opening stereotype busting reality of Adv36, the discussion continued:

… there was a high prevalence of Adv36 in all age groups, which exceeded 64% among adults and 73% among children and adolescents with obesity and/or metabolic disorders… Adv36 potentially may be responsible for a significant percentage of human obesity. (Fernandez et al., 2021, p. 1353)

Individualistic societies express a fundamental attribution error (FAE; Ross, 1977) attributing behavior to dispositional traits rather than situational. It seems that FAE may have obfuscated reality completely, and it is not as if this has not happened before. A gentle reminder to the readers—once, most of humanity’s public discourse echoed a belief that earth was flat and labeled and made life difficult for those that thought it round (later suffixing -ish [i.e., oblate spheroid]). I do hope that for the sake of humanity, regardless of weight, that the truth of the matter of obesity may be put to rest as a matter of ethics and science, because from the cheap seat of this very desk, stigma had been very much socially constructed for some societies had valued a different picture of human weights and measures, where perhaps differences in physical identities are matters underlying phenomena of Merton’s (1938) typology of strain adaptations like “retreat” (i.e., letting go of the images put forth in media) or “ritual” (i.e., ritualized eating in response to marketed rituals of eating)—the complexities seem worth exploring, less for a matter of bettering a typology, but more of a matter to bring meaningful change.

Control Theory’s Interchangeable Indicator of “Crime”. I wonder, how many other situational causes are socially obfuscated by FAE in individualistic societies, and it is only fair to mention, the inverse, that of dispositional traits obfuscated by situational causes. Perhaps it may very well be that Quinney’s conflict theory is at work in deviancies surrounding stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminations. As humanity learned during the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis in increasing supply meeting demand through securitization (He et al., 2011), transaction volume (i.e., turn ratio) is sometimes more of incentive than transaction revenue (i.e., mean transaction revenue). Is it possible that this same reality has emerged with identity deviancy? Is it possible that Quinney’s (1975) conflict theory is the stage within which “crime” is as an interchangeable indicator for a basic social process of as-yet-to-be monetized transactions in increasing conflicts of deviant identity behavior (e.g., “formulations of definitions of identity”, “construction of the ideology of identity”, “development of behavior patterns in relation to definitions of identity”, “application of definitions of identity”, and “class struggle and class conflict”). It is simple to see that “classes” are distributions of Merton’s typologies of strain adaptations with respect to identities. Perhaps an increase along a dimension of anomie as induced by strains of communities of practice in “industry verticals” merely resulting in increased transactions of identity to benefit those already well positioned to “take advantage” of market conditions, where the crime is behavior deviant and labeled deviant inter-/intra- group.

Contact Hypothesis. Allport and others felt that psychoeducation and information doesn’t help dislodge stereotype’s (in advance) of behavior toward prejudice and discrimination. So, what does? Allport’s (1954) proposed solution was contact hypothesis (pp. 263-282), essentially 1) equal status between groups, 2) superordinate common goals, 3) communal work and sharing of fruits of labors, and 4) institutional support (pp. 261-282). Pettigrew & Tropp (2006) confirmed that this hypothesis works. Perhaps with respect to a model democracy, America’s melting pot… needs stirred, and that… is going to require limitless hands at the mixing spoon in limitless permutations of group.

An Emergening Theory: Regarding body identity, either self-/other- referenced, or circumscribed by a third party, stigma very much is in line with prejudice. Perhaps these are vestigial stereotypes and prejudices from earlier normalizing influences of cultural phenomena, but one thing is certain, Sykes & Matza’s (1957) techniques of neutralization are now clearly seen at play in the behaviors clearing the way to self-satisfaction in advance of discrimination of stereotyped experiences. Conflicting deviancies seem constructed by a labeling theory inducing body identity, where in some cultures, it may be better expressed as body image, considers a multi-cultural perspective that inclusive of cultures absent self-referencing such as the Ilongot community of the Philippines, lacking a “notion of an inner self continuous through time” (Rosaldo, 1982, p. 218). 

Borrowing from the tripartite model of attitude (Rosenburg & Hovland, 1960), deviant or labeled deviant dimensions of social images/identities are as social attitudes prime (for some cultures) in feelings (i.e., affect), thoughts (i.e., cognition), and activities (i.e., behavior) moderating (i.e., sampling) typologies of basic social processes (BSPs) transcribing and translating norms and mores through social topologies by deviant (i.e., variance) behaviors as mediated by prototypes and exemplars (i.e., tensors) of intelligence (i.e., mean of distribution) surrounded by halo effect congruent organisms (i.e., standard distribution), where the skewness of distribution is reflective of strain in the positive direction, anomie in the negative direction, thus demonstrating that the optimum cradle for a species (e.g., Homo sapiens) is not in growth or contraction, but managing deviantly-emergent distributions of <crime|identity|…|[redacted]> where [redacted; pending re-sampling of literature on embarrassment avoidance [as a core category moderating/mediating behavior driving polarization formation of permutations of in-group/out-group bi-modalities]] (i.e., n-modal kurtosis).

“Yeah but what does that mean for deviance and matters of identity?” Identity is already a moving deviancy, regardless of how it is examined, for I know of no exemplar mean of biology. As for Allport’s contact hypothesis—yes please.


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