What Does the Orienting Response Say about Modern Society?

personal space

When I read Al Gore’s book the Assault on Reason, he brought up the interesting topic of the Orienting Response.

The orienting response (OR), also called orienting reflex, is an organism’s immediate response to a change in its environment, when that change is not sudden enough to elicit the startle reflex. The phenomenon was first described by Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov in his 1863 book Reflexes of the Brain, and the term (‘ориентировочный рефлекс’ in Russian) was coined by Ivan Pavlov, who also referred to it as the Shto takoe? (Что такое? or What is it?) reflex. The orienting response is a reaction to novel or significant stimuli. In the 1950s the orienting response was studied systematically by the Russian scientist Evgeny Sokolov, who documented the phenomenon called “habituation“, referring to a gradual “familiarity effect” and reduction of the orienting response with repeated stimulus presentations.[1]


In that book he describes how the orientation response is a cultural universal and it evolved because in order to survive there were things in our environment that were dangerous and threatening to us.  Spiders, snakes, bears, tigers, etc.  When something unfamiliar moved in our environment we looked at it and ascertained whether it was a threat or not.  Al Gore suggests that the decline in the United States of rational dialogue and rational debate or reasoned conversation happened because of the one way communication medium of television.  The TV speaks and we listen, but we can’t respond to the TV and tell it what we think.  According to Al Gore this habituated Americans into being told what to think and not questioning or disagreeing.

As an analytical philosopher I take this idea a step further.  Since the Orienting response is natural and rational, since it evolved out of a necessity to survive, what does it tell us about society when it isn’t present?  Human behavior has always interested me, one of the things I noticed a few years ago is first generations Asians that would meander into my personal space as if they didn’t see me.  At first I wondered if this was a problem with peripheral vision due to the shape of their eyes, I decided to do an experiment to see if that was the case or if something else was going on.  I would mirror their behavior identically, getting into their personal space and acting like they weren’t there.  They would respond by backing up, making an exclamation that sounded like “Wuh?” and then looking me up and down, and then repeating the gesture of looking me up and down. This is a societal gesture that I had done something rude.

Because this behavior created disparate impact in their favor and they would react negatively if the same tactic were used against them I decided that it was a strategy for communicating dominance that had come from their country and was quite possible normal in their society.

The interesting thing is that not having an orienting response is not natural, and it is not rational.  When people are not curious, suspicious or paranoid their orienting response is not working.  They are affectively hypnotized.  But what is it that is hypnotizing them?  People have a cognitive bias that what is normal is also good and correct.  What is normal for people is living in a safe environment where survival is easy and we don’t depend on those around us for survival.  But this is an unnatural environment, because safe environments are not natural they are artificial.

We are delusionally not in relationship with reality because our authority has been extracted from us and externalized into other authorities that do our thinking for us.  No where is this more obvious than in the Western under reaction to the threat that is posed by the encroachment of Islam.


People don’t want to think about the ugliness of that religion, they don’t want to study it for themselves.  They trust the people that are lying to them telling them it is a religion of peace, that the people are victims, and that we should be tolerant  of their bigotry and intolerance.

When I was creating my models of the human brain, the male female models, I found an interesting pattern with psychopaths or female brains.  Psychopaths try to slip your threat filter.  They communicate harmlessness and sameness to you.  Then they try to get behind you, in your blind spot as it were, so you can’t scrutinize them and you aren’t worried about them.  Once there they try to manipulate you or kill you or harm you or steal from you.


The female brain thinks with emotions and it makes superficial, aesthetic, snap decisions, not based on understanding or reason, or study, or experiment.  This looks right, this sounds right.  This looks harmless, I am told this is harmless, they have always been nice to me (until they aren’t).

In conclusion, what I guess I am saying, is that a person who isn’t curious, or suspicious, or a little paranoid is hypnotized because their orienting response isn’t functioning correctly and evolved out of reason.  The Cognitive Dissonance people have about Islam, and about the future, is a dangerous form of hypnotism that threatens the very fabric of Western Democratic Civilization.

Hypnotism is real, and many people are hypnotized right now.


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