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In some of the most interesting research about the success and failure in marriage today, John Gottman, a psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, recorded on video the connection between noise and deterioration of sociability . Professor Gottman has observed what happens in the bodies of the married couples as they argue. What it does is invite a couple to his laboratory, connected to various sensors, and asks them to discuss an issue on which they disagree.

As discussed partners, monitors measure heart rate range, the transmission time to finger pulse, pulse amplitude, the level of skin conductivity and general somatic activity. And Gottman discovered that each of these measurements shows an increase in arousal. Given that the skin conductivity operates through a biological system differs from that of the pulse and cardiac intervals, Gottman believes that the various systems affected by marital conflict are so widespread throughout the body that has called this state 'diffuse physiological arousal'. Put another way: "psychological noise". When multiple indexes of physiological arousal increases, a person has entered a state of "psychological noise".

The consequences of this state for the operation of a married person, said Gottman, are uniformly negative. In principle, a diffuse physiological arousal state, or noise in our terminology, impairs the ability of individuals to process information. To put it bluntly, once buried in the noise condition, people are not as lucid as when they are quiet. In this state the memory is impaired, and thus our ability to respond effectively to all the data before us. And it becomes difficult to keep a thought: the reactions become automatic snapshots. Finally, beyond these difficulties, intense physiological arousal also decreases the ability to reason, a phenomenon that became concrete psychiatrists call.

Once we have become concrete, we assign value to things by their outward appearance, no longer respond to subtle clues and subtext of social interactions, we are not able to think in terms of abstractions, and our ability to conceptualize or project into the future decreases. In the actual state of talks between the spouses take on a tone of retaliation. If a husband complains for the umpteenth time that day that there is no food in the house, his wife immediately replied with a stinging remark suggesting that maybe I should go out and buy it himself. The fact that he may be alluding to something else, her sex life, say, or labor concerns, plan well above both. This does not mean that all communication between members of a couple always refers to 'something else': sometimes a discussion of the purchase is a discussion on the purchase. But what happens when people become concrete is that they have no way of weighing the potential depth or subtext of the situation.

Gottman's work is fascinating because through video recordings he can show the point at which a discussion becomes pure marital defensiveness, hostility and insults. This decline coincides with a rapid pulse of each partner. As the pulse increases, the ability to reasonably dispute disappears. It is a direct and striking: so clear that Gottman advises distressed couples who take the pulse in the middle of the dispute. In his experience, when a man comes to an average of eighty beats per minute, and ninety women, it makes little sense to continue. For both sexes, Gottman writes, have passed the hundred pulsations is reason enough to end the discussion. A person whose heart beats at a hundred beats per minute, due to anger and not an aerobic exercise, is no longer able to understand or respond intelligently what your partner is trying to say.

Gottman has noticed that other social skills are also weak. As our processing capacity is impaired, the sound goes back to what psychologists call overlearned behaviors (the phenomenon that Freud characterized as a regression). Overlearned behaviors are those that know too well. It is no coincidence that this is the behavior of 'lower order', that children learned and practiced. We all know howl, cry and mourn, we all know sulking and cursing. We know how well these behaviors do not have to think to act, and that is the question. When the noise of our body and our brain damages our capacity to process higher order we can not access the higher-order social skills we had developed as adults. And we are pushed to the tantrums of children.

Also for this loss is a biological substrate: overlearned behaviors are best installed in the neural circuitry of the brain. The higher-order social skills, skills that we acquire with maturity, are the connections more recently acquired and, therefore, are the skills that have weaker synaptic connections. Our more primitive behaviors and associations, behavior and associations of childhood, are actions we have repeated time and again, and have resulted in synaptic connections that are stronger, more robust, better suited to the conduct underlying our mature that have been acquired more recently. The internal noise obtura higher brain levels, weaker synaptic connections, and rolls back the affected overlearned behavior, synaptically robust, his early years.


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