How invisible influences shape our behaviours

Invisible influences have a huge impact on us

When I worked as a lawyer in Colorado, other lawyers would talk about a drunk-driving expert prosecutors called to testify about the invisible effects of alcohol on a person: alcohol slows reactions, impairs judgment.

The lawyers would make finger movements and say how spooky the effects were in individuals who did not look or act drunk. But the expert was right.

We live in a world of invisible influences.

Hundreds of years ago, no one knew that incredibly tiny organisms caused smallpox, measles, the Black Plague, and so on.

Now we live in a world terrorised by the organism that causes COVID-19.

We cannot see the virus. When I look at microscope photos of it, I cannot make out anything special.

Still, I believe the virus exists and could kill me. I believe because I believe in scientists, the scientific method, and journalists.

Along with the COVID organism, there are many invisible influences that have huge effects on us, whether we believe in them or not.

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Genes propel us all in good and bad behavioural directions.

Years ago I co-authored a study combining meta-analyses on to what extent behaviour is determined by genes. The average was 41 per cent.

Almost half of human behaviour is determined by genes.

You will find that fact easier to accept if you look at your family members. Does their skin shade look familiar? Their hair and eye colour? Their height and body shape?

Genes did that, at least in part. Genes can push us toward being a great athlete, a genius, or a criminal.

Many people believe in God and Satan as invisible influences on us. Others point to karma.

I lean toward luck as important. I often think how fortunate I was as a Catholic altar boy not to have been abused by a priest.

My mother would not let me join the Boy Scouts, so I missed entirely that risk of abuse. Not that anything bad would have happened to me in the Scouts -- as long as luck was with me.

I was not lucky enough to be born to wealthy, highly educated parents. But they were decent, hard-working individuals who cared about me.

They gave me good genes and a good upbringing. Now that I am an adult I try to make my own good luck, for instance by migrating years ago to Australia, a lucky country.

What invisible factors influence you?

This story Invisible influences have a huge impact on us first appeared on The Canberra Times.