A New Understanding of the Fundamental Foundation of Human Behavior

By Harris, Brian | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview
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A New Understanding of the Fundamental Foundation of Human Behavior

Harris, Brian, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


This article examines a new methodology for understanding the complexities of human nature. It is unlike most other models for explaining behavior that fall into two broad categories of interpretation: one, which assumes behavior is fundamentally biologically determined, that is, the result of genetic disposition or DNA structures, and the other, which points to experience and environmental and cultural factors as the key determinants. This new methodology identifies an additional underlying predisposition for all human behavior that is based on an active yet involuntary physical response. Research suggests that the body's response indicates a natural proficiency in one of nine arenas of perception. It further suggests that community, in its broadest sense, springs from the matrix formed by all nine innate capacities, allowing for the sustainability and development of life.

The whole personality of man is indescribable. His consciousness can be described. His unconscious cannot be described because the unconscious is always unconscious. It is really unconscious, and, so, we don't know our unconscious personality. We have hints, we have certain ideas, but we don't know it really. Nobody can say where man ends. That is the beauty of it, you know. It's very interesting. The unconscious of man can reach God knows where. There we are going to make discoveries.---Carl Tune Barbara Tovey and Alan Sheets, researchers in San Francisco, California, have brought to light a system of unconscious strengths and imperatives that drive our personalities. They have found a way, using a simple exercise and a consistent structure of interpretation, to make these strengths and imperatives apparent to practitioners, observers, and the subjects themselves.

Tovey and Sheets have spent more than 5 years researching the basic and essential nature of over 2,000 people. They developed a neutral, noncompetitive, physical exercise that challenged an individual to "hold ground." Soon a consistent pattern of response emerged that cuts across cultural, ethnic, and gender lines. Their conclusion was that people access and interpret experience through one of a limited set of innate paradigms of understanding.

We live with the assumption that differences between people come from genetic-specific information or different life experiences. Tovey and Sheets have found another source of variability. They cataloged nine different essential human abilities that drive nine different imperatives. Each is so distinctly different from the others that the effect on the unfolding of our lives is as comprehensive and profound as cultural or genetic differences.


There are two principal ways in which a person's body exhibits its strength and imperative: through alignment and through facial expression. Every person asked to be strong and hold his or her ground when being physically challenged in a noncompetitive exercise accomplished it by allowing his or her body to assume an effective stance. One would assume that there would be a mechanically efficient stance that everyone assumes. This does not turn out to be the case.

There are nine distinct stances, some of which look mechanically inefficient. Only by assuming one of these positions, termed postures of strength by Tovey and Sheets, is it possible for anyone to hold their ground effectively. The challenge of holding ground draws forth in a person a reservoir of strength that is not muscular in nature. People doing the exercise may be physically weak vet. when they settle into their posture of strength, they are remarkably stable.

Every person participating in the exercise has naturally assumed one of the postures in the Postures of Strength diagram and taken on the specific facial expression that invariably accompanies each posture. Figures 1 to 9 show the unique expression associated with each of the nine strengths.

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