Physical Psychology: Toward A Unified Theory of Human Interactions


            The human mind is a product of evolution.  This simple and seemingly obvious statement is the starting point for an emerging science, called evolutionary psychology, which has revolutionized the study of the human mind.  First popularized in books such as Edward Wilson’s Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, evolutionary psychology has led to natural explanations of previously inexplicable behaviors.  Females invest much more than males in the birth of a child, meaning that women will tend to be more choosy in their mate selection, while men will tend to be natural philanderers.  On the other hand, women—just like men—would like their mate to have the best possible genes, so a woman should not hesitate to conceive a child with the brawny hunk down the street so long as she can make a cuckold of her scrawny, devoted partner, fooling him into caring for the offspring of her elicit affair.

            As the name indicates, evolutionary psychology is the application of evolutionary thinking and modes of analysis to the problems traditionally considered the sole purvey of psychology.  The general applicability of evolution is limited, however, because it is more of an explanatory than a predictive theory.  Evolution is wonderful at explaining how particular characteristics might have arisen, but it is powerless to explain what will happen in the future.  While evolutionary psychology provides many novel explanations for human behavior, it also leaves many questions unanswered.  Why do humans wage war?  Why are people so lazy?  To begin answering these important questions, we must bring to bear a theory more powerful than evolutionary psychology. 

After considering this conundrum, I have come to a conclusion at once startling and now seemingly obvious.  I had to remind myself that the most brilliant ideas often seem, with hindsight, to be utterly apparent.  The most powerful branch of science clearly is physics—it has brought us the computer, the plane, and the bomb.  It is the epitome of reason, therefore, to conclude that physics will provide the final elucidation of human character and relationships.

            It is one thing to make the assertion that physics will furnish the ultimate theory of psychology, quite another to complete this arduous task.  Considerations of intellectual property prohibit me from explicating the entire theory—with applications from all branches of physics—in this paper, but I am confident that a brief glimpse of the explanatory power of the comparatively simple-minded classical mechanics will convince most readers that the end of Freudian psychology is in sight.  Although of course, we must praise those brave, but backward, souls who brought us this science that has entered the twilight of its influence.

            As a taste of the new theory, I include here Newton’s Three Laws with their applications to some of the murkiest of human interactions.  First Law:  Every body remains in its state of rest or uniform linear motion, unless a force is applied to change that state.  “State of rest” is clearly referring to what specialists call indolent manus, or what the general public refers to as the couch potato phenomenon.  A man watching sports on television will continue doing so “unless a force is applied to change that state.”  This force is typically applied by a female, most likely a frustrated spouse, but can occasionally originate from internal, physiological processes—the most common examples are an empty stomach or full bladder.   As with most truly Kuhnian paradigm shifting theories, Newton’s First Law explains much more than just laziness.  Once the aforementioned indolent manus decides that he wants the left-over pizza in the refrigerator, he has entered a state of “uniform linear motion” towards the kitchen, and it will be difficult—if not impossible—to dissuade him from reaching his goal.

An astute reader may have come upon an obvious question while reading the previous paragraph:  How difficult is it to influence a given person’s trajectory?  Luckily, Newton did not leave us bereft of an answer.  Newton’s Second Law:  F = ma.  This is the only equation that I have allowed myself in this introductory paper, as it is rather easy to explain.[1]  In mechanics this equation simply means that the applied force is equal to the mass times the acceleration of the body.  The correspondence to psychology is both straightforward and profound.  To produce a given action (a) in a person of a given stubbornness level (m) one must apply a force (F) that is equal to the product of the action and the stubbornness level.  In physics there is a deep equality between the inertial mass (how difficult it is to push an object) and the gravitational mass (which determines the strength of gravity on and produced by that body).  Although the experimental results have yet to be analyzed, an intriguing possibility is that the obstinacy mass (m) may in fact be identical to the inertial and gravitational mass.  This would explain, for example, why males are the more obdurate sex, as well as the previously observed, yet unexplained, correlation between economic output of a country (which inarguably requires the determination embodied in m) and average weight of it’s citizenry.

Convincing the scavenger mentioned above to return to the living room before he reaches the refrigerator may require a substantial applied force.  Knowledge of physical psychology may aid, however, in achieving the maximum possible response with the minimum amount of effort.  Careful experiments have determined that, in the example given above, the most effective method for inducing a quick return is some sort of sudden change in the environment, a sound perhaps, for instance a startled yell of “touchdown.”

            The preceding two laws illuminate how one person can influence another, but they do not explain why a person might want to apply that influence.  Newton’s Third Law:  For every action, there exists a corresponding equal and opposing reaction.  Strip this law of its technical language and the implication is quite clear:  An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.  Thus we arrive at one of the least appreciated truths of scientific history.  Despite his manifest brilliance and creativity, Newton in fact plagiarized heavily from other sources, in particular the Bible.  This revelation lends additional credence to Leibniz’s claim that he, not Newton, first created The Calculus.  Some authorities have interpreted these events as evidence that all of Newton’s fame is ill-deserved, although I would argue that the generality of The Third Law—and in particular its wide ranging applications in the arena of human interaction—makes it a discovery of the utmost importance.  Not only does it predict that a man struck in the face will strike back with equal intensity, but that a man kissed tenderly will respond with all of the gusto of an Italian chef.  The Third Law is able to explain the whole gamut of human interactions, all the way from war to love. 

            Some critics of physical psychology, particularly those ill at ease with the mathematical intricacies involved in the theory, will claim that the human mind is too complicated to explain using equations and mathematical modeling.  There are a trillion neurons in the human brain, they will say, making it impossible to calculate or predict the end result of all that squishy computation.  This objection is, on the surface, quite reasonable, but it springs from a complete ignorance of physical laws.  Statistical mechanics, a branch of physics well developed over a hundred years ago, is concerned entirely with this problem.  There are 1023, a hundred billion trillion, molecules of gas in a typical birthday balloon, yet statistical mechanics is able to calculate, from first principles, the pressure of the gas.  Amazingly, the predictions made by statistical mechanics become more accurate as the number of molecules increase.  We are currently unable to predict the electric pulses sent by an individual neuron, despite the fact that the neuron is obeying the laws of physics.  Nevertheless, once a trillion neurons are bunched together in the gray mass we call a brain, calculating the end result becomes as trivial as using the ideal gas law to determine the pressure of the gas in a balloon.

            The predictive powers of physical psychology when applied to an individual person are astonishing, yet they are as nothing compared to the expected accuracy of predictions based on whole societies.  This is yet another example of science fiction accurately foretelling the direction of science decades into the future.  Just as Jules Vern first wrote about space travel and Arthur C. Clarke first envisioned geosynchronous satellites, Isaac Asimov, in his prophetic novel Foundation, predicted that a field he called psychohistory would harness the power of the mathematical sciences to calculate the future direction of human history.  I have chosen to forego calling the field psychohistory, however, because physical psychology has myriad applications beyond group behavior.

Just as social psychology, the study of large groups of people, is explained using statistical mechanics, other areas of psychology will be elucidated by the judicious application of other branches of physics.  As a final example of the straightforward correspondence between physics and psychology, allow me to briefly mention general relativity, which is a correction of Newton’s Law of Gravitation necessary when considering extremely large masses.  The so-called “great men” version of history holds that human events swirl around charismatic leaders like the stars in a galaxy swirl around massive black holes.  Physical psychology should be able to discern the true importance of these “great men” by modeling their influence using the revised equations gleaned from general relativity.  I have used this model with considerable success in explaining the disintegration of Alexander the Great’s empire after his death.  The empire fell apart just as the planets in our solar system would fly off into the vast emptiness of space were the sun to suddenly disappear.

I realize that such a short article can only tantalize, and that the reader must be eager for a demonstration of the full power of the field.  This effect is predicted both by physical psychology and by the more prosaic faculties of common sense with which all humans are endowed.  In a future publication I will expand upon the theory, explaining how electromagnetism, quantum theory, special relativity, as well as string theory can lift the veil from the final scientific frontier—the human mind.

It is true that chaos theory does imply that there are inherent limitations to the predictive power of physical psychology, but I count this as a blessing rather than a curse.  Consider the possible harm that could be done by some rogue practitioner of physical psychology if all future human actions could be predicted fully. 

Incidentally, the fact that it is mathematically impossible to predict a person’s every action indefinitely into the future proves that humans do indeed have free will, even if it is only a freedom to choose the inconsequential actions not predicted by physical psychology.


[1] Stephen Hawking’s publisher claimed that every equation in A Brief History of Time would reduce book sales by a factor of two.  Hawking therefore restrained himself to the single equation E = mc2.  In my case book sales are not paramount, yet they are, nonetheless, a consideration of sorts.