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Auxiliary Imprints and Human Behavior

Certain theses of traditional imprinting theory are specified in the article. A hypothesis is proposed that, along with basic imprints, there are auxiliary ones that are characterized by pronounced contextualization and explain many human life strategies.

According to imprinting theory, human consciousness is based on behavioral patterns (imprints) “impressed” (imprinted) into the personality structure during certain periods of personality formation. Imprints are tinges of human instincts, which were studied, particularly, by K. Lorenz. Many of the currently dominating theses concerning the imprinting process are either disputable or vague [1, p. 196]. Since, as we will show below, the role of auxiliary imprints in constructing life strategies is very significant, it is necessary to systematize our views on this phenomenon first.


Energy–information fundamentals of imprint formation


Modem psychology proceeds from the assumption that human consciousness is multilevel (multicircuit) [2, p. 171]. T. Leary and R. Wilson proposed the most logical and organic theory of consciousness circuits [3, 4, 5], according to which there are eight circuits: oral (biosurvival), anal (emotional–territorial), semantic (dexterity–symbolism), moral (social-sexual), holistic (neurosomatic), collective (neurogenetic), metapro–gramming, and nonlocal (quantum) [4]. Although this classification (called the Leary–Wilson model) is doubtless conventional, experience shows that it is very effective and we will proceed from it in elucidating imprinting characteristics. [1]

Ideas of the multilevel and hierarchical nature of human consciousness existed back in ancient psychological systems. For example, according to the psychological concept of early Buddhism, human consciousness is inhomogeneous and may be presented by 121 levels [3, p. 108]. As opposed to this classification, the Leary–Wilson eight–level model aggregates a large number of known levels of consciousness, singling out only the most important functional properties of the human brain. Such an approach makes it possible to trace how specific imprints form in each circuit. There are also other classifications containing a smaller number of consciousness levels. For example, a four–level model is among them, constructed with regard to the organization of the system of human ideas [6, p. 197]. In our point of view, however, such a theory does not make it possible to trace the connection between the levels of consciousness and the imprinting process. Ya.A. Fel’dman’s theory of consciousness levels, which is based on the power of attention and implies ten steps, is also noteworthy [7, p. 21]. Although this model strongly correlates with the Leary–Wilson theory of circuits, it is not clearly related to the imprinting process, which is its drawback. [2]

What we know about imprinting is as follows. First, imprints occupy an intermediate place between genetic imperatives (instincts) and conditioning. Second, they are formed accidentally (their character cannot be predicted). Third, they are realized during critical periods called moments of imprint vulnerability [4, p. 37], when the individual cannot resist external directives. Fourth, imprints are of two types: good (positive directives) and bad (negative directives).

It is assumed that an imprint is a sort of human software that accretes with the hardware and is pressed in brain neurons when the latter are especially accessible and vulnerable [4, p. 37]. In other words, an imprint is a neuron chain that plays the role of a program module that is activated by an activating situation. Imprints help consciousness structure the world. Like any world structuring, an imprint may be good or bad.

In our point of view, this scheme is perfectly correct but requires certain explanations and specifications. First of all, we should understand what periods of imprint vulnerability mean, what is characteristic of them, and why imprinting does not happen during other life periods.

The answer is simple enough: periods of imprint vulnerability are characterized by an acute lack of energy when psychic protection is weakened, which allows external information perturbations forming these or those behavioral directives to “rush in.” The lack of energy automatically denies the possibility to become aware of information signals, owing to which they go into the sphere of unconscious directives (subconsciousness) in the form of imprints (programs). Human energy (vitality) is the base of psyche resistance, which, in turn, screens information “shocks” that affect the individual during his or her entire life. A strong psyche makes the individual clearly perceive all incoming information signals and either accept positive signals and later use them effectively or eliminate undesirable and dangerous ones. An excessively large loss of psychic energy leads to imprint vulnerability when any accidental signal penetrates into consciousness and is fixed there irrespective of whether the resultant directives will be good or bad. The immediate result is the formation of good or bad behavioral programs (imprints).

Let us show this energy–information mechanism by the example of the first four (hominid) circuits of human consciousness according to Wilson’s eight–circuit classification.

The first circuit of consciousness, biosurvival, is formed right after birth. During this period, the individual’s attitude towards danger forms according to the following imprint dichotomy: a good imprint implies courage and the absence of unwarranted fears, while a bad imprint means cowardice and the presence of unwarranted fears. Why do imprints of this type form during the initial phase of life? It is at this time that the baby cannot protect itself and needs external support badly. The individual’s feebleness during this period is especially acute and, he is especially vulnerable to forming biosurvival directives. In addition, from the very beginning of his autonomous life, the child develops a new function associated with independent food taking, which requires certain skills, is associated with energy consumption, and serves as the energy base of the imprinting of the first circuit.

The second circuit of consciousness, emotional–territorial, is formed when the child begins to walk. During this period, the position of the future personality in a social group is determined according to the following imprint dichotomy: a good imprint implies domination, supremacy, and leader psychology fixation, while a bad imprint means playing second fiddle and subordinate psychology fixation. The process of getting onto the feet is extraordinarily energy consuming, and it drains and exhausts the child of all his strength, which serves as the energy base of the imprinting of the second circuit of consciousness. Developing the orthograde posture makes the child a toiler. It also requires great amounts of energy and ensures conditions for imprinting behavioral directives. A transitional period comes, during which the child adapts to a new function–orthograde posture.

The third circuit of consciousness, semantic, forms when the individual begins to speak. The successful development of speech skills makes foundations for good imprint (quick wits, quick mind), while failures, to the contrary, for bad one (dullness, slow mind). Learning to speak also requires colossal efforts that weaken the child and open “locks” for the formation of respective mental and behavioral directives. During this transitional period, the child begins to express thoughts verbally.

The fourth circuit of consciousness, social–sexual, forms during puberty. The configuration of the imprint dichotomy is as follows: a good imprint implies the desire to have a full family and offspring and to interact effectively with society, while a bad imprint means unwillingness to have a full family and children, inability to get on with people, and escaping from society. During this period, a serious reorganization of the organism takes place, which requires increased energy consumption and opens the psyche for acquiring behavioral directives with regard to interaction with other people. In this case, the increased energy consumption is also associated with the beginning of a transitional period when the teenager adapts to a new function–sexual contacts.

Thus, in all four cases, imprinting occurs during critical periods when the individual is exposed to additional energy loads associated with the development of additional biosocial functions.

A similar process takes place under the so–called reimprinting, when new imprints replace old ones. This process is sometimes called “brainwashing” to emphasize the suppression of old imprints, which is very difficult. A number of authors think that imprints are irreversible: they appear during a critical period and stay with the individual for life [1, p. 196]. Nevertheless, it is possible to suppress them; suffice it to remember destructive technologies of reprogramming and “zombifying” people. Leary’s studies of reimprinting technologies show that they are invariably based on energy. We mean sleep deprivation and the deprivation (or reduction) of protein–containing food [8], which weakens the organism and decreases its original resistance to negative information signals. If this is added by informational isolation or the restriction of information to one particular type of information signals, the reimprinting process usually becomes irreversible. Thus, the deficit of sleep and food, which weakens the organism and decreases its energy, triggers the replacement of old imprints with new ones.

Both imprinting and reprinting processes are based on a temporary lack of energy, which is transformed into the state of imprint vulnerability. In the first case, the lack of energy is the result of an increased load encountered by the organism in forming its new functions, while in the second one, it is the result of external artificial loads.

The idea of the energy nature of imprinting is also confirmed by cellular theory. For example, P. Bragg, while developing physiotherapy methods, proceeded from the fact that human cells can store nerve force. To describe this, he used an elegant metaphor according to which cells were reservoirs of psychic energy [9, p. 254]. When an individual is in a normal or good state, his or her cells are full of or even “overfilled” with energy; if the individual is ill or weakened, the cells are empty or almost empty. Nerve cells–neurons–are responsible for processing information and forming imprints. One of the neuron characteristic features is the ability of its external membrane to generate nerve impulses [1, p. 325]. After this, information impulses circulate in the neuron network and take root in brain regions responsible for the formation of memory. It is logical to assume that the capacity of the neuron membrane (synapse) and further signal transportation depend on the energy satiety of the nerve cell. Most likely, neuron high energetics triggers the function of screening information signals and that of their selective perception. Under low energy, neurons become accessible and vulnerable to any information signals and their screening is blocked. It is at such moments that some significant signals are imprinted into respective brain structures in the form of unconscious directives–imprints [4, p. 37]. The latter become good (effective) of bad (ineffective) depending on accidental circumstances when the desired signal has fallen on “naked” (“unprotected”) energetically weakened neurons.

The energetic interpretation of imprinting makes it possible to understand better the differences between psychic and psychological directives, which are usually divided into four types depending on the character of their formation: genetic imperatives (instincts), imprints (programs and directives), conditioning (reflexes and habits), and learning (skills) [4, p. 37]. Although such a division is fully justified, the fundamental differences between different types of directives are not quite clear yet.

According to our scheme, we may assume the following. Genetic imperatives are laid down during the formation of an organism as an energetic–physiological integrity. This process is interwoven with the rise of instincts that reflect the main moments of the organ­ism’s survival. In other words, instincts form automatically, without the individual’s comprehension, and mate with moments when physical energy “concentrates” into a separate biological integrity. Imprints are laid down during periods when new functional abilities begin to form in the organism. This also takes place almost automatically, with no clear comprehension by the biological agent, at the stage of energy decline. Imprinting practically does not involve feedback and the reafference mechanism because the organism has no energy for them.

Conditioning implies a more developed reafference mechanism when a certain action is conditioned by information about the degree of its successfulness [1, p. 53]. Conditioned and unconditioned reflexes are typical examples of conditioning under which the organism has a sufficient amount of energy to trigger the reafference mechanism and screen ineffective behavioral combinations. At this stage, rudiments of the effect of cognitive dissonance, discovered by L.Festinger and consisting in minimizing discrepancies between feelings (perceptions), thoughts (beliefs), and actions (behavior) [8, p. 92], begin to show. The acquisition of imprints often takes place after the appearance of reflexes (conditioned and unconditioned). This means that signals responsible for imprinting require more energy for their processing than those responsible for conditioning, owing to which many conditioned reflexes are temporary and may relatively easily be overcome if the conditioning environment disappears.

Later, the effect of cognitive dissonance is used for accumulating information and learning. As a rule, a direct dependence between a high level of information comprehension and the individual’s high energy is very clear here: the excess of energy ensures effective learning. It is not by chance that correlation between vitality and professional success is typical of outstanding researchers [10, p. 196]. As a rule, a high–energy potential is attributive to a person with a high ability to process information.

Thus, the transfer from genetic imperatives to imprints and then to conditioning and learning is accompanied by an increased role of the individual's energy both at the cellular level and macrolevel.

The energetic nature of imprinting is indirectly confirmed by the fact that the majority of imprints are acquired in childhood. The point is that weak neuron protection in children simplifies the process of imprinting external information signals. We do not mean external signs of the child’s energy. As is known, many children are very active, but this testifies rather to the fact that they cannot control their energy. At the same time, they are incapable of extended work, both physical and mental.

Another confirmation of the energy nature of imprinting is the fact that each circuit of consciousness is physically connected with a respective brain region. Activating the circuit is in fact equivalent to activating the respective brain region. Imprinting the circuits of consciousness takes place during the initial moments of their formation, when brain regions are only beginning to “turn on” and the majority of neurons have not yet acquired the ability to screen information signals actively. A similar process takes place during reimprinting: an individual is artificially “moved” to the biosurvival level, which suppresses the neuron activity of other brain regions and circuits of consciousness. Such a deactivating of the majority of nerve cells simplifies the purposeful imprinting of specified commands and behavioral directives.


The mechanism of forming auxiliary imprints


The imprints studied by the Leary–Wilson theory of circuits may be regarded as fundamental, or basic. Meanwhile, there are many other behavioral directives that are also subject to imprinting and are intermediate, or auxiliary (additional). For example, let us consider the division of people into optimists and pessimists, hardworking and lazy. These qualities are largely a result of accidental external circumstances that take the form of imprints, i.e., unconscious behavioral programs.

Of course, auxiliary imprints play a less significant role in human life than the fundamental ones, but we should not underrate them because it is not a question of simple habits and reflexes that depend on external circumstances and may be relatively easily destroyed when these circumstances change.

Let us give a few examples. Let us consider three behavioral stereotypes that are characteristic of three conventional agents. Upon graduating from an institution of higher education, the first person was oriented to science and creative work and had no financial problems. He was employed to work at a laboratory where he managed to realize his creative potential. In this connection, he relatively soon formed a certain “labor” imprint: work must not be routine, it must be creative. As a rule, this imprint remains for life.

The second individual had begun working shortly before he got married. The presence of the family aggravated all his financial problems, and, as a result, a totally different imprint was formed: first of all, work should bring income and ensure material welfare. Later, irrespective of how his life develops, he will view income as the main point in work.

The third individual was oriented to creative work and was not too hard up when he was looking for a job. However, he was unlucky, and the laboratory where he had found a job cultivated the spirit of barracks routine. In addition, his salary was very low. In this connection, a specific imprint was formed in him: one should avoid any work because it deprives one of freedom and the possibility of creative self–realization. Later, he will restructure his life in such a way as to abandon work and will live on a moderate income from renting his apartment.

The three imprints were formed accidentally depending on the specifics of the initial conditions of each agent. A classical scheme works here: the attitude towards work is formed during the development of the labor function. The assimilation of the new function in the form of everyday work is associated with increased energy consumption and creates the energetic base for fixing the formed imperative as an imprint. We cannot prefer any of the three imperatives a priori: everything depends on individual conditions and forms of realization. The main point is elsewhere: the life trajectory unconsciously develops according to the formed labor imprint, and, as a rule, different imprints form absolutely different life trajectories.

Although the labor imprint is not basic, its significance is colossal and does not need special comments. Such examples concerning different sides of human life are numerous. For instance, a teacher at school can put a pupil off certain disciples by negative imprinting (the imperative “you must not”) or, to the contrary, by positive imprinting (the imperative “you must”), which later tells on the choice of profession. Positive and negative directives in the family sphere and other most important spheres are formed due to the power of an imprint received, as a rule, in childhood or youth.

The question arises: for what purpose do we single out auxiliary imprints as an independent imprinting subsystem? In our opinion, the point is that many important sides of human life, lying beyond the basic imprints, are also subject to fixed programming. If we ignore this fact, we may deprive ourselves of key levers of harmonizing personality. For example, ignoring significant auxiliary imprints usually leads to serious errors in the system of secondary and higher education. Let us consider a few consequences of such errors.


Auxiliary imprints in education


The main danger in the education system based on grading is that orientation to high grades formalizes the learning process and takes the pupil away from assimilating certain abilities and skills necessary to solve real problems. It actually means the suppression of exploratory motivation as a consequence of substituting for the final result (assimilation of skills) an intermediate one (a good mark). In addition, good marks may lead to the “top–student complex,” while bad ones, to the “D–student complex.” If we take into account psychological traumas because of low grades, the necessity to use marks in education will appear questionable. Of course, if the work of an educational institution is ideally perfect, marks will correlated with professional skills; however, in practice this is uncommon. In other words, the probability that pupils will “acquire” negative auxiliary imprints is high.

In my opinion, the grading system at schools should be replaced by the binary “pass–not pass” system. Such a system ensures a minimum for all pupils with no formal differentiation. The latter should be used for entrance examinations to an institution of higher education. It follows that we should reject the unified national exam (UNE). At the same time, it is advisable to implement an impersonal system of testing knowledge, including tests involving computer technologies, which is less traumatic and does not form imprinting.

Higher education should employ the same system, and letters of recommendation should be attached to diplomas. In any case, the presence of diplomas listing the passed disciplines without marks will lead to competition between respective institutions of higher education. Differences in marks in transcripts will not mislead entrepreneurs, as opposed to what often happens today: in practice, mediocre students often turn out to be better employees than top students. In addition, such a system will stimulate the development and implementation of tests in firms employing respective specialists.

The meaning of the proposed system is in its orientation to qualitative aspects: a person either knows and can do this or that or cannot. As for the quality of his or her knowledge and skills, it becomes evident only in the process of real work in any case. Diplomas with honors and gold medals hinder both graduates and employers to understand the situation as it is.

The current school system is oriented to “stuffing” pupils with a certain amount of knowledge but cannot help them determine their future profession. A typical dogma is the intensive studying of mathematics at schools. Meanwhile, the training of economists in the United States involves a serious studying of mathematics only at the master’s stage, reaching the highest level at the doctoral stage. Such a late beginning does not prevent American economists from becoming brilliant mathematicians.


The extinction and destruction of imprints


Imprinting theory is implicitly present in many trends of psychology. For example, A.Meneghetti, the founder of ontopsychology, practically describes the imprinting process, using, in particular, such notions as “the first informer,” “primary existentialistic informa­tion,” “primary stage,” and “behavioral codes” [11, pp. 22, 23, 64, 161]. As for the imprinting process itself, Meneghetti models it as an action of a “deviation monitor” leading to the formation of a “reflective matrix” [11, p. 160]. If we reduce the terminology of different psychological schools to a common denominator, the imprinting process will most likely become a universally recognized phenomenon. Moreover, Meneghetti, when considering the genesis of negative models in female psychology, closely approaches the notion of the auxiliary imprint. All negative stereotypes of female behavior are actually auxiliary imprints fixed by the family and society. Thus, we may state that the theory of auxiliary imprints also has analogues in different psychological schools.

Let us now consider the problem of eliminating imprints. Can one get rid of bad auxiliary imprints or not? How can one do this?

To answer this question, let us give another interpretation of the imprinting process. Its deep meaning is that it is a natural method of structuring (ordering) comprehension of the external world. One cannot help structuring the world, and this structuring may be good (effective) or bad (ineffective). Thereby, the totality of basic and auxiliary imprints is the logical frame of ideas of the external world, which allows the individual to understand this world and function in it. Problems appear only when the structuring has been unsuccessful and the individual has “accumulated” many ineffective imprints. What is the dynamics of imprints if it exists at all?

According to the Leary–Wilson theory, imprints are formed on the four hominid circuits of consciousness, while the inverse process–the destruction of imprints–takes place on the four posthominid circuits. On the fifth (holistic) circuit, this process begins and only some “weak” auxiliary imprints become extinct, while on the sixth (collective) circuit, the process strengthens and reaches its maximum. An important feature of the seventh circuit (metaprogramming) is the absence of imprints and the full purification of consciousness from various distorting models of reality; the eighth (nonlocal) circuit has no connection with imprints at all. As a result, we have a mechanism of “struggling” against negative imprints: to achieve this, it is necessary to move to higher circuits of consciousness. Individual technologies of such a development of consciousness may be different and various, from religious and yoga practices and to chemical preparations (LSD) and the activation of the brain by electric pulses. In any case, an individual who has not reached a mature stage at the sixth circuit of consciousness is subject to risks of the “attack” of negative auxiliary imprints.

If imprinting is a method of structuring the ideas of the external world by human consciousness, how does this structuring develop under the absence of imprints?

The answer to this question seems to be as follows. On the lower circuits of consciousness, the cognition of the world takes place through the mechanism of cogni­tive dissonance, when new facts mate with the model of reality already existing in consciousness. The more developed consciousness becomes, the sooner and better the existing model of the world adapts to new facts. Thus, as this model moves to higher circuits of consciousness, it becomes more flexible and adaptive. The logical end of this process is the seventh circuit of consciousness, when the a priori model of the world entirely disappears and the individual instantly forms from scratch an adequate model on the basis of new information. Thus, the process of adaptive structuring on the basis of the existing picture of the world is substituted with generating a new model that does not rest on previous schemes. In other words, the mechanism of adjusting the old model is replaced with a mechanism of building a new model. It is this mechanism of the unprejudiced generation of knowledge that is characteristic of the seventh circuit, and it is this mechanism that is cultivated by geniuses who are adherents of this circuit.




1. Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Psychology: An Encyclopedic Illustrated Dictionary, Ed. by A.S.Batuev, E.P.I’in, and L.V.Sokolova (Piter, St. Petersburg, 2001) [in Russian].

2. G.M.Hodgson, Economics and Institutions: A Manifesto for a Modem Institutional Economics (Polity Press, Cambridge, 1988).

3. T.Leary, “The Seven Tongues of God,” Psychedelic Review, No. 3 (1964).

4. R.A.Wilson, Evolutionary Psychology (Primer, New York, 1995).

5. R.A.Wilson. Quantum Psychology (1990).

6. Т.I.Ivanyuk, Creativity and Personality (TOR, Moscow, 2006) [in Russian].

7. Ya.A.Fel’dman, Theory of Levels and a Human Model (Dobroe Slovo, Moscow, 2005) [in Russian].

8. T.Leary, M.Stewart, et al., Technologies of Change of Consciousness in Destructive Cults (Ekslibris, St. Petersburg, 2002) [in Russian].

9. P.S.Bragg, Formula of Perfection (PTP Tserera, Moscow, 1993) [in Russian].

10. E.V.Balatskii, “End of Science after G. Horgan,” Naukovedenie, No. 3 (2002).

11. A.Meneghetti, A Woman of the Third Millennium (NNBF Ontopsikhologiya, Moscow, 2007).


[1] The initial Leary classification includes only seven circuits with somewhat different names: biosurvival, emotional–locomotion, mental–manipulating, social–sexual, pleasure, ecstatic, and neurogenetic [3, p. 77].

[2] Fel’dman singles out ten levels of consciousness, the initial (zero) level being practically dummy, while the last one (ninth) is practically unknown. In other words, the theory of levels takes into account only eight functional levels of consciousness [7, p. 52], which makes it practically equivalent to the Leary–Wilson theory of circuits.





Official link to the article:


Balatskii E.V. Auxiliary Imprints and Human Behavior// «Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences». 2007. Vol. 77. No. 5, pp. 479–484.

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