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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Overcrowding the Behavioral Sink Hole

"The Behavioral Sink Hole" is a term coined by Calhoun after conducting a study on overcrowding of rats. In his experiment he was studying how behavior was affected by crowding. There were four things that he observed: 1) Rats that wanted to stay on top were required to fight more often than they would have normally needed to fight in a less crowded environment; 2) Other male rats became very submissive and would avoid all of the other rats including female rats; 3) Some male rats became sexual deviants in which they would pursue female rats with out following usual courting protocol. Some would become hyper-sexual pursuing any rat including young and other males; 4) Females were also affected in that they stopped preparing their nests when they became pregnant.

Additional studies have looked at high density populations in humans as well. One study looked at the differences between populations in a high density prison compared to a less densely populated prison. The researchers found that those in the more populous prison had more suicides, violence, murders, and less compliance than those in the less populous.

This leads us to characterization and how our characters should act. It seems that as we are creating believable characters we need to look at the different stressors that they may be going through including the stress of overcrowding. Also, as our characters are put into high density situations they will need to fight more for available resources. As our characters are trying to complete their "quest" they will need resources that may not be readily available. How do our characters react to these stresses. Do they become aggressive, are they submissive, do they become sexual predators?

Update: I have completed my book and my wife is going through it. I hope to have it ready for beta readers by next week (Monday). It is about 37,000 words (115 pages) long and I am shooting to have it self published by the end of the month. If anyone is interested please let me know.


  1. Congratulations on finishing your book! :) That's an interesting theory about crowding. Human behavior is not as far from the animal as we'd like to think.

  2. I agree we always think that we are much better than animals but I actually just watched a video on the "Blue Bra" Egyptian woman beating. It is sickening what we do to each other. Thanks for the comment

  3. nice on teh book man that is what does that crowding mean as our population continues to expand? we are 40 - 70 years away from shoulder to shoulder...

  4. I wonder how I'd react in a big city like New York? OR Hong Kong? It'd be quite a difference for sure!

  5. Mmm I'll need to think about that. I really like the idea of understanding that different situations evoke emotions and can often overpower what our character set out to do. Congratulations on your book. I would offer to read but I'm afraid i would be hard pressed to get through it by the end of the month. Too much reading on my plate. I look forward to hearing about it though!

  6. Awesome on having your book almost ready to publish. I can't wait to be one of your first customers :)
    Stress caused by overcrowding and limited resources can also lead to anxiety attacks. This might not be the main character, but a supporting character experiencing an anxiety attack could add to the heightened emotions of a stressful situation.

  7. We do have more basic (animalistic) traits then we want to believe and I think you can see this in overcrowding. In the news lately there has been a lot of suicides in overpopulated countries. Just think about all of the news stories about Black Friday. That is a pretty good example of what would happen I imagine.

  8. Thanks for the support on my book. Vanyelmoon you make a good point that it could be used for one of our supporting characters. Emily Black Friday is a great example of overcrowding. Pam- I think I will extend my time line so if you are interested let me know how much time you would need. Brian that is a good question how are we going to cope with the increased overcrowding?

  9. Congratulations on your book!

    I'll have to keep that point in mind. One of my characters is set in a crowded, slum-like place, so there are lots of stressors.

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