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Elizabeth P

6 янв. 2024 г.

Surrounding phenomena in the natural world act on our senses to trigger instinctive behaviors. After a long day of work, there’s a good chance that coming home to the smell of a hearty stew simmering on the stove will intensify one’s instinct to eat.

During our reproductive years, one’s mating instinct is likely to respond to the touch of an attractive member of the opposite sex. How might these normal instincts react to artificially exaggerated versions of these stimuli?

A supernormal stimulus is an exaggeration of a natural phenomenon or object which elicits a stronger response in an animal than that of the original phenomenon or object itself, often leading to behavior that is detrimental to the animal’s own survival. This concept comes from the research of Nikolaas Tinbergen – one of the founders of ethology, or the study of non-human animal behavior.

Tinbergen constructed artificial eggs with different features which were enhanced in one way or another: increased size, brighter colors, or more intense markings. He then gave these fake eggs to birds, and the birds neglected their own real eggs in favor of the supernormal imitations.

Tinbergen’s research in this area has also been applied to the study of human behavior, particularly addiction and compulsive behaviors. Researchers have argued that supernormal stimuli cause addiction by hijacking the brain’s reward system, resulting in behavioral modification – as someone indulges more in a supernormal stimulus, his or her brain keeps demanding more of said stimulus, since its short-term effects on the pleasure and reward systems are more intense than those of normal stimuli.

Various supernormal stimuli are widely available in the modern United States: drugs are being legalized all over the country, the shelves of grocery and convenience stores are stocked with an assortment of junk foods, hardcore pornography can easily be found online, movies and TV shows keep becoming more violent and gory every year, and it is often easier to communicate with thousands of other social media users than to interact face-to-face with other human beings.

Is this simply because human nature makes us all enjoy consuming easy sources of dopamine while wrecking multiple aspects of our own health? Or could it be that those who own the means of producing drugs, food, porn, etc. have weaponized supernormal stimuli against the working class?


In recent years, the market for legal drugs has seen a drastic boom. Ketamine therapy clinics can now be found in various strip malls, major streaming platforms have published documentaries touting the usage of hallucinogenic drugs to treat mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression, and cannabis dispensaries have popped up all over the country as more and more states legalize it for recreational use. Cannabis remains the most commonly used out of all the drugs named above – almost 50 million Americans are estimated to have used the drug. Just as the ruling class repealed Prohibition during the Great Depression, could legalizing weed be another attempt to pacify an increasingly restive working class during this cascading series of “once in a lifetime” economic crises?

Original graph from Visual Capitalist, published on March 27, 2023. Edited by this author to highlight the fact that 13 states have fully legalized cannabis (for both medicinal and recreational use) since 2020, and that recreational usage was legalized in 3 states at the end of 2023.

Marijuana was not only harder to find before legalization, but its effects were also much weaker. Gone are the days of college kids smoking weak pot with their buddies after finding it growing in a ditch somewhere; now, people can simply go to the nearest dispensary and purchase high-THC concentrates and edibles. Back in the 1980s and 90s, smoking too much weed may have resulted in intense but fleeting anxiety, yet nobody ever died from an overdose. Within the past decade, however, at least two children – one four-year-old boy and one infant – are believed to have died of cannabis overdoses. There has also been an increase in cannabis-related emergency room visits, and a growing amount of evidence shows a link between the drug and psychosis.

The bankers and monopolists are just as class-conscious in the 2020s as they were in the 1930s. They understand very well that the American people are fed up with their deteriorating conditions. In order to prevent the masses from organizing to replace the irrational and immoral capitalist system with a rationally-planned economy under a people-centered socialist system, they provide us with mind-numbing substances in hopes of making us indifferent and disorganized.

Junk food

Despite not being technically classified as a drug, research has found that junk food is as addictive as alcohol and cigarettes. Flashy packaging increases the visual attractiveness of junk foods, to which children are especially susceptible, and high-calorie foods with excessive sweeteners and artificial flavors have strong effects on the brain’s reward system. These supernormal qualities can trigger overeating, causing many different health problems such as obesity and diabetes – for which pharmaceutical monopolies have their own profitable solutions, selling their “cures” for these diseases.

Since the US government effectively subsidizes junk food production, these hyper-processed, overly sweet or salty foods packed with calories but devoid of nutrients are increasingly cheaper to buy than fresh produce and meats. Buying and consuming fast food takes much less time and energy than preparing nutritious meals at home. As the crisis of late-stage capitalism intensifies, and working-class Americans continue to see lower wages and longer working hours, this junk food is also a weaponized supernormal stimulus, to sicken, poison, and kill off the working class to ensure that most of us are never healthy enough to fight back.

Note: The first part of this article series explored the supernormal effects of physical substances that one can consume. The second part will delve into supernormal stimuli in media.

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