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Transmarginal Inhibition

 

Explanations > Behaviors > Conditioning > Transmarginal Inhibition

Description | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

When faced with extreme stress or pain, the body will shut down rather than allow the person to endure the physical or mental discomfort caused.

Thus a person being tortured or otherwise enduring extreme hurt will fall unconscious. The body may also shut down partially, for example with loss of sight, hearing, use of limbs, etc.

Factors that can lead to this state include increasing discomfort levels and increasing the unpredictability of when the discomfort will be experienced.

There is a threshold level at which the shutting down happens. This threshold varies with the individual, with some people shutting down early whilst others being able to endure greater discomfort.

Discussion

Transmarginal Inhibition (often abbreviated as TMI), was first identified by Ivan Pavlov in his experiments with dogs and later taken up by Carl Jung, William Sargant and others.

What Pavlov found in his studies was that TMI led to a loss of previous conditioning.

TMI goes through stages in which normal stimulus-response patterns are increasing changed:

  • Equivalent phase where big stimuli elicit big responses and vice versa.
  • Paradoxical phase, where a quantity reversal  appears in significant stimuli eliciting small responses and vice versa.
  • Ultra-paradoxical phase, where a quality reversal occurs, with negative stimuli eliciting positive responses and vice versa.

So what?

Watch for people who have a low threshold and start to shut down under relatively low levels of stress. Manage this state carefully.

See also

Conditioning, Stress, Four stressors

Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. London: Oxford University Press.

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