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J Genet Psychol. 1998 Sep;159(3):367-78.

A proposed relationship between circumcision and neural reorganization.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University, USA.


Humans are intensely biocultural beings. The linkages and causal feedback loops among their symbolic world, their cultural world, and their physical bodies can be exquisitely complex and subtle. It is suggested in this article that one cultural event--circumcision--exemplifies that subtlety and complexity. It is hypothesized that circumcision reorganizes the male's sensory somato-cortex to raise the threshold of sexual excitability/distraction. This threshold shift thereby allows the young men of a social group (a) to be slightly more tractable in executing corporate activities beneficial to the community and (b) to be slightly more restrained sexually and more cooperative in the pair bond. The practice is accepted because the procedure is deeply enmeshed in the ritual and symbolic life of the social group and is applicable to all young males. Suggestions are made on how to test this hypothesis empirically.

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