Regressive Tendencies Definition

In "The Pedestrian," the police officer takes Leonard Mead in for "regressive tendencies." What is meant by this?

Does this mean he is going back to what society used to be? Society had people that could think before. Now, people only watched television and are distracted.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because Leonard Mead does not behave in a conventional manner by engaging in outmoded activities, he is taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.

When Leonard Mead walks at night, he has chosen "wisely" to wear sneakers because before doing so, dogs would bark at him when they heard his footsteps. Then, lights would come on inside houses as faces appeared and neighborhoods would be "startled" by the passing of his solitary figure. Now the sidewalks are buckled, and the cement is "vanishing under flowers and grass" because these walks are in disuse. The highways, also, are abandoned in the evenings, although during the day they are filled with racing vehicles that weave in and out of lanes. In the evenings, these people who drive at such a racing pace sit in the semi-darkness and watch a small gray screen that seems to mesmerize them. But, Mead does not own a television, nor does he have a wife because, as he later says, "Nobody wanted me."

Just as Leonard Mead turns for home on his walk, a police car orders him to stop and raise his hands into the air. Mead is questioned about his residence and occupation. Then he is asked what he has been doing; he replies, "Walking." The voice sounds as though it is shocked. "Walking! . . . Walking where? For what?" Also, this metallic voice asks Mead if he owns a "viewing screen." Mead replies that he does not own such an item, and he explains his reason for walking as his desire "for air, and to see, and just to walk." Mead is then ordered to get into the police car, and he is taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies. Mead's behavior is now out of date; he has the "tendency" to do things that are outmoded, things such as walking, writing and reading, and not owning a "viewing screen." Now, anyone who engages in such old-fashioned activities as Leonard Mead does is considered to have regressed, or returned, to a former condition of human beings. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you are moving towards the correct answer. The issue here is of course the way that Leonard Meed is different from everybody else in this police-state society, who appear to be happy staying indoors and watching TV. He has chosen to not be like them and to reject their lifestyle, even though clearly it puts him in danger. Note how the rest of the people in his world are described:

Everything went on in the tomblike houses at night now, he thought, continuing his fancy. The tombs, ill-lit by television light, where the people sat like the dead, the grey or multicoloured lights touching their faces, but never really touching them.

Because Leonard Meed does not want to stay in his "tomblike" house, watching his screen like "the dead," and because he wants to walk around at night "for air," when he has no reason to because of the air conditioner in his house, he is labelled as having "Regressive Tendencies." To put it bluntly, he doesn't fit in to this frightening dystopian world that Bradbury creates for us. If you don't fit in and you are not accepted, you are normally locked up, which is what happens here.

dm5213 | Student

Is this a good answer too. "Explain Leonard Mead's "regressive tendencies." 

-Leonard tells the police over and over that his motivation for walking is fresh air,to see, and just walk but the car doesnt believe him. He lives a different way from the rest and because he doesnt want to watch tv in his house and put air conditioner on for air he get labled as "Regressive tendencies" which means he does the old way and not the technology way so hes backwards and gets taken away to be tried to be changed.