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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Do we lose any important details as we compress experience through gadgets and social web?

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Dr. Joseph E. Lowery’s Benediction Transcript @ President Obama’s Inauguration

Can there be any question of the power of words?

Can there be any mystery why the sophisticated symbolism of words binds people to…

  • Others
  • Ideals
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Dogma
  • Superstition
  • Loss
  • Hope?

This learned set of symbols… these words… in whatever language they form… are powerful. Words have a value that connects people reading and hearing them as well as separates those not understanding those words.

Based on past histories and current contexts words rouse unforgettable warmth or irreconcilable anger which, in term, become learned by those experiencing them and watching others experience them. It is a reciprocal relationship; words represent traditions and traditions represent words (as we witnessed with the second swearing in of President Obama). When repeated over and over words morph oh so slowly while becoming ingrained in the fabric of civilization. Traditions, including those of religion, bigotry, superstition, inaugurations and funerals are indelible links between people all represented by words.

Sam Harris in “The End of Faith,” has many logical points concerning traditions, superstition and cultures as do so many others including this author. However, at one time or another we all miss another point that gets lost in emotional [ratio strain] self-righteousness; being right is a relative target and is not what everyone values. One thing for sure is that we all value some words organized in some order representing some experiences.

The changes Sam Harris and others search for will come only through a process of selection by consequences. The things that will replace bigotry and fear and traditions of hate must be learned just as the superstitions and belief systems they were based on were learned. If that is the case, and it most assuredly is, Sam and some of the others will not be here to celebrate a new form of enlightenment where understanding the elemental basis of how behavior works is a primary requirement of primary school graduation.

While we work for all those words describing the elements of understanding behavior in our culture we can appreciate Dr. Lowery’s words for what they represent: a plea to figure out what the heck is going on out there.

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Things are complicated out there. You may or may not be aware that your nervous system filters out the massive amount of data that your senses are exposed to. As a matter of conservation of energy (real and metaphorical) you are attending to very little of your environment based on your history and the current value you have for some segment of it.

Let me frame this for your consideration…

Due to our complexity as humans, when things are not there, we sometimes see things. (No, it is not the 60’s.) What’s more, when things are there in front of us and available for our experience, we don’t see them.

Two Experiments to consider…

1. In a recent paper in Science, Whitson and Galinsky (2008) found when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively they will gain it perceptually through illusory pattern perception meaning they will identify “stuff” among a stimuli in their environment that don’t really exist. They are not hallucinating in the usual sense of the word. They are generating information to provide continuity linking what they can just as is sensory data is generated in sensory deprivation experiments.

Whitson, et.al, empirically found that people generate pattern perceptions to make sense of the events in their environment when they experience lack of control of the environmental events they are experiencing.

Now, consider what that means…

  • It means we don’t see the flaws in people we are connected to or that we see the flaws where none exist
  • it means that we see a conspiracy from a new boss when we don’t yet exist to the new boss
  • it means we identify objects in random noise images where there are none
  • it means we see mechanistic cause and effect relationships where no links exist
  • it means we see correlations in economic markets in companies we like
  • it means we don’t see how our behavior is like the behavior of someone we don’t like
  • it means we can’t tell why people like us or dislike us when they do
  • it means that we can’t see the flaws in our children as they lie dead with a needle in their arm
  • it means that we can be more than one kind of person every day of our lives
  • it means that people not like us are suspicious and people like us are allies

Staggering, isn’t it!

Examples of superstitious behavior in the modern world are countless – sports super heroes involved in astrology, learned rituals so complex that someone once referred to a baseball player as “his own seventh inning stretch” due to the time he took to address each pitch. Religion, prayer, sacrificial rituals, appeasements, holidays, traditions, incantations, etc. all come from making relationships where none exist.   Gasuntheit!

When you are uncertain about your environment and don’t perceive you have control, know what is going on, etc., it is disconcerting. In terms of how we learn, not perceiving you have control is an aversive stimulus equal to shock, rejection, pain, or other punishers. Faced with uncertainty, lack of control, people look for patterns [ah, the value of search] in their environments to re-establish control. When it is not there empirically, we try to establish it perceptually with vision playing the lead role.

With the dearth of information and conflicting data sets it is a constant challenge to understand what is related and what isn’t. In an election year the conspiracies exist for those that most not understanding why their candidate is losing since they see the relationships between them and the agenda as a citizen. The media, the polls, the moderators, the economy, the Jews, the youth, the women…etc. are all plotting to undo the trailing candidate.

2. The following video  is based on research by Simons and Chabris from Indiana University. It is very interesting for several reasons, all of which you’ll see if you FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OF THE PRESENTER EXACTLY.

After you see it spend some time thinking how that affects what your life is like, how research is done and how the world works. After all that, come back write or respond with what you think the implications are of the research.

~~~~~~~

The lesson here isn’t simple. If we were to want a society free from magical thoughts, then we need expand the tolerance for people to live in ambiguity in some areas, educate people on how feelings and emotions are the exhaust of perceived contingencies and how the environment comes to control behavior via consequences.



J. A. Whitson, A. D. Galinsky (2008). Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception Science, 322 (5898), 115-117 DOI: 10.1126/science.1159845

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I was telling my friend the complexities of hurricane IKE for us here in the outskirts of Houston. He too had the ‘experience’ and was caught not being able to adequately explain what it was like. I am tough enough to ‘enlighten’ in most cases so he wasn’t going to “help” me understand what was going to happen when we talked on his birthday last week.

We came to the non-empowering collective conclusion that one can’t adequately explain what it feels like to have an in-gown toe nail. Thus, a hurricane or other environmental event was a bigger task approaching the impossible. That reality makes it improbable to explain the loss and your change in focus you end up having after going through it from threat to the aftermath of a hurricane or natural calamity they call IKE.

Do not read any further unless you have time on your hands [which is an interesting idiom].

This blog represents just one more attempt to put some analogies together to bridge what was experienced here in Houston with IKE for those that were not here in my house – yard – neighborhood or were busy elsewhere experiencing a scavenger hunt for the fiscal drain to plug the banking, mortgage and insurance events going on at the same time. Or, for the entertainment weary, some were experiencing being distracted by lipstick “issues” the desperate were engrossed in while Congress was thinking about how to get re-elected.

Be aware that attempts you read here are like love songs, poetry, adventure novels, adventure monologues, biographies, and jokes told since you were naïve: they can’t replace the real thing…

Whoa, let’s get back to IKE>>>

My experiences are anchored on three things and only three things:

  1. my past experiences
  2. my present experience with IKE
  3. my responses to the milieu [behavior stream] going on around me

I sound pretty simple when it’s put that way. I’ll try to get over it.

None of these things are things you can join me in having… they will not help you one iota in understanding what I experienced.

But, there might be a way…

Because catastrophes or naturally occurring events happen all the time, there are some similarities you may recognize at the right time when you get a chance to experience your own hurricane, tornado, earthquake or tsunami, or for that matter your own in-grown toe nail. Thus, with analogies, similes and metaphors I can attempt to bridge the gap between what I experienced and what I want you to know about that experience.

That’s right. You can generalize from one experience to another based on similarities they have in common. To the degree they have no similarities you can relate to, you are screwed. You’ll experience your calamity convinced it is unique and prevailing over all others of that type. You will have some things you’ll want to communicate and unless you can make the appeal unique and engaging, no one will read past the third paragraph! The calamity you experienced will remain uniquely ‘your’ calamity – or naturally occurring event – which ever represents your drama level best.

No one can know what your experience is like…

Loss of…

“Stuff” – both complex and simple

Behavior – the one no one knows how to talk about

Anchors in life – both complex and simple

Conveniences – both complex and simple

Routines – both complex and simple

Needs reduction – etc.

Real security

Comparative security

Available food

Available water

Available energy

You get the idea…

What’s more the things you can do no longer have any effect…

Water spouts

light switches

Toilets

Garbage cans

Phones

Cars

TVs

Computers

Degoogolization – [loss of connection to Google for news, search and sundry interests]

Stores – including fast foods

You get the idea here too…

So I was telling my friend that during the aftermath having the power come back on after 4 days felt like Christmas morning…

  • I was giddy for hours over little things
    • Hair dryer my wife got to use
    • Coffee grinder
    • Electric razor
    • Garage light
    • Refrig light
    • Laptop

Soon an email came to me that expressed a similar Christmas theme:

  • Decorating the house (with plywood)
  • Dragging out boxes of supplies that haven’t been used since last season
  • Panic riddled shopping in crowded stores
  • Regular TV shows pre-empted for ‘Specials’
  • Family coming to stay with you
  • Family and friends from out of state calling you
  • Buying food you don’t normally buy . . . and in large quantities
  • Days off from work
  • You speak to neighbors who you manage to ignore 360 days of the year…
  • An awkward excitement similar to the culmination of Santa’s efforts
  • Lit candles everywhere
  • Dealing with a myriad of batteries types
  • A high probability you’re going to have a tree in your house!

In the end you thought you were getting back to the world order you had before the storm.

It wasn’t. Some things don’t come back, particularly some behaviors. Some behaviors are there that weren’t there before. You now care about some weird neighbors that once appeared to be part of a witness relocation program. You now look at different ways to escape the pains of no electricity, no running water, no toilets, no gas, no this and no that. You take different ways to work to avoid floods, trees, crews stuck in flood waters trying to reach trees, etc.

Soon you see that someone has their trees trimmed and the debris is at the curb, your curb! Then you realize it…you are back to the trivial, the banal, the inconsequential. Now all you have is the experience, the excitement and the memories along with a shadowing guilt because you have electricity, running water, fuel and food…and there are still 1.2 million people without those things in the 4th largest city in the US where everyone just wants to live life and enjoy their the remainder of their 28,750 days while they wait for the next natural event.

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I have just received for the 12th time this week a virus wannabe email that purports to say that the writer has grave concerns for this country….etc.

In response to the person of known evangelical everything [non-religious meaning] to pass on emails, I gave the following challenge: 

Nice to see your name in my inbox.

 

This has an interesting kind of evangelistic sway to it.  Softer than most but a humble chain email… in a way that reeks of “don’t blame me for the last 71/2 years!”

 

So, what do you think ______?  What are your thoughts on these statements?   How do you assess that a person who was a prisoner of war contributes to that person’s international expertise?

 

I think that writing these pieces is the best thing in the world for those that write them.  Very cathartic, don’t you agree?! 

 

They are the ones who make the effort, take a position, and expose themselves to critique.  Ultimately, they are the one’s who know what they believe, what they value and so on.

 

In comparison, what are the people doing that pass these on?  Kind of like in scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where the on-looker in the restaurant says drolly, “I’ll have whatever she’s having…”

 

I’ll make a deal with you…  If you write one, I’ll write one.  I’ll pass on mine no matter what and you can decide if you want to pass on yours.

 

Now THAT is involvement rather than being part of the ‘silent majority’!   Is it a deal?

I’ll make the same deal with anyone who cares to send less than one page on how they feel about this country and this election. 

 

 

Looking for takers, not fakers. 

 

 

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