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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

They’re at it again. Yes they are… As part of the Rube Goldberg contingent from Mythinformation Central. From the people that brought you “you’re fat because of your friends” you are now presented with: “your genes influence who will become friends.”

They set up the straw man: that it is an error to suggest people are a function of a “simple model for the metabolic, neural and Internet networks, and the same model is applied to human beings — that all parts of the network are identical and interchangeable”.

They never knock it down but extrapolate beyond the data with innuendo of their own PR. One can only imagine that Christakis and cronies will be doing collaborative work with Steven Pinker soon on the topology of the mind, call it science and write another book on the mind’s influences in support of Pinker’s postulate that the reason the Chief justice misquoted the oath of President Obama was a “blowback from Chief Justice Roberts’s habit of grammatical niggling Or was it a Freudian slip? Hmmm… Science, huh... How very canny for the Language Don Dr. Pinker to point that out as he knows so much about both people’s histories, relevant factors and ‘mindful’ homunculi like those “inherent characteristics that govern where we [as individuals] gravitate to in the social network.”

“A second implication is that the [current] study suggests that if we really want to understand how things [?what ‘things’?] diffuse in social networks, we need to take into account people’s locations in the social networks, which are due in part to their genes,” Christakis pontificated while showing no data or peer reviewed research.

Please see the Baloney Detection Kit submitted for consideration for those reading content from any media channel, including Buzz Creation or Mythinformation efforts by mainstream print media to get more subscribers and kooks to buy their fading printed words.

I am looking forward to more “sharper predictions” from the Christakis Mythinformation crew.

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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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Phone rings. I pick up the phone without call identity.

A voice I don’t recognize asks for me. “This is John” I reply.

“Hi, this is Mike C…” The phone goes silent for a second or two that seems to be a lot longer. “Damn,” I respond, “it is good to hear your voice Mike, C… [repeating his name as if to reassure myself I heard it right] …Where the hell have you been?”

A little background:

We last saw each other in the early 70’s. We were raw, immortal, and passionate about everything. Bright guys who were luckily stupid or stupidly lucky…or both. We had nothing but everything in front of us and we saw clearly those who had a cloud around themselves and those that had the wind at their backs. We did things we weren’t suppose to do and we didn’t do what we should have done. He taught me early on to “go fast” – also our special word for our favorite controlled substance – and the value of ‘wishing’… “John, you can wish in one hand and spit in the other and you know which one will fill up first!” To this day my kids don’t use the term “wish” very much.

Then, for no apparent reason we went separate ways after an ice climbing experience where our friend slipped and fell several hundred feet down a razor runway of ice. We all laughed about it when we got back down but we all knew we had escaped another bullet.

Back on the phone we go back and forth to catch up on what has been 30 years of experiences. I had not seen or talked to him or his lovely wife Jane for a long time although I thought of him during that time on many occasions. We also had common friends around the country. I met people in business that knew Mike and just smiled when his name was mentioned, making sure that I knew him as well as they thought they knew him prior to sharing with me their ‘adventures’ with him. Our ice climbing friend in San Francisco recently sent his email over with his email address and I pinged Mike in the hopes of connecting again. It worked.

Jobs, adventures of my own, wives, divorces, remarriages and more adventures – both positive and those less so. We went down the check list of catch-up:

  • Children (mine, not theirs)
  • Home – past and present
  • Speed bumps encountered
  • Jobs – past and present
  • Common friends –
  • Current passions –

In all too short a time the call was over with commitments to exchange data on current locations, etc. and to keep in touch – probably with email due to his travels… Jane would follow up in the next few days while he was on his latest adventure.

I hung up and it started.

“What he hell just happened…?”

In the past we were connected in so many ways and now we were reminiscing. It was not getting older that rubbed me wrong… I was jealous that he was who he was right now… leaving me with some explaining to do to me on why that was so.

So here is the question set:

1. What was the reason for the jealousy?

2. What data was I processing that made me want to say more and listen less?

3. Did I really know him today or was he a figment of the past intense experiences?

So give me your answers…

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