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Posts Tagged ‘reality’

From page 22-23 of english translation of The Elegance of the Hedgehog:

“Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is.  They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go.  The most intelligent among them turn their malaise into a religion: oh, the despicable vacuousness of bourgeois existence! […] “What has become of the dreams of our youth?” they ask, with a smug, disillusioned air. “Those years are long gone, and life’s a bitch.”  I despise this false lucidity that comes with age.  The truth is that they are just like everyone else: nothing more than kids without a clue about what has happened to them, acting big and tough when in fact all they want is to burst into tears.

And yet there’s nothing to understand.  The problem is that children believe what adults say and, once they’re adults themselves, they exact their revenge by deceiving their own children. “Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe.  Once you become an adult and you realize that’s not true, it’s too late.  The mystery remains intact, but all your available engergy has long ago been wasted on stupid things.  All that’s left is to anesthetize yourself by trying to hide the fact that you can’t find any meaning in your life, and then, the better to convince yourself, you deceive your own children.

Perhaps an overly negative sentiment, but is the depiction not at least a little true for many people?

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Like a flu virus in a preschool lunch room, the question comes up every 6 months or so as to “Why do children lie?” and “What does it mean?” and “What do you do about it?” The latest incarnation was on CNN/health in a Parenting.com article.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/family/11/12/why.kids.lie/index.html

There is huge divergence out there on the answers to the above questions. Even when the conclusions are correct, like Michael Brody, M.D. who correctly says “There’s nothing wrong with telling it [a lie]” he’s grossly mistaken when he says that, “Very young kids don’t know the difference between truth and fiction.”

And again later in the CNN article, when it states “It doesn’t make sense to punish toddlers for truth bending, since they don’t get that what they’re doing is wrong.” Right conclusion for the wrong reasons, again.

Alix Finkelstein in her book, Baby Name Tool Data Set and her article “Baffling Kid Behavior – Explained” subtitled “Why they say one thing and then do another — and how to know what they really want” concludes with the assessment that is chilling: “Kids are a bundle of contradictory impulses.”

So, what do the above proclamations tell us? Can these authorities with all these published works and fancy letters after their name be mistaken?

It is very clear; children can tell what contingencies are operating in different contexts as well as when those contingencies change. They understand counter-control before the parents are driven to pap in doctor office magazine racks for clues on what “counter-control” means.

Parents are the one’s that have been deceived and have not been told the truth. For instance, parents are told that the ‘Terrible twos’ is just a phase that the children go through, etc. That period boils down to the children learning rules – everyone’s rules, faster than the parents learning the children’s rules. They and teachers and ‘authorities’ see no inconsistencies with encouraging their children they can be President of the United States some day [or a princess or baseball player] with that same child also needing different strategies of how to navigate the politics of third grade.

The enveloping scheme here though is the different rule sets the parents have that conflict with the rule sets the child have.

Ask the 3 year olds living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro without parents if they know the difference between truth and fiction. Ask the four year olds working in the factories around the world if they can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad or about ‘truth’. Ask the five year olds in Bagdad, Darfur, Mexico City, NYC, Moscow and Rome if they understand the rules (contingencies) for telling the truth, lying and what is fiction. Consequences control behavior. Get over it and on with life.

We all live in a world of fantasy and reality. Telling the difference is not easy for children and it is not easy for adults who have been given license to be uncritical of what controls behavior. It is not made easier with superstition and traditions that foster fantasy masked as reality – Christmas – the Easter Bunny – grandpa is now sleeping in heaven – mommy is busy – when the child senses what is going on and it is not what is reported to be going on.

For a child to NOT pick up the differences on what is going on and what he or she is told defines a level of what all parents dread more than anything…the child is a dolt! For parents to NOT manage these relationships with communication supports the contention that parents don’t understand behavior –theirs or their children’s – any better than Finkelstein does above with her assessment that “Kids are a bundle of contradictory impulses.”

Here is a list of scenarios that lead to lying. Can you tell which are for children and which are for adults?

  • Boredom – lack of stimulation and social attention
  • Anger over some broken rules by others

o Betrayal

o Frustration

o Their own rules conflict

  • Seeking material gain
  • Mimicry
  • Story telling to connect things that seem unconnected
  • They want the lie to be the truth
  • Escape / avoidance from aversive stimulation

I can’t tell either.

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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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