Sunday, October 30, 2011

Question for Readers: Why is such a high fraction of what we teach culturally about the minds of others far more true of non-neurotypicals than of neurotypicals?

First, let me explain what I'm referring to when I ask this question.  As a culture, we implicitly or explicitly teach a model of 'other mind'---that is, a model of how OTHER people think and an estimate of how their internal diplomatic models work.  Those models cover things like what sorts of actions or behavior are likely to ingratiate, intimidate, befriend, or embitter the person they are employed on or with.

A pretty crudely summarized version of the diplomatic model that our culture teaches (I won't speak to any other cultures, because I lack sufficient information and experience within them to do them justice) is as follows:

The diplomatic model that most people use is like an integrator.  Doing them favors slowly builds up their positive feelings towards you and receiving favors deducts from it, like it was money in a savings account.

This model is fairly simple, easy to understand, and, unfortunately, also nearly 180 degrees from reality.  However, it is a fairly good model if you're dealing with fairly non-neurotypical people---e.g. a reasonable fraction of the geek population.

So my question to readers is this:  How in the hell did our culture start promulgating such a model?  Do the neurotypicals actually think they're non-neurotypical? :-)  Or is most of the writing of such topics conducted by the least neurotypical among us, with the exception of such extremely practical literature such as salesmanship training?


Anonymous said...

I have often wondered about this myself. I've even read about alleged studies that prove this thing about favors, but I have yet to observe it in real life.

It could be that this is the way we *wish* humans behaved.

Aretae said...

1. Only non-neurotypicals write at all?
2. Only NNTs used to write at all, and they founded an awful lot of popular thinking
3. The popular crap makes sense...and if you don't run experiments, it seems like it should work.
4. Any properly machiaveliian take on this model, just like any properly machiavellian take on women (Roissy) is liable to be surpressed by the (more neurotypical) authorities (historically, the church).
5. Our current disconnected model is not quite normal. historically, you knew the folks you lived by, they were stable, and on a long term basis, the counting favors model really does work...and the mooch gets excluded (I see this in homeschool groups over years ... the bank model does tolerably well at explaining behavior at some level).
6. Most writing is not intended to tell truth; it's intended to sell books, which it can best do by telling you what you want to hear/what you already think, packaged as insight.

Jehu said...

I suggest you give it a try. Request a minor favor of someone that your brain tells you probably owes you several. Do NOT frame it in a transactional manner, neurotypicals absolutely loathe that. Just says something to the effect of...I've got problem X, and I think that someone with your could help me out. After the favor is granted, express thanks and appreciation. You'll find, I suspect, that your relations with said individual will improve over time. I'd also suggest a bit of Carnegie, Franklin, and practical sales manuals.
I suspect as well that our disconnected society explains a lot of why things like why Game works (in a more normal social environment, presuming more status than society believes you actually possess will get you sanctioned hard---sumptuary laws were only the beginning).

Anonymous said...

'As a culture, we implicitly or explicitly teach a model of 'other mind'...The diplomatic model that most people use is like an integrator. '

This is an interesting premise, but I'm not sure if it's true.

It might be useful to cite some documents. For example, Ben Franklin wrote about asking for favors in order to start a friendship.

When you talk about the diplomatic model, and the integrator, I'm not confident that I understand your intended meaning.

Jehu said...

Franklin and Carnegie are in fact the outliers (i.e., they're among the very few that articulate a diplomatic model that actually works in the sense that it predicts how the object of diplomacy is likely to react).

For what I mean by a diplomatic model--think in terms of a computer or roleplaying game---how does the system decide how person (or nation) X feels about person Y

As to what I mean by an integrator---an integrator is a circuit or device that basically sums up the area under a curve. In metaphor, what I mean is that under that model, a person basically keeps a running tally of favors and other actions associated with each person and simply 'adds them up' to determine how they feel about that person. In terms of what we teach children customarily, things like 'be nice to them and they'll be nice to you' amounts to this when you unpack it with an unsentimental mind.

Alrenous said...

Consider the counter-factual. Imagine it were well known that, for example, asking for favours makes people like you more.

So you gather a bunch of friends by collecting free stuff. Does that sound like a stable situation to you?

Even if it started out this way, either the relationship or the common knowledge has to give. The causation is genetically fixed, more or less. Ergo, the perception gives.

Second, the neurotypical's brain is predicated on having little to no self-knowledge and breaks if provided with too much. E.g. depression causes realistic self-analysis and vice-versa. As soon as the depression lifts, the delusions return.

If you imagine/model a typical neuron blob as a set of modules, they may have a bank-delusion shaped slot that, when filled, allows it to function smoothly.

691 said...

Perhaps that is the model we teach to those who have trouble mastering the more realistic but more complex rules of human interaction: children and non-neurotypicals. We teach simplified rules of human interaction to children as a first step, even though adult neurotypicals operate in a completely opposite way, because it is easier to grasp and live.

Jehu said...

I suspect that if most of the population worked from a reasonably accurate model of how the neurotypical mind operated, that it would trigger a societal immune response. Probably that response would come in the form of punishing presuming more status than one possessed and making status hierarchies more transparent and harder to spoof. Cue sumptuary laws and the like.

If we look at a lot of the older movies (e.g. lots of stuff with Clark Gable in them), we see a lot of more realistic human interaction and 'game', if you will. So I don't think it is true that we always pushed a non-neurotypical's projection of the world onto society at large.