My babies - last of the Mohiccans

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Points of View

Do we ever ponder over the virtue of even attempting to try to understand another persons point of view? We all have views and when we do we ought to say, yes I see your point of view too but I think it in this way. I was taught this at an early age and I grew up in an environment where accepting another persons view had no social stigma and where expressing ones own view (even in public) was commended. Good times were had by all. However, it turns out that some people, highly intelligent and intellectual people, seem to be completely unable to admit and accept this. Even when it concerns a trivial matter, such as getting a factoid wrong, the best response I can hope for is a grunt of acknowledgement. I'm not talking about uneducated or intellectually insecure people here. Okay, so a lot of adults don't appreciate being given a differnt point of view. Duly noted. I could move on, but the virtues of scholarship and curiosity compel me to find out why. Predictably Irrational (Ariely) and Influence (Cialdini) don't have the answers. My non-scientific experiments indicate that prefacing a statement with "That idea may be flawed, wrong because..." doesn't work. It seems to make people extra defensive. Standard strategies of persuasion do work, of course. Rephrasing the statement as a question? Works. Saying "Hmm" and pausing before you make your say? Works. Making a suggestion that indirectly points out the point? Yep, works. These are all standard strategies of expression and they can be used to work around the issue but they don't explain why it is that some people have such an aversion to being confronted in the first place. So where does the aversion come from? In a group context signalling could explain it: when you provide a differing view to somebody you draw attention to a possible erring and this could lead to (perceived) loss of status. I don't think this is the real cause because people seem equally annoyed when confronted in a private conversation where there is nobody to signal towards. In cases where signalling takes a dominant role (e.g. when a bunch of guys are talking and a woman joins in) you clearly see a change in behavior because the guys wish to be perceived in a specific way. So in some groups signalling effects can make it more difficult to admit error but signalling is not the underlying cause that makes people averse to acknowledging different views in the first place. Maybe it is an issue of ego. Is another point of view seen as the role of a teacher thereby forcing the other in the student role? That would explain the aversion, but if that's the explicit thought process otherwise rational people would see it doesn't make sense and change their behaviour accordingly. So there can't be an explicit (tactical) thought process underlying the behaviour at all! Maybe people don't wish to admit what they even see as a valid point of view because they prefer to keep it all ambiguous. By admitting, they know that, "I know that they know that they could be wrong". This feels like the most plausible explanation, even though the explicit admission of the issue does not change the state of the shared knowledge: the situation wasn't really ambiguous to start with. So then I'm forced to conclude it's some knee-jerk, gut level aversion to being corrected that has no underlying logic or motivation. I cannot even begin to comprehend this. Given the effort required to find and express ideas openly, honestly and objectively, how can we feel anything but gratitude when somebody points out where we may have been wrong?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Coming Together

All creatures, big and small, on planet earth have been nurtured, have evolved, and survived through time, creating and building various forms of relationships. This pattern of mutual interaction, for mutual benefit, has existed across all species, irrespective of their location, size, lifestyle or type.

History, culture, religion, and old wives tales have all been contributing factors to establish relationships, the primary of them all being the sexual union for the purpose of procreation and survival of the species. Many relationships, thus initiated, are also guided by superstition, myth, expectations, and servitude. The male, of course, has always been the dominant partner in most relationships across all species.

In Kingdom Animalia, relationships are usually short term and established purely for procreation with minimum emphasis on emotions and staying together. However, some groups do maintain some form of family structure within their tribes in the wild. This also serves as a means of safety and protection for the herd. In some groups its the female who does the hunting while the male takes a break.

Human societies also have a few female dominated groups in South America, Africa, and Asia, closeted within small tribes and castes in remote villages and forests.

Irrespective of the dominant gender, all groups still search for that "soul mate" with whom they think and believe they can spend a lifetime of happiness and contentment. Marriage, is an institution that has been created by religion and culture. While this is now a standard operating procedure across a majority of communities across the globe, there still prevails extra marital relationships, intrigues, and even difficult situations between people in managing their lives. One way of getting out of jail is divorce. However, that facility is not always available in all the prevailing belief systems, even today, in the 21 Century.

Humans meet each other and establish communication and relationships purely based on opportunities that are available to them. One goes to a school or university and makes friends. Some of these early friendships last for long periods of time. Work environments provide another source of contact and making friends. Social clubs, sports, the gym, and other extra curricular activities, bring more opportunities for friendship. Eventually, many of these simple acquaintances lead up to marriage, children, and families. 

Thus the "opportunity" is the main factor that provides us with relationship building. If one was born in Japan, the chances are that he or she will start up a relationship with another Japanese and the same will hold good for anyone else born anywhere on our planet. The search for a soul mate does not necessarily conclude that the one you have met and established s relationship with is the best and only available. It is very possible that there may be so many millions of others out there who will fit the bill better than the one at hand.

So, the specific location, date and time, wherever one may have chosen to live or work, or even have been dumped by situations or events to survive, would eventually be the main criteria for meeting someone and establishing a relationship.

Based on this precept would it not then be correct to conclude that we can easily disable a relationship and enable a new one at any given time?