Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Devil's Bargain

Some time ago on my website, I started to categorise fallacies of human thought, trying to pull out clear cases of "bad moves" in practical thinkings that get people in trouble. I eventually took it down, both because everybody in the world has already done it, and because like most of them, it was a critique of "debate logic". Debate logic is fine - discussions and debates are one way people are convinced of things, but they're not the main way, and the manipulations in common communication are probably even more hazardous. Unfortunately, they're harder to classify. This NSFW video provides a good example (only accidentally, near the very end of the film), in "are you going to let him talk to you that way?". This phrase is one of the major categories of manupulation (harder to ferret these out than debate illogic) - emotional cues to reinforce the statement of a norm, in order to provoke the immediate appropriate behaviour of that norm. Naturlich, it would invoke confusion to then say to her, as he begins to act, "are you going to let him do this to you?" - the pushing of the norm disrupted.

The idea of having schools teach the basics of persuasion is tempting - by becoming much more self-aware (inserting "what am I doing", "is this someone trying to persuade me of something", and "is that actually fair" as mental reflexes to hearing almost anything from another person) might partially immunise people against such efforts (as well as many others), but this is potentially at great cost - self-awareness takes people mentally out of situations they're in, estranging them from emotional communication (groupthink) - the person who hears "I think X is grand" and instead of being inclined to agree and chew on the idea together (making it grand) asking oneself "is it actually grand?" is a very different person. I think the latter is in fact quite rare in the world, and that some people, either subconsciously or very consciously use collections of these characteristics of the way most people think to achieve memetic dominance - I am not pushing for formal logic in discussions (generally a misguided push, in my experience), but it seems that in common discussions, manipulation of this sort is where practically all norms flow. Could an entire society be pulled out of the moment and given the amount of introspection and cerebral style to immunise it (even if only in part) to these mechanisms? Would a society work that way?

I'd like to believe it to be a good thing, and that it could be done, with enough education and the right education. I partly blame being overly self-aware for the difficulties in my life though, and the other people I've noticed to be the most introspective seem to have unusually difficult lives (even if their situations are ok and would in fact be very good if a more together person were to take over, they have the same self-destructive nature that I do). It's hard to avoid the conclusion that introspection at least plays a role in these life dysfunctions and this alienation. This goes beyond the possible nervousness-that-manipulation-is-happening and the possible (often jarring) interjection of either a "do you realise you're not being consistent" or "how does this compare with your ideas about Y?"..

I wonder if it would be interesting to try to classify the types of informal communicative means like the above beyond the "Oh hey I just noticed this person is manipulating me, let's write it down" sense, or the slightly more weird "Oh hey I just noticed I'm manipulating this person, let's write it down" variant.


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