American Psychology / Warped Humans, Confirmation Bias

The WEIRD Evolution of Human Psychology

 

Does psychology’s over-reliance on American undergraduates distort our image of the human species?

YES.

"Mental Health" by Nathaniel Gold

Imagine that you’re in a room with 100 psychopaths. The first thing you’ll probably want to do is leave that room. However, once you do, you discover a booth installed with one-way glass where you can watch what’s taking place without anyone seeing you. Comfortably seated, you observe a strange experiment taking place. A few of the individuals have on white coats and are carrying around clipboards while most are being run through a battery of psychological tests.

Slowly the frantic activity begins to make sense. Some test subjects are looking at video monitors and have sensors attached that measure their galvanic skin response to the images they see. Others are being given questionnaires to elicit their answers to a variety of social situations. Still others are being placed inside an fMRI scanner to measure the blood flow in different regions of their brains. All of these are standard methods in the psychological and brain sciences. But what’s most striking to you is the fact that this study is being conducted on psychopaths by psychopaths.

“Subjects reported a consistent disregard for the feelings of others and a lack of remorse in cases where they’ve hurt someone,” reported one researcher from his report based on answers from the questionnaire.

“This is consistent with the fMRI results that show significantly less blood flow to the paralimbic system, especially those regions involving emotion,” adds another looking at her analysis of the brain scan data.

“The skin conductance data also agree, showing little or no emotional reaction to violent or disturbing imagery,” reports a third who seems to be the one in charge of this strange experiment.

“These results suggest that the human species is inherently deceitful, antisocial, and has little regard for others,” he says. “Evolution has honed us to be selfish actors interested only in maximizing our individual potential at the expense of everyone else.” The other researchers nod in agreement, for that is certainly what the results show.

From where you sit it’s clear that something is terribly wrong with this study. Because they were only testing psychopaths the researchers’ data may be consistent but it’s only applicable for that one group. However, because the researchers were also part of that group and saw the world in the same way, they made the false assumption that humans everywhere behaved that way too. This is known in the sciences as confirmation bias, preferring conclusions that support someone’s own personal preferences or outlook even when the evidence is weak to nonexistent. This usually happens unconsciously. It’s the tendency we all have to prefer interpretations that support our preexisting beliefs. This is why scientific studies try to get a large and diverse sample size to draw their conclusions from.

Obviously the above example could never happen in real life, but it represents a simplified thought experiment to address a larger question about how research on human cognitive evolution is carried out. What happens if researchers inadvertently fall prey to confirmation bias at a societal level? Would the same false results that affected the hypothetical psychopath study also affect other assumptions about human nature?

Addressing this question psychologists Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan at the University of British Columbia (where I am also located) published a paper last year in the journal Behavioral Brain Sciences. Their research documents how most of the studies that psychologists claim show human universals are really just extrapolations from a single social group, the cultural equivalent of the psychopaths in my example. As The New York Times wrote in their review:

According to the study, 68 percent of research subjects in a sample of hundreds of studies in leading psychology journals came from the United States, and 96 percent from Western industrialized nations. Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology — making a randomly selected American undergraduate 4,000 times likelier to be a subject than a random non-Westerner.

The subpopulation that Henrich and colleagues found to be overrepresented are entirely WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies. While it’s bad enough that WEIRD American undergraduates are serving as our model for human behavior, what their paper goes on to document should be of concern to all behavioral and cognitive researchers (particularly those whose work focuses on human evolutionary explanations).

When these affluent American and non-Western populations are compared there are important differences in domains as seemingly unrelated as visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, and even the heritability of IQ. In all cases American undergraduates didn’t simply differ, they differed substantially. Nevertheless, they form the basis of most researchers’ assumptions about human nature even though, as Henrich and colleagues conclude, “this particular subpopulation is highly unrepresentative of the species.”

To highlight one domain in which American undergraduates differ from most other populations in the world consider a neutral category like visual perception. Looking at the figure below, which horizontal line, “a” or “b”, would you estimate is longer?

What I have always seen in this type of graphic is that the person who designed it is trying to trick me into seeing that the lines are different lengths, when actually, they are the same.

If you chose “b” than you are in line with a substantial number of Americans (both undergraduates and children) who chose the same one. In fact, both lines are identical in length. This has become known as the Müller-Lyer Illusion, named after the German psychiatrist Franz Carl Müller-Lyer who first discovered it in 1889. However, if you show the same two lines to people in many non-Western societies (particularly hunter-gatherer societies) they will be more likely to identify the two lines as identical. In a series of cross-cultural experiments in 1966 psychologist Marshall H. Segall manipulated the length of line “a” until it reached the point where respondents reported that the two were identical in length. The results of these experiments can be seen in the graph below.

The vertical column represents the Point of Subjective Equality (PSE), or how long line “a” had to be before respondents said they were the same length. In other words, PSE is a measure of how effective the illusion is for different populations. As the graph indicates, Americans (labeled as “Evanston” for where Segall tested undergraduates at Northwestern University in Illinois) were the population most fooled by this illusion and required line “a” to be an average of one-fifth longer than line “b” for both to be perceived as equal. They were followed by white South Africans from Johannesburg. In contrast, the San foragers of the Kalahari were not affected by the illusion while most other societies in the study were only marginally affected.

Why would Americans be so susceptible to this illusion? Our environment. Most Americans are raised in a society where horizontal lines and sharp corners make up much of modern architecture. The brains of American children (and, presumably, most children in highly industrialized countries) have adapted to make optical calibrations as a result of their unique environment. The San and many other small-scale forager or horticultural societies don’t grow up in a manufactured environment so their brains are unaffected by such illusions.

A similar difference can be found in what psychologists call “folkbiological reasoning.” Cognitive scientists testing children drawn from U.S. urban centers (where most universities are located) have developed an influential developmental theory suggesting that there is a cognitive shift that takes place between ages 7 and 10. As Henrich and colleagues state in their paper:

Before age 7, urban children reason about biological phenomena by analogy to, and by extension from, humans. Between ages 7 and 10, urban children undergo a conceptual shift to the adult pattern of viewing humans as one animal among many.

This shift has been considered a process that all human children go through. The problem with this reasoning, Henrich points out, is that it only applies to one subset of children: those who live in urban environments. Similar cognitive tests of children in Native American communities in Wisconsin and among the Yukatek Maya communities in Mexico showed none of the empirical patterns that the American urban children displayed. The answer, of course, is that urban children grow up in an impoverished environment where they will rarely, if ever, interact with animals other than humans (with the occasional dog or cat kept as a pet). This is a very different environment from many non-Western societies, and certainly from the one our remote ancestors lived in.

As a result, the “unnatural” environment of these WEIRD children resulted in anthropocentric assumptions about the natural world until they were taught differently by teachers or from television (though I often wonder how an increased exposure to nature when they’re young might influence adult attitudes about the importance of environmental issues). Given this, as Henrich points out, it makes as much sense to use urban children in studies of human cognition as it would to study “normal” physical growth in malnourished children. Because the psychologists who carried out these studies likely grew up in an urban environment themselves (rural students are significantly less likely to attend graduate school, particularly at top-ranking institutions) the confirmation bias of such studies are perpetuated. It’s almost as if psychopaths were conducting research on themselves and claiming their results were universal.

Of course, there is one important difference between psychopaths and American society. Psychopathy, and Anti-Social Personality Disorder more generally, is a diagnosed mental disorder that has a partial basis in genetics, not just the environment. Nevertheless, the confirmation bias that exists in many psychological studies represents a distortion of reality that has just as much potential to be passed on to subsequent generations.

The fact that empirical differences exist on identical psychological studies when replicated cross-culturally should make evolutionary researchers take caution (especially Evolutionary Psychologists who are most guilty of essentializing these studies). What Henrich and colleagues have called for is a renewed effort to conduct similar cross-cultural research before making grand claims about the species as a whole. At the very least it means that researchers and science journalists alike should be careful not to perpetuate ideas that appeal to their own beliefs but which may have no basis in other societies. To do otherwise would be to confuse our own reflection in a hall of mirrors with a crowd of people making identical movements. That would clearly be psychotic.

This post originally appeared at the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Blogs.

Reference:

Henrich, J., Heine, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33 (2-3), 61-83 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X0999152X

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Aspergers and Society / Adulthood into Old Age

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It’s not only social ideas about “senior citizenship” that drive me crazy. One can ignore the drumbeat commercials for adult diapers, and for the hundreds of drugs that claim to prolong life by a week or two, that is, if the side effects don’t kill you first, or chastisements over bad habits like smoking or eating red meat – habits that supposedly shove one off the cliff “before one’s time” as if death can be predicted by statistics; the  game “cheat death” so others may profit.

I frown when the physician’s assistant at our clinic rattles off the big diseases that wait ahead that I must strive to avoid.

“Just how am I supposed to die?” I always ask her. This is one more social snag for an ageing Asperger: making direct, honest challenges to the social rules and concepts surrounding aging. I’m not about to start loading up on prescriptions that will mess up my mind and body while claiming to relieve me of some condition that is merely an annoyance, until 30 bottles of pills crowd the bathroom counter – pills that supposedly undo the adverse effects of other pills.

Real physical changes do require psychological adjustment; not easy for Asperger types. One often hears that Asperger people don’t like change, but this puts the wrong spin on how we may react to change. “Liking” change has little to do with it. Anxiety has been a life-long companion; no one who has lived with chronic depression and anxiety wants to spend any more time in these states than necessary. Change initiates stress  for every human, but for an Asperger, “good” stress is no different than “bad stress.”

I am exceedingly averse to losing control to neurotypicals, who “go by” mechanistic plans that supposedly “help” people, but which assume that people are all the same and ought to comply with whatever boneheaded scheme institutions, corporations or governments apply – obedience is the theme. For the elderly, that generally means returning to kindergarten. In the neurotypical mind this makes sense. Old people are just like children: treat them like children; problem solved. No need to understand old age as a unique stage of life.

It may be due to having an artistic temperament. Artists and writers often choose a simple existence – something like: 1. Work in the morning. 2. Eat, take a walk, do errands in the afternoon. 3. Go back to work in the evening. To people who follow a rigorous social existence, where not one minute is “free” (it’s now a virtue to be an out of balance and exhausted squirrel who never rests) this may seem selfish, lazy, unfair, or even criminal.

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“You write? What do you write?” If I said cookbooks, romance novels or fashion guides that would be fine, but what one writes has nothing to do with writing for money. Writing is thinking and learning and persistence is required.

If you ask what any American what he or she does, as long as it involves a paycheck, it’s acceptable, because someone has conferred social value on that person by paying them money.

I had thought that my current lifestyle would carry me into old age with little more than a “bump” or two, but that’s not so. Old age really is a new phase of life just like childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; work, marriage, family and children; empty-nesting and having to raise your grandchildren when you thought all of that was finished. It’s not attempting to extend “youth” into six, seven or even eight decades.

Experience asks the question, What are you going to do with the information that you have stored over a lifetime?

Taking yoga classes, getting a plastic surgery – “100,000 mile” overhaul; buying Ho-rish young clothing, playing bridge or going bowling with other seniors; nothing wrong with those options, I suppose, but my life’s trajectory has never been social.

Just what do Asperger types do in old age? It’s a new frontier… how to be seen as a capable adult human, despite having people speak to you as if you’re a lost and deaf three year-old; to be regarded as having no purpose, but obliged to continue as a “consumer”.

I’ve dealt with strange reactions to my thoughts and behavior for six decades, but I find that learning to accommodate frustration has not lessened my irritation.

What a waste of experience and wisdom is wasted in American culture.

What a waste of experience and wisdom in American culture, when elders are dismissed as nuisances.

Society puts a lot of energy into depriving all kinds of people of fulfillment: human beings need to contribute to human effort and accomplishment. People suffer when they become objects that the “ruling minority” deny self-expression and the means to support families.

One of the great insults to Aspergers individuals is to deny us the basic human satisfaction of contributing: not because we don’t have skills and intelligence, but because we don’t “ape” social conventions. What a loss: society needs us, young and old. 

 

 

 

Human Predators / Animal Predators

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Well! If that doesn’t say, “I’m a predator” what does? The problem is, nature has rules of predation that constrain the predator-prey relationship. Humans don’t. Humans kill, kill, kill with no sense of proportion or consequence. That’s why thousands of species are going extinct and human beings suffer from human-on-human predation.

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This faux complaint goes back to before the pyramids: the male predator complains that the female prey is being “unfair” – the Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd scenario and/or Road Runner & Wiley Coyote.

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The real thing: and females dominate the hyena show.

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Why do people think that this statement is illuminating, surprising, informative or intelligent? If psychopaths experienced guilt, remorse, shame or responsibility, they wouldn’t be psychopaths. Criminals usually “fake” these attitudes at sentencing  with tearful apologies, and rather unbelievably, are often believed. In the U.S.A. saying you’re sorry can get you out of almost any infraction.

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The battle for Top Prey – it’s real!

Human Predator and Prey Relationships

What we have is the indirect admission that “modern social males” are a whole lot tamer (neotenic; feminized; lower testosterone) than archaic humans. The website (alpha male FTS) also presents a clichéd concept of Male vs. male in both “wild communities” and in neurotypical societies. As usual, the environment is ignored as the shaper of evolution. That is, predators may have a lot to do with pushing the human brain toward the clever, high capacity human brain (mid Homo erectus) that peaked in size in hunters, but has been shrinking for thousands of years.

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Smell the testosterone!

From Prey to Predator / from Alpha Male FTS (Fitness)

Humans are inherently weak, feeble and really shouldn’t be able to survive much longer than a few hours out in the elements. We have nothing to keep us warm unless we put in work somewhere else and make clothing to trap our body heat.

We can’t go out and kill many things without having to make some type of weapon first. Ditto for self-defense. We were prey for the majority of our existence and had to think about fending off predators if we wanted to make it through the day. (A bit simplistic, and again the mistake of equating modern neotenic Homo sapiens with Archaic homo.)

The one thing that we do have that fixes all of these issues is our brain. The ability to think things out, to realize potential, and truth. (Oh dear! I bet that scared away cave bears! What did humans do BEFORE the “executive functions” came on line and “brain power” was consumed in coordinating the complex interactions that run the human body?)

The greatest realization that we have as humans is to finally understand we are a predator too…and not just the prey. (males, of course – modern predators tend to be camouflaged by business suits and hang out in a new environment – the top of the social pyramid.) 

For all the exciting ways that a modern male can recapture an imaginary Alpha-hood – go to http://alphamalefts.com.

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Not everyone can be a predator; predators must have prey; prey must have predators.

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Money is the measure of status and power in American society, so it’s easy to locate predators. An excess of predators causes instability: the upward movement of wealth to the top 1% has produced excess candidates for the predatory class. A predator-on-predator war is going on right now in the U.S. political arena, on behalf of the extended Top 1% that politicians “serve.”

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The way to a “natural” predator-prey curve requires a reduction in predators. In the wild, “candidates” would be literally knocking each other off in physical contests.  Concerning the American paradigm of wealth, we might do better to auction off political “jobs” and apply the funds to our staggering debt. (A bit Roman, but perhaps more effective than elections.)

 

Brief Lecture / Neurobiology Emotion

The “faces” used in these tests (not just this video) look very exaggerated and “phony” to me. I don’t perceive an “emotion” but instead begin to wonder whether the unnatural faces promote “cheating” in the test subject. That is, are people really good at deciphering faces, or are the tests designed to make the task easier?

Also, the faces are static and without context. Human faces / emotions are not static and expression is fluid. This type of test is not realistic. So what does it mean?

Also, how would one identify “disgust” (or other emotion) if one hadn’t named it “disgust” and taught people that this particular face matches the emotion named “disgust” ? Animals don’t have words for emotions, but they express emotion /  “reactions” to the environment.

Psychology / Modern Social Puritanism

The Bureau of U.S. Labor statistics provides the following information for 2014: Psychology is the domain of white females. 

Number of employed psychologists in U.S.: 232,000.

Who they are: Women 71.9% / men 28.1% 85% White; 5.7% Black; 1.3% Asian; 8.0% Hispanic.

Psychology is the “liberal” “politically correct” contemporary manifestation of Old Puritanism disguised as “science” – but which is based in narrow prescriptive social and religious rules which result in staggering numbers of American children and adults to be labeled as “mentally disordered” for simply being human. (Original sin)

The U.S. is experiencing a resurgence of Puritanism in the secular guise of Liberalism, with psychologists taking on the task of segregating “the sinful” (those increasingly diagnosed with mental illness and behavioral, developmental and “thought” disorders) and prescribing punishments (treatments) to bring the deviant parties inline with the dictates of the White Elite. Psychologists are overwhelmingly white and female. 

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Sometimes old books are concise and informative without all the attendant “political correctness” to wade through. (Think about it: controlling the very words people are allowed to use is a Puritanical activity.) This was written in 1904 when there was a positive spin on Puritanism – and even so, the description of Puritans is that they demanded annoyingly narrow behavior. The parallel with the narrow prescriptions of American psychology, which are entwined with the encroachments by government agencies on everyday life and business are obvious.

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Contemporary American Puritanism: The invention of the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome is Puritanical censorship of humans who are incapable of being hierarchical toward human beings; who speak the truth and refuse to lie – the price demanded for belonging to an infantile society.

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One must make an appointment and be confined to a specific area in order to practice Free Speech, which is the foundation of American liberty? Is this not the equivalent of being publically shamed in Puritan Colonies – locked in the stocks, or other displays of punishment?

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Source of Following Excerpt: “History of the United States of America,” by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Transcribed by Kathy Leigh.

During the seventeenth century the combined New England colonies formed practically, if we except Rhode Island, one great Puritan commonwealth. They were under separate governments; but their aims and hopes, their laws, for the most part, and their past history were the same.

The people as a whole were liberty-loving in the extreme, but the individual was restrained at every step by laws that no free people of today would tolerate for an hour. Paternalism in government was the rule in the other colonies and in Europe, but nowhere was it carried to such an extreme as in New England.  

Here the civil law laid its hand upon the citizen in his business and social relations; it regulated his religious affairs, it dictated his dress, and even invaded the home circle and directed his family relations. One law forbade the wearing of lace, another of “slashed cloaths other than one slash in each sleeve and another in the back.” The length and width of a lady’s sleeve was solemnly decided by law. It was a penal offense for a man to wear long hair, or to smoke in the street, or for a youth to court a maid without the consent of her parents. A man was not permitted to kiss his wife in public. Captain Kimble, returning from a three-year ocean voyage, kissed his wife on his own doorstep and spent two hours in the stocks for his “lewed and unseemly behavior.”

But the most striking feature in the life of New England is found in its religion. The State was founded on religion, and religion was its life. The entire political, social, and industrial fabric was built on religion. Puritanism was painfully stern and somber; it was founded on the strictest, unmollified Calvinism; it breathed the air of legalism rather than of free grace, and received its inspiration from the Old Testament rather than the New.1

There was a gleam of truth in the charge of Mrs. Hutchinson that the Puritans lived under a covenant of works. This was because they had not yet fully grasped the whole truth of divine revelation. No further proof of the legalistic tendencies of Puritan worship is needed than a glance at their own laws. A man, for example, was fined, imprisoned, or whipped for non-attendance at church services. He was dealt with still more harshly if he spoke against religion or denied the divine origin of any book of the Bible.2 Laws were made that tended to force the conscience, to curb the freedom of the will, and to suppress the natural exuberance of youth.

Nevertheless there is no more admirable character in history than the New England Puritan of the seventeenth century. His unswerving devotion to duty, his unlimited courage based on the fear of God, his love of liberty and hatred of tyranny — these are the qualities that have enthroned him in the memory of the American people. We deplore the narrowness and intolerance of the puritans; but they were less narrow and intolerant than the English and most of the Europeans of that day. They committed errors, but they were willing to confess them when they saw them. They banished Roger Williams as a disturber of the peace, not for his opinions; but they bore witness to his spotless character. They executed a few Quakers, (my ancestors!) but confessed their error by repealing their own law. They fell into the witchcraft delusion, which was prevalent throughout Christendom at the time; but they were first to see the dreadful blunder they had made and they were not too proud to publicly confess it. Judge Sewall made, before a large congregation, a confession of his error as only a hero could have done; and he begged the people to pray “that God might not visit his sin upon him, his family, or upon the land.” Such was a trait of the Puritan character that leads us to forget his faults and to admire rather than censure him. (The public mea culpa by politicians, religious leaders and corporate entities is required to this day, as a substitute for criminal charges and jail time.)

New England developed steadily throughout the colonial era. The people were chiefly of the stanch yeomanry, the great middle class, of England. Many of them were men of fortune and standing in their native land. The people of Massachusetts were slow in reaching out from the seaboard; not till about 1725 did they begin to colonize the Berkshire Hills. The Connecticut Valley was more productive than other parts of New England, and the people of Connecticut were more purely agricultural in their pursuits than were those of any other portion, except New Hampshire. The chief industry of Rhode Island was trade, while Massachusetts was divided, agriculture and commerce holding about equal sway. Six hundred vessels plied between Boston and foreign ports, while the number of coasting vessels was still greater.

Manufacturing was carried on, but not on any great scale. Sawmills and gristmills were numerous along the rivers, and they did a large business in preparing timber and grain for transportation. Hats and paper and other commodities were made on a small scale; but the most extensive manufacturing was carried on by the farmers and their families, who made many of the utensils for their own home use, as will be noticed in a subsequent chapter.

The stern Puritan customs were gradually softened, more rapidly in Massachusetts than in Connecticut, owing to the many Crown officers residing in Boston. The first attempts to introduce the Episcopal form of religion were sternly resisted, but at length it found a footing, though not in Connecticut till well into the eighteenth century. About 1734 a religious revival, started by Jonathan Edwards and carried on by George Whitefield, the evangelist, spread over parts of New England, and to some extent revived the waning Puritan religious fervor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zen Brain / Visual Brain

Untitled_Panorama2 wpAfter frolicking all morning in the 70* air and glorious sun, I got back to the task of selecting images and composing a book, working title, “A Craving for Endless Space” (after Oswald Spengler’s description of the essence of Western Culture.) So simple: Pick photos; drag to template – no text. What could possibly go wrong?

Conventional order is what’s wrong. As soon as I place photos on successive pages, which is a linear configuration, my brain balks and goes into a strange mode. Have you seen an alligator role furiously, an action that tears a hunk of meat from its prey? I feel like that – the image of the alligator feeding is how I SEE what I feel – in this case a primitive feeling of “wrongness” in aggressively arranging images as sequential pages.

I’m making a book, so the photos must find their place; I can’t force them to line up randomly and I can’t  contrive their relationships to each other. They must guide me. In other words, I can’t be aggressive toward art. Images tell me what to do, which may take quite some time. It’s the Asperger tempo – so close to Zen. What we do, how we do it, and how long it takes,  arises from intuition.

People obsessed with controlling the behavior and thoughts of other people will never catch on to who we are; they will be perpetually pissed off. We’re not aggressive people, and in the U.S., that’s the definition of worthless.

Dmanisi erectus / Older than African erectus?

New Fossils Push Homo Erectus Origins Back to Asia

 

 

Perception vs. Narcissistic Social Perception

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An Asperger type reaction to the environment.

An Asperger-type reaction to the environment.

A popular statement regarding ‘perception’ demands that we believe, that because human perception varies between individuals, Reality and Truth do not exist. Some go so far as to claim that nothing exists outside the human function of perception. Some apply the (popular science) version of quantum theory, asserting that nothing at all exists until a person observes it. This means that if 30 people looked at, and then looked away, and then looked at a cat again, some 30 miserable cats would be popping into existence over and over again. Believers in this scenario never explain the effect that these quantum reincarnations would have on the cat’s physiology or what would happen if several of the observers conjured up a frog instead. No two people would be able to agree on the color of the cat; indeed, a single person would never see the “same” cat twice, and our lives would be a nauseating chaos of cosmic confusion – every object around us would appear and disappear, or ripple with never-ending alterations due to our “unstable” perceptions. This would also apply to humans: If every time you observed yourself in a mirror you saw a different “version” of yourself,  (maybe the one that is dead or doesn’t exist) it isn’t quantum uncertainty at work, you are suffering from a different and very serious problem. This tendency to think magically, or at the least, dumbing down reality to an egocentric interpretation about how things work, is typical of neotenic narcissistic people. (Modern social humans)

The claim that human perception en masse has the power to create the universe moment to moment is a misapplication of how perception is created: this version is backwards. It’s incredibly narcissistic and magic based.

Are certain qualities of particles in the quantum dimension indefinite? Yes. Is “reality” a continually changing environment? Yes. Is the human brain creating these properties? No. The function of  brains is to “make sense” of the environment so that with its extension – the nervous system – it can safely and efficiently operate and monitor the myriad and complex body systems. The senses create a catalogue of information available to the brain and body collected from the environment, which adequately “describes” the environment for us as a particular life form. Perception is the brain process that builds a “picture” of the world we live in. This system has been  tailored by evolutionary processes to endure and possibly thrive, within the environments that humans inhabit. Since our early adaptations to tropical environments, and subsequent relocation to temperate and even arctic regions, most of human adaptation has been cultural: tools, fire, clothing and shelter that utilize new technologies.

We don’t live underwater on a tropical reef; we don’t live a mile beneath the earth’s crust; we don’t live on Mars. We may visit such places thanks to technical inventions that allow the human body to temporarily survive in deadly conditions. Someday humans may be engineered to be aqua people, mole men or Martians, but for now, here we are – a basic primate with a cherry on top.

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The STANDARD model of perception: the brain, using information collected by our senses, creates a model of reality. Our senses in no way gather every last detail  inherent in the real world; our senses are very limited when compared to the amount of information that is outside our narrow sensory array. Our brain evolved (mammalian) sense organs and a formula for modeling the environment that allowed us to survive in our original environment (tropical latitudes.) Science has dramatically expanded our information about the environment (and indeed of the universe through time) by inventing tools that are “sensitive” to the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

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The NARCISSISTIC model of perception: individual perception creates reality;  therefore there is no objective reality. This crazy idea has survived due to the perversion of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, both of which are valid mathematical expressions of nature (physics) but which have nothing to do with psychology on a macro level. The brain “creates” perceptions, which are not “complete” recreations of reality, but models that are (hopefully) “good enough” for the human organism to use to survive.

If the existence of the content of the universe were the product of human perception, it follows that nothing existed before the emergence of Homo sapiens, who, as the “first and only observer” popped into nothingness and instantly created the universe and everything in it. There could have been no previous life; no rock forms, no water, no sun or moon, no galaxies – no nothing. We can witness this preposterous and all-to-familiar intellectual hallucination in the magical creation stories of religion.

When one looks for commentary about perception, one encounters the usual “abracadabra” adolescent narcissism and inflated need for power.  WOW! You can't get more narcissistic than this!

WOW! Social egomania at it’s most popular and profitable – you get to be God. Expanding your mind is of course achieved by buying  books, videos and attending seminars put out by con artists who claim “connections” with cosmic powers.  

No one dares to suggest that Americans “expand their minds” by learning about the actual universe, as described by math and science.