Economising on information

Part of a recent Chateau Heartiste post (I’m going to use that or simply ‘Chateau’ or ‘Heartiste’ instead of Roissy now) touches on something I think about very frequently. That you can infer a lot of behaviour about someone by their appearance, or split-second first impression:

Living in the city has honed my threat detection system. I can, with a split second scan of a stranger’s face, tell you with better than random accuracy the character of that person. This has aided me when walking back from lovers’ apartments at 2 AM through vibrant neighborhoods.

This is what I’ve heard being referred to somewhere as “economising on information”. When deciding on a course of action, you make a gamble based on the outcome most likely to lead to success/safety/good times minimise risk/danger/failure. And so on.  This ‘skill’ is honed over the course of one’s life as one experiences, observes and subsequently has associations etched into their brain as a result. People of all worldviews share this trait, the only difference being that their worldview will affect their second-guessing, anti-reflexive behaviour (e.g. leftie walks down road, sees ghetto gangsta and hindbrain says to cross just in case, frontbrain says “that would be prejudiced, perhaps I shall say on this side”). Women for the most part don’t know they do it, lefties refuse to acknowledge it or talk around it.

This presents a problem for anti-realists because it not only indicates an amoral, self-interested, evolutionary driven human underbelly but indicates that people’s reflexive behaviours might bely their outward political affiliations and moral proclamations.

Worst of all, one realises that one is subject to this subconscious judgement, and when you do realise it, it can turn your social world almost upside down. Even in my ‘leftie’ days I acknowledged to myself that you could make these inferences and nowadays I quite happily believe that everything has a certain something about it, that inferences can be made on so many things, but with that comes with the acceptance that I am subject to that judgement. It took a traumatic episode of my life to bring this to light, now after thinking the shit out of this aspect of life, it’s come to a point where in a social situation or mere walk down the street, I not only make the judgements but even guess what their subconscious judgements of me will be like. This can lead to a self-consciousness that compounds itself like some kind of catch 22, yet this awareness is necessary to get rid of negative traits. “Oh, stop caring what other people think!”, people might say. But of course, in the sense that Sartre meant it, Hell Is Other People. More on that another time.

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~ by CallistoRising on August 31, 2011.

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