Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tribal Stuff

Watched my lovely wife invade another woman's space last night. It was in the meat section at the grocery store. A woman was looking at steaks, K wanted to look at steaks. One of K's cool traits is that she is cool with everybody and doesn't really get why all people don't just be nice to each other and fix the world. That has the side effect that sometimes she violates boundaries without knowing it. The boundaries are imaginary and so she doesn't see them.

The woman was long done choosing her package of steak, but she couldn't leave. Even though it wasn't her store. Even though her business was done. A stranger had come within within her personal space. The stranger was approximately equal in age, status and gender. To leave would be to cede territory, to lose, to lose face and status.

None of it was real. All of it was limbic system, monkey stuff. But she could not leave. I pulled K away and whispered to her what was going on. As soon as K left the territory the woman postured once and then left herself.

I want to emphasize that she couldn't do the sensible thing while the limbic system was involved. Couldn't, unless something in the equation changed.

This goes on all the time. It's also something underlying the selection bias in the "Rarefied Reality Checks" post. I wasn't trying to find an answer. Wasn't trying to establish who was 'right' between myself and the other instructor. Nor was I seeking possibilities. Trust me, I can think of plenty of logical possibilities that can explain differences in observed results. I was just dealing with new evidence.

Not all the territories we defend are physical. And we defend territories instinctively and emotionally, not logically. We can make up all kinds of rational-sounding justifications for our beliefs or actions, but it is no more sensible and no more conscious than the lady who couldn't leave the meat counter.

Defending and rejecting theories can be done rationally.
"This is what I see, this is what I think it means and this is how we can use it."
"Not so sure. I think the underlying factor is X, not Y."
"Okay. That's possible. If you're right, when we remove X from the situation, nothing will happen."

Or, more concrete:
"Every time we go out, we get in fights. I think we should quit going to bars."
"Not so sure. I think every time we go anyplace with Mikey we get in fights."
"Maybe, so lets ditch Mikey and see what happens."

Silly example, but you get the idea.
Rejecting theories, accepting theories and testing theories can be rational. Rejecting evidence, not so much. There are bad sources out there. There are an awful lot of people that literally cannot distinguish between opinion, conclusion, and fact. Or, for that matter, observable events and their own internal reaction to those observable events. But that aside...

If you catch yourself rejecting evidence, rejecting observation, ask yourself what territory you are defending that is more important than the truth. You probably won't be able to answer honestly, our tribal programming goes deep. But give it a try.


Unknown said...

I'm somewhat surprised that this post hasn't receive comments. I find this post touches a more influential topic than technique posts do.

Steve Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sam said...

rory now that I have read some of your material Iv started to nothis stuff like this in people and myself. . . the funnything is that I still fall into that part of the brain alot, not as much but after I found out about the human,monkey and lizered I figerd I wouldent fall into the monkey trap anymore. . turnes out just because you know something dosent mean you can automaticly put it into practise -___-

Steve Perry said...

Let me rephrase for clarity:

"There are an awful lot of people that literally cannot distinguish between opinion, conclusion, and fact. Or, for that matter, observable events and their own internal reaction to those observable events. "

There's the nub -- if you can't do this, you won't catch yourself not doing it. It's the old joke about stupid people: Not so much that they are, it's that they don't realize they are. If they did, then they wouldn't be ...

That, plus, if we are all the stars of our own movie, then defining what is "reality" becomes tricky, doesn't it? Hold up that Ishihara plate, the color-blind guy doesn't see the same number I do. That's his defect, right?

Majority rule might keep the world going, but most folks used to believe it was flat; flies spontaneously generated from the air; and the gods lived on Mount Olympus. Because you and I agree that evidence is not the plural of anecdote doesn't mean that sometimes it won't line up that way ...

edgeofgrace said...

I think this happened to me recently. I was at a store, and went to look at something on a shelf which just happened to be right beside another young man. It was just a little bit close. He turned and stared me right in the eye; for a moment I thought he must know me from somewhere, but I'd never seen him before. He just kept staring in a slightly aggressive way, and I couldn't help but stare back, until he nodded his head abruptly and said "what's up," and left, like he had just dismissed me as a threat.

The whole thing was pretty bizarre to me at the time, as I couldn't figure out what had just happened, but makes a little bit more sense now, reflecting on this post.

Anonymous said...

People can't observe themselves in action - thinking (evaluating and planning), feeling and acting simultaneously. Training, experience and mental preparation/visualization (scenario-izing) do not alter this genetic fact but can speed up the switch from brain to brain, reducing the time it takes to perceive, process in an emotional 'soup' and perform accurately. So, in the monkey dance scenario, training would give one the physical and tactical skills to be able to handle the confrontation if it 'went there,' the emotional sensitivity and ego control to perceive the incipient energy almost before the antagonist did and the script, based on experience or visualization to choose the ending.

Josh Kruschke said...

What do you mean I can't see my own blind spot. I pretty sure if I turn around fast enough I can at lest catch a glimpse of it.

Josh Kruschke said...


Ben said...

I like this post. I used to attract alot of fights while doing security due to ego, but also due to the stuff I was holding onto inside, alot of anger and past experiences making me overcompensate.

I didn't even work on this area directly, but using a method called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) I let go of alot of anger and other stuff and was way more calm in my job. I'm no longer doing it as it wasn't all that positive, but it's valuable to look into your own patterns, emotions and what your holding onto.

alex said...