Posts tagged psychology

Making Unconscious Rules Conscious

Every couple days I visit How (Un)Popular is the President? by FiveThirtyEight to see what the polls show. And every day I am amazed that it doesn't change. I've read the articles that say 42% is still a historic low, but knowing that the family separation policy was widely known in mid-June and seeing the support number stay the same and then improve is discouraging.

When I look at the demographics of that 42%—they look a lot like me. I've been trying to understand why I have a strong negative reaction to what I see while people who are similar to me do not.

I tried to write down a list of rules that are constantly running in my brain that help me understand the world. As stimulus from the outside world comes in, I filter it through some process and then make decisions about how to react. This process has built up over time based on my experience and I don't even think about how it works anymore—it's just who I am. I gave each rule a one-word alias so they would be easier for me to remember and spot them as they're working.
  • All humans are real, complex people who experience love and have hopes & dreams. (Respect)
  • Not all sources of information are alike. Journalists are a better source of information than companies, governments, or peers even though these will be better sources for specific information at times. (Discern)
  • Learn from diverse sources past and present; nuance exists and expanding your vocabulary can help you express and comprehend complex ideas. (Read)
  • Our systems of governing and commerce are currently unfair with winners and losers. Zero sum competition is the business environment but not the entire human experience. Someone else's success does not diminish you. (Balance)
  • Use power available to you to make the unfair world more fair for everyone. Help people in a weaker position. Vote every time. Frame issues when you talk about them. (Participate)
  • Trust your own mind and observations and continually work to improve them. Skepticism of authorities is healthy. (Question)
  • It is good to care about people and things you love and believe in. (Care)
  • Make friends both online & off but spend more time with people in physical space. Listen carefully. (Connect)
  • Doing things a different way from the majority is ok. Understand why things are popular but don’t feel compelled to follow. (Diverge)
  • Think about how things you say and make could be interpreted and used in different contexts and change if it makes the world less fair. (Imagine)
  • Wild, undeveloped spaces in our physical world are a source of inspiration so spend time there if you can. (Restore)
I don't perfectly execute these unconscious rules everyday, but my theory is that they're a core part of how I process the world. I'm sure there are rules that I'm not aware of yet. I can't wave a magic wand and know what rules guide other people, but maybe trying to make my own rules conscious will help me understand how I'm processing the world.
  • Buster Benson put together this concise way to think about cognitive biases by grouping them into four big problems our brains have evolved to deal with. There's a lot to think about (potentially systemically irrationally) here.
  • Buster Benson on developing a highly available life: "An antifragile way of life is all about finding a way to gain from the inevitable disorder of life. To not only bounce back when things don’t go as planned, but to get stronger, smarter, and better at continuing as a result of running into this disorder."
  • A game designer lays out his existential frustration. I really like the idea of stepping back and stripping away the 'best practices' around an activity to find its core function. And then asking if that core function is meaningful. Excellent food for thought. [via torrez]
  • "Allow me to offer a suggestion. If you are privately communicating with someone for the first time, as a general rule, the best course of action is to be polite and to the point."
  • Good reminder: "Complain about the way other people make software by making software." Put another way: be the change in the world you want to see.
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