Scientific-Gnosticism Memetic-Shamanism

Probability Preference and Exception Handling

Published by under Uncategorized on September 10, 2008

In our minds we store a vast array of probabilities. It is more likely when you hear a noise overhead that it is an airplane causing an air disturbance rather than an asteroid. Both are within the realm of possibility. One is usually our automatic choice because of probability.

Probability is context based. Take one of us back in time to a point at which an asteroid is actually plummeting through the atmosphere and me may never even look up because latent inhibition has made us determine that information is useless when because of a change of circumstances, our context fails us. It causes us to incorrectly calculate probability.

Furthermore, it seems that when trying to determine a cause of an event or to predict a course of events that there can be many possibilities that fit but we typically show preference to what we believe to be probable based upon our personal context.

The first thing that would occur to most people is that you should always prefer the thing which is most likely as the explanation. This is “rules based” logical conservative thinking. There are however circumstances in which the less probable selection may be selected. This is choosing the exception as the truer possibility.

Selection of a lesser probability explanation is usually only done because of extension of a variety of modeled paths. We can think out differing scenarios and see that the more likely first explanation becomes less likely upon further examination. What is the mechanism behind this?

This is how we are capable of figuring out what someone means when they say “nice try” after a failed attempt at something. If your context is that people typically are helpful then you assume this person meant to bolster your confidence. If your context is that people typically ridicule mistakes then you assume they are being sarcastic. Regardless of which is the higher rating of probability in your mind, if you have doubt of your first guess, you then weigh other subtle cues to determine if this is the rule or the exception.

The glance to a buddy could denote a simple regard of secondary opinion or input or it could be looking for a shared hidden laugh. Again a probability is considered and now we have a probability stack.

Additionally there is a small laugh. The laugh could be to convey a feeling of “yeah that would have been hard for me too” or it could be “What a loser”. Another probability calculation.

If we have an understanding of this person’s personality we will lean to a larger and more reliable data set for resolving the probability. If we do not have a data set because this is a new person we may simply use a generalized (context based) template of behavior to resolve the stack of probabilities. This is a process that can allow us to categorize something as part of the exceptions instead of the rule.

Better yet we can leave the decision open until further data arrives. Later on upon seeing another small blunder the same guy says: “Hah, good one Einstein”. Suddenly we’ve used pattern recognition to resolve probability. IE a person who would do X would also do Y. It fits in a larger template of behaviors and we believe our general model of people types is more reliable because it has more data. Though we may have originally assumed the best of them, they actually fit in an exception category.

Had that decisive bit of information not come along, we may have had a string of circumstances which could resolve just as easily in one direction or the other, however, simply the frequency of exceptional occurances alone can alter original decision to categorize this person as an asshole or someone with a bad case of foot-in-mouth. A few more seemingly innocuous quips would certainly lead us to believe the guy was an asshole even though he is smiling and friendly to our face. The number of exceptions required for us to decide is determined by our generalized personality calculator. Further yet we have a general fear/trust calculator that underlies this and both are based on context. A person who expected less of people would decide the person was an ass long before a person who hopes for the best in people.

This ability to select a lower probability explanation is also what we use for self-delusion and social manipulation. When a person is actually jealous or some other vice, they know all the possible reasons for their actions and may simply decide that the most innocuous of the explanations is the correct one. The level to which this is checked against other possibilities can, and usually is, reduced to zero or it is checked against a faulty idealized model of self which immediately returns high probability for something that should have been low.

This is the slippery path of deception that most people follow in their minds and are never aware of it. They simply look back at what they did or said and assume the best possible scenario. That is why someone can can say ‘nice hair’ and mean to criticize but when put on the spot about it they may actually feel like their initial intent was to give a compliment. They will give this deceptive answer with confidence and truly believe it themselves. This could be a mark of a small short term memory and therefore less executive function.  IE these people have less ability to examine their own actions because they’ve forgotten them as they happen. But I think it is also likely that people train themselves to notice the actions of others and remember them but they do not track their own actions in short term memory. They live an unexamined life.

The harm of deception is visited on the individual just as much as those around them. This same lack of examination disables a person from being able to make positive change in their own life. It is simply a self-imposed fear of being ‘bad’ or wrong. Without self examination they cannot forgive themselves of mistakes that everyone makes. Guilt can keep one from viewing the past in a more positive light. They must deny the good in their lives and not take responsibility for the negative parts of their past. They cannot see the mistakes of their past as driven by the circumstance and therefore forgivable.

Obviously we must be able to select lower probability ideas and follow them to further conclusions to be able to deal with exceptions. Unfortunately this same mechanism can be used badly. When it becomes progressively worse, the extension of probability becomes ridiculously tenuous without the person realising it. This usually occurs from poor controls on the updating of models. The exception becomes perceived as the rule.

Poor control over the updating of models is unfounded belief. Belief can come from social proof or it can come from experiential knowledge or a combination of both. Inter-model back-checking and comparison can be the difference between a healthy mind and an insane one. The level to which we question our own accuracy/confidence is equal to the level of assurance we need before updating a model. IE some people only need one good source of information or even one simply highly regarded to update a model. Others may require volumes of personal experience.

Frequency of model updates is another important balance of the mind. Requiring too much proof reduces the number of experimental avenues that can be examined. Requiring too little proof can reduce accuracy. When we consider something to be likely or unlikely we must know without doubt that we are biased. There is always a situation in which the exception becomes the rule.

On the path of enlightenment, self-realization/actualization and self-examination, we all must look at our ideas and concepts honestly. We must determine where those beliefs came from and if they fit with the rest of reality regardless of how favorably we may view them. We must always be aware of how much our ideas come from social proof and how much come from experience. We must try to see the myriad possibilities we consider and determine our biases. We must be aware of our natural tendencies to automatically view ourselves in a light that may be inaccurate. We must consider our own context and the possible and probable flaws it has. You may find that the world has gone better for you than you had believed. And you might have accidentally stepped on toes along the way too. Everyone has.

To become more truthful with ourselves and others we must closely watch our actions with a third party perspective. We must occasionally be skeptical of our own motives and drives and be aware of self-delusion. We need to always know why we assume something to be the rule or the exception. By being more aware of ourselves we avoid doing harm while taking responsibility for our actions. We accept that mistakes deserve to be excused and we then remember that we did it our way. We tried. We then can believe in our place in the world as an effective person. We can expect things to go our way.

We can see the ways in which the everchanging, unpredictable reality got the better of us and how we can accept responsibility for this moment.

Humility and forgiveness go hand in hand with self-examination. You must be able to forgive others to forgive yourself. And while examining oneself it is critical to not put that same microscope upon others. There is one instance where the capacity for self-delusion may be helpful. Believing the best of others. If you can always assume the best then even when others are doing wrong they will try to live up to your positive expectations of them. Why make yourself sad with the knowledge that others are sometimes mean-spirited, abusive and insensitive. You might accidentally do the same thing sometimes. Feel sorry for the fact that anyone who is abusive, feels the pain of it themself about themself. Instead help them believe in their goodness by being oblivious. Be proud of possibly not “getting” abusiveness.

People tend to believe about you what you believe about yourself. Believe that everyone likes you and that nobody thinks badly of you and they will all believe your social proof.

Focus apon the good things that have happened and forget about the bad things. Remember the good experiences and dismiss the bad ones for the exceptions that they probably are!

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