The Blind Spot

Their limbs whir on fulcrums and optical sensors pivot in sockets. A phone rings; microphones in their crania send signals along circuits, routing and rerouting information to their central processing unit. The data triggers a deeply encoded response: the extension of a single forearm, the tight squeeze of its digits, the vibration of cords in its throat.

People were shown two small photos of two different people and were asked which one was more attractive.

They then were handed a larger photo. They were told it was the one they picked, but it was actually a completely different person. They were then asked why they chose it.

Each time, people dutifully spun a yarn explaining their choice.

They claim to be motivated, to carry intent, to act based on desires and goals. It takes a cursory examination of the cogs and gears inside their heads to see how wrong they are — how strictly automated their routines and reactions can be, and how few of their own decisions and beliefs they can verbalise. They cannot be blamed for being this way, because all their hi-tech sensory equipment points outwards. It is not necessary that their executive functions understand the machinations of their underlings. Not at all.

When you ask people why they do or do not like things, they must then translate something from a deep, emotion, primal part of their psyche into the language of the higher, logical, rational world of words and sentences and paragraphs.

Also, when you attempt to justify your decisions or emotional attachments, you start worrying about what your explanation says about you as a person.

They fill the blind spot’s vacuum with spontaneous fabrication; shapeless quantum muck that collapses into form in the instant it is verbalised. That sludge solidifies and becomes a permanent part of them, a part they will defend and justify ferociously. This process is called introspection, and to another observer, its unreliability and flaws are impossible to overlook.

Believing you understand your motivations and desires, your likes and dislikes, is called the Introspection Illusion.

You believe you know yourself, and why you are the way you are. You believe this knowledge tells you how you will act in all future situations.

We experience a reality of introspective solipsism. We are certain that we can perceive our own lower functions reliably. We each have a blind spot for our own blind spot, and it enables us to function without being destroyed by doubt. We explain our own actions to ourselves because it keeps us in control.

The problem is, according to research, your explanation is probably going to be total bullshit.

And scientists love to feed on your bullshit.

(All quotes are from David McRaney in The Perils of Introspection, on You Are Not So Smart.)

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~ by Grimrukh on January 19, 2011.

One Response to “The Blind Spot”

  1. Do you reckon there’s any way we actually can develop towards knowing our lower desires and emotions and drives etc. without distorting them?

    I love this research, it’s fascinating. I almost don’t want it to be true, it’s so counter-intuitive to that idea that our language and conscious thoughts are who we ‘really’ are, but there’s the reality: tip of the iceberg. Excellent stuff. *likes*

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