Survivors Mess Up

Posted: February 10, 2012 in psychology
Tags: , ,

In a previous blog series, I outline my take on the Brain as a Model Builder.  It outlines how the brain contains models based on our experiences fed by sensory input.  It also shows how these models support illusions about the external world.  Survival is a key purpose of this model building.

Have you ever built a toy model?  Sometimes the directions are not all that clear and the result is less than satisfactory.  Have you ever tried to build one from parts but without any pictures of what the result should look like and without any directions?  If not, you can certainly imagine that you would make a few mistakes along the way.  But, is this not a lot like life?  As we try to build our brain models, frequently we have no picture or directions of what the outcome should look like.  And guess what?  We screw up.

We all mess up because we are in survival mode most of the time.  It it is not our physical survival, like eating or sleeping, then its in our social survival, like building relationships.  Building relationships is trying to create in the other person’s brain the development of a favorable model of ourselves.  But what “favorable model” means depends on our own model of just what a reasonable outcome looks like and this can vary substantially from person to person.

In my model world, I make all kinds of allowances for other people to screw up, even screw up over and over.  That’s just me.  My model world tells me it is hard to build good models of the external reality around us and that models interacting with models gets really complicated, even with the best of intentions.  I don’t think the word “forgiveness” quite fits how I think about other peoples modeling failures.  It is more an “allowance” for the complexity of surviving all sorts of model building and maintaining efforts.  I also allow that my own model may be flawed in any number of unobserved-by-me ways.

My challenge to you is to consider your own brain built or  modeling building experience and become more conscious of its built in flaws.  The brain has this one very interesting characteristic, the ability to think about itself — we call introspection.  As I have blogged in my first blog, “There is only ONE thing I KNOW for sure and it is that I don’t KNOW anything else for sure.”  To enhance the quality of life, it is good to think about ones own survival models.

Its not what you know that counts.  It is what you know you don’t know.

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