MY EXPECTATIONS ARE TOO HIGH
for my own good!
PREVIOUS: CDs & the Brain (Part 1)
REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
OUR BRAIN – Gathering Information (cont.)
3. ADDITIONS – Conversely, all new items which do fit with the majority of already accumulated info will automatically be considered as correct, whether they are or not. Finding additional similar elements about a subject continues to broaden our knowledge base – which doesn’t mean it’s accurate – just reinforced!
✓ If our first lover was an alcoholic, & we keep dating & marrying addicts, then active addicts become OUR ‘drug-of-choice’!
• When we have little info about something, any previous knowledge (no matter how flawed) will carry a lot of weight in our evaluation about a person or situation, & therefore will heavily influence our action or reaction
✓ ‘Successful’ public figures are assumed to be smart, healthy & desirable. Even when negative info about them is published, many people still think highly of them & defend them to others!
✶ ✶ DUALITY – AND what if we encounter a stimulus that’s experienced as
both a benefit AND a threat (like a parent, a spouse, a boss, one’s own child)? Our brains have been pre-programmed to label all previously gathered info as primarily accurate & reject anything that doesn’t fit — precisely to reduce the pressure of this kind of dilemma, called ‘cognitive dissonance’.
• This makes it very difficult for us, as adults, to leave bad situations where we get some good stuff – emotional crumbs – along with mostly bad stuff, in the same way we did as kids, like:
— for us: a sibling screwing us out of our inheritance – whom we were once close to
—for a parent: a grown child still living at home, not working & still using drugs – who was an adorable favorite when he was little….
The ‘good stuff’ may only have been a long time ago when we were young, or it could have all been an illusion, but we’re still hanging on to memories, hopes & wishes!
4. COMPARISONS – The brain cannot measure anything directly (like – if you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight & no navigation tools – you can’t tell where you are by just looking out of the porthole). All measurements are made by comparing various things, actions, people, events… using some standard. If the standard is flawed, our evaluation will be off!
• VALIDITY – For the comparison to be credible:
— the thing or person must be completely & correctly identified (say, 2 books)
— the 2 things being measured must be equal except for the 1 item being compared (can’t compare an adult with a child, a paperback to a hardcover)
— there is an actual way to make the measurement (height, weight, color, education, college degrees…)
— the observer is objective (can’t have a personal stake in the conclusion)
— there are no others factors involved – but if there are, they also have to be equal in value (2 books in different languages, must be about the same topic)
• INTANGIBLES – What about measuring things like intelligence, honesty, love…?
These are impossible to define because they’re subjective, and the meaning is embedded in one’s culture. Yet it is constantly being attempted. Most results of trying to pin down abstract concepts are incorrect & therefore meaningless, BUT the attempt can sometimes effect a person’s occupation/ income, social acceptance & identity. For example, IQ tests only measure the ability to answers certain questions, not the person’s actual intelligence – but can be used as a hiring tool.
✓ What a cop or lawyer means by ‘being honest‘ will be very different from what a minister thinks it is, & what a kid means by “I love you” will be different from that of a lover.
• EXPECTATIONS – A common standard for measuring performance is expectations – either our own or that imposed by some authority.
— Expectations put on us: the results are quite arbitrary depending on who is doing the expecting!
✓ What my high school music teaches thinks about my singing can be very very different from how a Julliard professor will assess it
— Expectations we put on others: Errors also occur when we measure others based on our expectations of them
✓ “I can’t believe she didn’t call me this week, when she knew I’d been in the hospital! I would have called her right away, if she’d had surgery!”
NEXT: CDs & the Brain (#3) – Gathering Info, cont.