Post No.: 0782
Whenever we criticise other people’s political positions, it reveals our own political positions. Whenever we comment on how others can eat ‘weird’ food combinations, it reveals our own preferences, if not fussiness. Whenever we state something is ‘too confusing’ or ‘too much’ – we mean it’s so for us because it mightn’t be for others. Whenever we assume others cannot be happy for living a modest, less materialistic life, it reveals our own narrower comfort zones. Whenever we slate how others look, it reveals our vanity. Whenever we wonder how someone doesn’t get a certain film reference, it only reveals how much time we’ve spent watching something. And so forth with all other judgements about others and things. Facts speak about the world but our opinions speak about us, even though we’re inclined to believe they speak about the world. We confuse subjectivity with objectivity because we lack the imagination to consider alternative viewpoints, including moral worldviews.
This post really just extends on Post No.: 0728 because I wanted to add more examples.
If we’re worried about how others will judge something like our clothes, this would reveal our own insecurities and perhaps how we might judge others along the same lines. However, we may be worried about such things only because others will and do harass us over them, even when we recognise that the way we or others dress doesn’t cause anyone any harm, and that the only source of distress comes from the social discrimination perpetuated by the ‘fashion police’ or arbitrary judges more generally. Hence the convictions in our own opinions do bring consequences upon others and ourselves culturally.
If a stranger is just minding their own business yet we suddenly comment that their car is gaudy and that this reveals their insecurities, then this might or might not – but it’d definitely reveal our mind because we were the one to spontaneously bring the topic up! If a group is discussing stupidity in a general sense then, after overhearing them, we suddenly start defending our own intelligence, it’d reveal our own insecurities concerning our intelligence because no one was speaking about us, even though we may have assumed they were! If we comment on someone’s height then they mightn’t care because they care more about how much they can bench press – but it’d reveal that we for some reason worry about the issue because we were the one to mention it, perhaps because we wished we were a bit taller ourselves. Hence if we feel a problem about such things then it’d be our problem, not necessarily other people’s. We’re projecting our insecurities onto others. The only problem they have is others assuming they have a problem(!) A subjective judgement reveals more truth about the judger than the judged. And relative judgements like what counts as ‘smart’, ‘pretty’, ‘strong’ or ‘funny’ are always subjective because they depend on one’s chosen benchmark.
It’s the mistake of imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes instead of imagining them in their shoes – like imagining yourself being scared ‘for’ someone when they’re feeling fine. They don’t experience a problem – but you do ‘about them’, hence the problem is actually yours, not theirs. In this case, you must learn to worry less.
Some see some rubbish that accidentally missed the bin and throw a hissy fit; others will just quietly pick it up and put it in the bin while they’re there. Some are proud enough to tell all about managing to cook some dinner or read a book; others will consider it nothing to write home about. We assume we react objectively but our reactions only reliably reveal the truth about ourselves.
Racists, sexists, singlists, etc. therefore speak more reliably about themselves. Bullies, when trying to defend their own egos, often project how they feel via assumptions about how others ‘must be feeling’ too. We project onto others our desire to get married, have children, etc. when assuming a single adult must be feeling sad for being alone and/or childless. We project our own worldviews, our concept of ‘normal’, whenever we make judgements about how things ‘ought to be’.
Compare someone who says, “They’re pretty but don’t worry, they’re not dumb” to someone who says, “They’re dumb but at least they’re pretty.” It reveals what those different individuals most value.
If a man assumes we implied a lurid idea when we didn’t, it’d speak about his smutty thoughts. If a woman assumes we meant a double entendre when we didn’t mean to give her one, it’d speak about her saucy mind, not ours. (Alright I knew exactly what I was doing here!)
So we might ‘read between the lines’ but find something that was never intended. Someone might say, “Good parents feed their kids well” but one objects to this because one believes one is a good parent even though one cannot feed one’s kids well. But if we parse the sentence that was actually said, it doesn’t say ‘if you don’t feed your kids well then you’re definitely a bad parent’. And we wouldn’t say ‘bad parents feed their kids well’(!) It’s like saying, “Mammals have teeth”, which doesn’t mean ‘if you don’t have teeth then you cannot possibly be a mammal’ or ‘all mammals must have teeth’.
If we take someone seriously when they only said something in jest, like ‘microwave’ with a foreign-sounding pronunciation or suggesting meerkats come from Russia, then that reveals our misreadings, not their idiocy. Whenever we read perceived innuendos or insinuations and get it wrong, it reveals our own implicit biases, insecurities, self-stigmas, worldviews or dirty minds. Non-autistic people may read things that they think are there but aren’t when an autistic person who speaks literally speaks. The problem is, we’ll seldom relinquish believing that our assumptions about other people’s hidden intentions were right! ‘I feel they don’t care’ means ‘they don’t care’, for example. ‘They did that thing to deliberately hurt me’. That’s our narrative, our reality, of the situation. Like in other contexts, we assume our intuitions are correct then move on.
If I lent you my tin opener and asked for it back before you had washed it, then this might seem like I never wash it – but it might mean I don’t trust anyone but myself to wash it properly. Someone may be yawning because they’re sleep-deprived rather than bored. If we’re not aware of any possible alternative explanations for an event – such as when we may neglect to consider a mental health reason for someone who frequently talks to themselves or impulsively swears – then we’ll assume there can only be one explanation, which will be the one we thought of. And if we can only personally think of one explanation, we’ll be quite confident in it too because what else could it be? We therefore frequently confuse inductive inferences with deductive ones. The balance of probabilities matter, but we’re usually just guessing at what these probabilities are – based on our own biased perceptions and experiences. Being unable to consider the full range of possible alternative explanations for events would reveal something about our own lack of education, experience and/or ability to think laterally.
If I dreamt in my slumber that you did something wrong, it’d speak about what’s in my mind, not your actions; unless you coincidentally did commit that wrong! If you tried to interpret the meanings of my dreams, it’d only speak about your interpretation, not mine; unless I agreed with you.
Our interpretations and rationalisations speak about us – it’s the stories we tell ourselves like ‘he’s having a go at me today because he lost the game yesterday’ (rather than it’s because we’re being noisy), or after getting beat then presuming ‘she must’ve privately practised this game far more than I have’ to protect our self-esteem (rather than it’s because they’re just naturally better than us). We constantly create narratives like these to explain the world in personally satisfying ways. But they’re biased. They normally exaggerate (e.g. ‘they always do x’ or ‘I’ll never be able to do y’), are one-sided with us usually cast as the hero/victim, and we seize the credit for good ideas while passing blames onto others. Real experience is messy yet our generated narratives of past, present and anticipated future events are reduced to tidy, coherent, often moral, stories in order to try to make sense of them. We join the dots – but only selected or assumed dots. And we accept them as true not because we’ve proven them as so (e.g. we don’t check if they really did practise more) but because, to us, they haven’t been disproved. Our own suggestions then lead us towards behaving in certain ways so that we’ll confirm these biases.
We jump to conclusions or make accusations then assume them to be correct, and then view all subsequent events via the lens of the ‘myside bias’ to try to confirm our assumptions were correct. For example, before we’ve even heard the arguments from all sides, we may have already picked whom we’ll defend (e.g. our own friend) and whom we’ll blame (e.g. the stranger). This would reveal our bias, but we won’t always notice or admit to it. We’ll then only actively search for information that’ll support our desired conclusion. The ‘conclusion bias’ is starting with a conclusion one likes/wants then applying the myside bias to search only for arguments and evidence that’ll justify it, while ignoring all that disconfirms it. We’ll biasedly interpret ambiguous events as evidence that supports our hypotheses. For instance, if we’ve prejudged someone as selfish then we’ll interpret the disarray they left in the kitchen as inconsiderate; whereas if we had prejudged them as good then we’ll presume they had some innocent explanation why they couldn’t clean up before they disappeared. How we interpret ambiguous pauses before someone answers a question depends on our own assumptions too, which may, or may not, prove to be correct.
If I designed a group of characters for a fictional book who were supposed to reflect a certain kind of people in reality, and I made them anthropomorphised black rats – you might assume I am disparaging those kinds of real-life people. If so, that’d speak about you because it’d be you who holds a negative stereotype of black rats because I have nothing against furry black rats whatsoever! It’d be you who’s besmirching the reputation of those black rats, who should each be treated as individuals in their own right – not me besmirching whom those characters are supposed to represent. Perhaps I’m trying to associate the stereotyped positive traits of those people in real life with those black rats, instead of trying to associate the stereotyped negative traits of black rats with those people in real life?
In a separate example, if a fictional human character was made to be plump with deformities and a shrill voice, and you automatically assumed this character couldn’t be trusted, then it’d reveal your own prejudices towards people who have those characteristics. And if you assumed they were supposed to represent a certain group of people in real life, and I didn’t, then it’d only speak about your mind. If so, should it therefore be you who should get ‘cancelled’ for your prejudices?! Obviously, if I was thinking the same then it’d also speak about me, but you cannot automatically assume so because there are numerous alternative reasons for those design choices, and I can give my reasons. Wisdom requires being able to consider as many alternative hypotheses as possible and then testing each one – rather than being able to think of only one and then trying to justify that (through confirmation bias).
Woof. It should be logical that whatever we think and do reveals information about us, even when we’re thinking about and judging others. And what these couple of posts reveal about me is that I think far too much(!)