Sunday School January 26th 2020.
January 26, 2020 at 11:33 pm #29849
beliefs (perceptions) and desires (goals)
If you think about it, these form the necessary situation that causes an emotion: when a perceived “fact” is relevant to a goal. We feel emotions when something is relevant to our goal(s). We put our attention on this thing. All of this is our perspective.January 26, 2020 at 11:51 pm #29850
I think I’m largely talking rubbish. I was under the assumption that knowing someone’s perspective leads to empathic concern for any suffering they might be undergoing. I assumed that this has been experimentally shown. But apparently, the evidence isn’t there.
However, it seems intuitively true that learning about someone’s point of view – their perspective, or perceptions and goals – will very often lead to a softening of heart towards them, if we find that this perspective is a negatively valued one emotionally (i.e., the person’s situation is very distant from their goals, “they are far from fuckin OK”).
I find that this is often the case. So perhaps there is something about the experimental paradigm that is not capturing what we often find is true in everyday life.January 26, 2020 at 11:56 pm #29851
I assumed that this has been experimentally shown…
You are referencing what is called “Theory of Mind”. This is however undone when it come to autism. But it is worth looking up as a general discussion point.
Sorry no time at the moment to dig deeper.January 26, 2020 at 11:59 pm #29852
All kinds of people can have Theory of Mind, but not feel empathic concern, like narcissists, psychopaths, sadists, to name a few. But “normal” people tend to have a lot of it.
When we feel empathic concern itself, this leads to a desire to help, and helping behaviour.
In turn, empathic concern depends on how much we approve of somebody. We tend not to approve so much of strangers, compared with familiar people. So a needy stranger might not elicit much empathic concern because of their low approval rating, compared with the people we see every day, whom we would expect to approve of much more, and therefore they would elicit more empathic concern under equivalent circumstances. So that might explain the mystery with the experiment.
In another twist, Decety finds that people who are normally disapproved of (out-group members) elicit comparatively more concern, presumably the change in empathic concern being more than for people who are normally approved of, like in-group members.
This fits with the “approval” model. Perspective-taking can improve somebody’s approval rating, and then this in turn raises the possibility of empathic concern.January 27, 2020 at 12:22 am #29853
But the mystery still isn’t over. Why does perspective-taking not work to increase empathic concern for a needy stranger, but it works in the case of out-group members?
The needy stranger may have been right there in person for all we know, while the in-group members were only asked to give their opinions of out-group members and how stereotyped they were seen to be.
Helping also depends on cost. So the two situations may have been completely different from that point of view.January 27, 2020 at 12:29 am #29854
I don’t think it’s particularly crazy to “test your faith” in dangerous ways if you truely honestly believe that a man in the sky controls everything and will protect you if that is his will. It’s the belief in the man in the sky that is crazy. Of course…she shouldn’t be allowed to have a license or perhaps be left with children. But its, seriously, not that crazy at all. It’s, if anything, a logical consequence of the belief.January 27, 2020 at 5:56 am #29855
The “trolley problem” is a good article and worth reading. As Diderot suggested circa 1750, morality should be founded on sociology and not on theology. He is one of my favorite atheist writers.
I’m surprised I haven’t read yet about a possible variation of that problem that could shed a little light on why people make their decisions to NOT cause the trolley to switch tracks: Instead of killing one to save five, how about killing one to save ten, fifty, or two hundred, and what is your reasoning? Personally, I’d switch the track if it saved even just one person (in sum) from dying, and I say this even after reading once that I’d be considered cruel or untrustworthy by most people in my culture. I’d feel terrible, but I’d even push the guy that’s on the walkway onto the track.
By the way, this thought experiment conjures up a ridiculously unlikely scenario, and I have to wonder if the make-believe aspect of it makes people wonder in the back of their mind something like “But really, would switching the track really save the others?”. Meanwhile, emergency workers have to learn triage, which is somewhat analogous to the trolley decision, so I suspect they’d be more consistent with this kind of utilitarian decision… or at least they’d know how to be more objective in their reasoning.
But I admit it could be complicated even more if I personally knew or loved anyone on those tracks, or knew other personal things about them, so I’m not claiming I have 100% objectivity. I mean really, what if the one guy I’d choose to kill was Hitler, right?January 27, 2020 at 8:08 am #29856
empathic concern for a needy stranger
I think that what affects the potential or possible magnitude of my approval of person A, is how much person A has helped me in the past / is likely to help me in the future.
Person A might not have to do anything “special” to help me: maybe they help me by just existing.
In contrast, a needy stranger is never going to be in a position to have reciprocated / to reciprocate in the future. We are never going to have too much sympathy for a needy stranger, compared with a familiar loved one.
But we may still view an out-group more favourably, as people, after perspective-taking. The cost of this is not great. There is no reciprocity necessary. In fact, this softening of attitude towards out-group members feels beneficial towards the in-group, since it would tend to reduce conflict between groups.
Interestingly, there was research done about narcissists that appeared to show that they do not like to take someone’s perspective if that person is vulnerable or in distress: i.e., if work is required to care of the needs of another. Presumably, for a narcissist, everyone else is a competitor, except for a few possible strategic exceptions, and so does not have a high approval rating for them.January 27, 2020 at 6:14 pm #29857
Simon, speaking of narcissists try reading the translations of the Assyrian kings that can be found at your British Museum. The tapped their cuneiform language into wet clay (it was hard to draw a glyph language like Egyptians used in wet clay.) They pretty much go like this….
“The king, who acts with the support of the great gods his lords and has conquered all lands, gained dominion over all highlands and received their tribute, captures of hostages, he who is victorious over all countries…..
In strife and conflict I besieged and conquered the city. I felled 3,000 of their fighting men with the sword … I captured many troops alive: I cut off of some their arms [and] hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears, [and] extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living [and] one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city.”
“I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me [and] draped their skins over the pile [of corpses]; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land [and] draped their skins over the walls.”
The reliefs seem like wonderful ancient artworks until you look closer and see piles of heads in baskets and bare torsos impaled on stakes. The kings believed that to please their gods they needed to (a) dominate at war and (b) build monuments to themselves and gods.January 27, 2020 at 6:54 pm #29858January 27, 2020 at 7:28 pm #29859
Interesting article on the recovery of cuneiform.
Of course Indiana Jones is the world authority on cuneiform.
The Assyrian rise to power was not unlike that of the Nazis it seems. We never learn. This is what can happen when a “cult of personality” takes hold. The idea that certain individuals are ‘royal’ and/or have a unique direct connection with the gods is just so much bullshit. You get all the problems created by popes and other men in big hats, Japanese Emperors, master/Aryan races, and all manner of tyrants all throughout history. Why ‘modern’ people tolerate kings and popes these days is beyond me. And now the US basically has an emperor as well.January 27, 2020 at 9:11 pm #29860January 27, 2020 at 9:35 pm #29861
piles of heads in baskets and bare torsos impaled on stakes
Sounds like a zero-sum game where to win is to utterly crush the opposition. But to lose is almost certainly to suffer the same.January 27, 2020 at 9:39 pm #29862
A very good argument against using the Trolley Problem for moral instruction.
This article is hilarious(ly good). I always thought the Trolley Problem was junk, and this article skewers it nicely.January 27, 2020 at 11:09 pm #29863
Did you catch the recent Bill Maher “New Rule” on royals?
Yes, so funny. My GF was a huge fan of Meghan but now she is mad at her, LOL. I laughed when the infallible pope slapped that lady. So funny.
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