Who Are We?   1 comment

There was a TV show called Ed back in the day about a Bowling-Alley lawyer. The premise was that on the same day he got fired from his job (for drafting a contract with a misplaced comma, costing his law firm $1.6 million), he comes home to find his wife sleeping with a mailman. His wife made a point it wasn’t their mailman. He spends some time back to his hometown in Stuckeyville, Ohio, reuniting with old friends and his high school crush. He decides to win her heart, move to Stuckeyville, buy a rundown bowling alley and open his own law firm.

In one episode, Ed was hired by a psychologist who was sued for allegedly scamming people. The psychologist explains to Ed that this was part of his research (I think it was). He asks him to think of a number between 1 to 10. The psychologist guessed correctly: 7. The psychologist asked Ed again to think of a number between 1 to 100. He guessed correctly: 37.

Statistically, 7 and 37 are the most common numbers people think of from 1-10 and 1-100, respectively. In the lawsuit, the psychologist sent e-mails to a distribution list, predicting which team would win in a ball game. All he did was send half the people a prediction and the other half another team winning. On the winning half, he divides it again and so on. The people who were randomly placed in the ‘always’ winning distribution list surmised this guy as the real deal. Some people started betting real money on the games. This is part of a general phenomenon known as subjective validation.

Subjective validation occurs when two or more unrelated or random events are perceived to be related because a belief, expectation, or hypothesis demands a relationship. This phenomenon is also related to the Barnum effect, where individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. It provides us a partial explanation to why people believe in horoscopes, astrology, and personality tests.

I recently read a horoscope infograph on Facebook, describing the personalities of each sign. I scrolled down to my sign and thought “that kind of describes me.” I read the other signs. They are just as vague as the others and might as well describe me. Some of them, at least.

This got me thinking about personality tests. I know of people who are vehemently against religion, pseudoscience and supernatural things, yet welcome the Myers Briggs test with open arms. 

Are people just inclined to seek patterns and meaning regardless of religion, creed, belief system or lack thereof? Do people take these readings and personality test results at face value or aspire to represent them in a self-fulfilling prophetic way? What makes us us? What make me me? What makes you you?

I’m done.

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Posted November 13, 2015 by StupidSystemus in Musings, Personal

One response to “Who Are We?

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  1. I think people are inclined to seek patterns and probably we do so to the detriment of reality at times. Yet some people are more extroverted than others. So we can make generalizations but we shouldn’t believe in them too rigidly. One of my favorite quotes is, “Generalizations don’t mean a damn, including this one!” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, I think.

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