Consumer

Consumer

All he ever wanted was to consume her; all of her is all he wanted. Nothing more really. She had consumed all of his thoughts, as of late, and so, under the light of mischief, he plotted and schemed and felt utterly pleased with his new intention, his new delight. Read more

Import the Self

Import the Self

A beggar walks up to a man dressed in—what the beggar assumes is—fancy attire and humbly lowers himself to be small and frail looking. “Sir, could you spare a dollar?” The man stops in his tracks. With the beggar at his side, the man slowly turns to look the beggar in his face. Read more

I know what you are, but what am I?

I know what you are, but what am I?

|how.odious| Year Two: DAY NINETY-EIGHT

2017 January 27 [Friday]

Friday Feature

“‘Victims’ Who Make Victims of Us All” Part III / X

[Read Part I & Part II]

Social interaction with a cat is, often times, quite painful and surprisingly complex. Unlike a dog, a cat wants what it wants and the want cannot be beaten out of it. This perhaps is the catalyst behind the cat- and dog-owner judgments, but this is not about that. A cat can, however, be persuaded out of a particular want if a greater want reveals itself. Thus, as all cat owners know, if you can present a cat with an equally alluring option to the one it already so desperately wants, the cat will seemingly do your bidding. Obviously, the cat is still just pursuing its own wants, but if you can positively reinforce the behaviors you want your cat to enact, the cat will continue to enact those behaviors for the reward it receives (Bradshaw, 2013). Like cats, we humans are surprisingly attuned to positive reinforcement, and yet, unlike cats [unfortunately], social interaction between humans is always much more complicated. Don’t you ever wish, though, that interacting with other humans could be less daunting?

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After my [inept] attempt to explain the fundamentals of Julian B. Rotter’s “social learning theory” in last week’s post as the foundation upon which I will examine why and/or how some people enact behavior and/or become victims of their own volition, I will attempt to convey how social interactions in daily life are not as obviously labeled “skill determined” or “chance determined” as reality-television game shows and Texas Hold ’Em poker. Thus, I ought to begin with a quick overview of how Rotter (along with Phares, E. J. and James, W. H.) tested how people behave when the situation is clearly defined as “skill determined” or “chance determined” in their “Studies of Complex Learning” (Rotter, 1966, p. 4).

Their hypothesis, which I will paraphrase here, went something like this:

If a person (Person A) believes that the outcome of his/her behavior was determined by his/her own action, then when that behavior is positively reinforced, the likelihood that that same behavior will be enacted increases, and when the behavior is negatively reinforced, the likelihood that that same behavior will be enacted decreases. If a person (Person B), however, believes that the outcome of his/her behavior was determined by forces beyond his/her own control, then when that behavior is positively or negatively reinforced, the likelihood that that same behavior will be enacted remains unchanged. (Rotter, 1966, p. 5)

After a series of tests that [you can read for yourself because they’re way too dense for me to explain and examine here] were designed specifically to test how people behave under clearly labeled “skill determined” or “chance determined” situations, the experimenters basically stated under what conditions success would be met, and the measure for each subject was how much time passed before the subject reached “extinction,” which was defined as the subject having an expectancy of success on a scale of 0–10 being 0 or 1 three times (Rotter, 1966, p. 5–9). After a number of tests were conducted, they found that there was a “clear difference with the subjects given chance instructions and those who were not told it was either a chance or a skill task having significantly more trials to extinction (almost twice as many) than the skill group” (Rotter, 1966, p. 7). What this means is that the group of subjects who were told that success was dependent solely on luck or who were told nothing at all, continued to expect that they had a chance to succeed for twice as long as those who thought that their success was dependent upon their own skills. The crazy part to me is that all of the outcomes were completely arbitrary, the simple reinforcement decided by the experimenter. Rotter, James and Phares, were not the only researchers who conducted these types of tests and came to similar conclusions either, by the way (Rotter, 1966).
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But what is the point of all of this? The point is that people behave differently when they believe or perceive the outcome of a given situation is determined by their own skills or sheer luck. The multitude of various situations in everyday life, however, are not clearly labeled as such. So then how do people manage this vast social landscape, the landscape of social interaction that holds the most value (Mearns, 2016)? According to Rotter, there have been many researchers who have studied and are “concerned with whether the individual is controlled from within or from without. We [Rotter, et al] are concerned, however, not with this variable at all but only with the question of whether or not an individual believes that his own behavior, skills, or internal dispositions determine what reinforcements he receives” (Rotter, 1966, p. 4). Here is an example of Rotter and company’s “Studies of Complex Learning” hypothesis in real-life terms:

Person A and Person B are experiencing the same situation; in that, they’re both seeking employment. Person A expects (remember the “four main components” to Rotter’s social learning theory from Part II) to get the job because she feels that her skills qualify her for the position. Person B expects to get the job because he too feels that his skills qualify him for the position. Outcome X: Now, both submit their resumes and go in for an interview. A week later, they both find out that they have been hired. Person A perceives this success as a reinforcement of her skills and abilities and will most likely enact the same behavior the next time she needs to find employment. Person B also perceives this success as a reinforcement of his abilities and maybe feels lucky that the interviewer wasn’t a bitch and will most likely enact the same behavior the next time he needs to find employment. Outcome Y: Now, both submit their resumes and go in for an interview. A week later, they both find out they were not hired. Person A perceives this failure as a failure of the self and will blame the failure on her own lack of skills or qualifications, and she will adjust her strategy/approach to the next situation wherein she’s looking for employment. Person B, on the other hand, will perceive this failure as a situation beyond his control, that it was a stroke of bad luck, thinks the interviewer was a bitch, etc., and since he does not find the failure to be his fault, will most likely approach the next employment-seeking situation in exactly the same way.

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So, here we are, upon a bridge. We first stood upon the knowledge that a person’s behavior when a particular situation is known to require skills or depends upon luck is essentially predictable. Now, we’re crossing that bridge to the landscape of social interaction where the labeling of such interactions as “skill” or “luck determined” is impossible. Thus, when dealing with social interactions, we are now dealing with “internal versus external control of reinforcement” (Rotter, 1966). I’ve been wrestling with how to package and present the various ways a person may approach the myriad social situations to show the differences in the perception of those who believe the outcomes of their behaviors are either determined by their own doing or by the doing of others and/or other-ly-ness. The conclusion I’ve come to is to present three social interactions in varying degrees of knowable social behavior. I will attempt to present these interactions through the two perspectives of Person A — who perceives the following situations presented to her from an “internally-controlled” point of view — and Person B — who perceives the following situations presented to her from an “externally-controlled” point of view. This is not to say that both A and B perceive all situations from this perspective. I am merely stating here that they hypothetically perceive the following hypothetical situations in their aforementioned ways.
Social Interaction №1

“Boss and Employee (or any socially hierarchical setting)”

A social interaction between a boss and an employee has a few knowable, definitive rules. The boss knows that she has the power to end an employee’s employment, but the boss also needs the employment of employees. An employee knows that she must fulfill whatever tasks are required of her, but the employee also knows that she ought to be treated well. Thus, there is a social contract between bosses and employees in that the boss hires an employee to do the work, and if that employee does the work, she will be compensated with the agreed upon form of compensation. If the employee does not do the work, she will not be compensated. Each knows the other holds some form of power over the other, and so, interactions between varying hierarchical levels are oftentimes tense. Despite this tension, social interactions with a superior are more clearly defined. A boss says, “Good job.” You must be doing a good job. A boss says, “Bad job.” You must be doing a bad job. Even though this may seem like an obvious, logical response, it’s the employee’s perception of the cause of this comment by the boss that matters. Thus, here is the situation:

A boss has called an employee into her office for a performance review. The review is positive, and the boss has offered a bonus. Person A expected to do well, perceives this bonus as a reward for all of her hard work, and will continue to work hard. Person B expected to do well, perceives this bonus as a reward for all her hard work and will continue to work hard. The following month, however, the boss conducts a similar performance review. The review is negative, and the consequence is a warning. Person A expected to do well, perceives this punishment as a failure of her work and thus, changes her approach. Person B expected to do well, perceives this punishment as unfair, complains that the boss is an asshole and thus, continues to approach her work the same way because what can she do?; her boss is a bitch.

Social Interaction №2

“Customer and Service Provider”

In the realm of customer service, social interactions are still bound to a few knowable guidelines, but the lines become slightly blurred. The customer wants something from the service provider, and the customer will most likely be unable to get the thing he wants unless the service provider gives it to him. The service provider, similarly, is there to give the customer what he wants, but the service provider ought to be treated with, at the very least, some respect. Thus, the situation:

Person A walks into a coffee shop and orders a cup of coffee. Person A expects to be given a cup of coffee in exchange for money. The service provider takes Person A’s money and gives him the coffee. The social interaction is a success, so Person A will most likely behave in a similar way when needing coffee again in the future. The same situation unfolds in exactly the same way for Person B. The next day, Person A walks into a coffee shop and orders a cup of coffee the same way he always does. The service provider snaps at him and tells him he needs to “wait a goddamn minute!” Person A looks around to make sure he didn’t cut anyone in line. If he has indeed cut the line, he apologizes and makes his way to the back. If he has not cut the line because there is no line, he may wonder if it was something he said or the way he said it. If he concludes that the treatment he has received could not have been caused by something he said or did, he can only conclude that the service provider is having a bad day, and thus, however the service provider may behave is beyond his control. Meanwhile, Person B walks into a coffee shop and experiences the same brash service provider. Instead of even making sure he has himself done nothing wrong, having no inkling to think that he perhaps has caused this reaction, Person B responds in equal fury at the service provider asking him, “Where the hell do you get off telling me what to do?”

Social Interaction №3

“Friends”

The first two interactions were essentially between strangers in situations with vague albeit knowable social rules in modern society. This interaction, however, is not between strangers, and thus, the rules become murky, less discernible. Thus, here is the situation:

A friend posts a picture onto one of the various forms of social media. Person A sees the picture and comments, “Haha, nice face!” Person A expects her friend to understand her sarcasm. Later that day, Person A receives a text message that says, “[smiley-face emoji] Thanks!” Since the response Person A received from her friend met her expectations, Person A will continue to behave in a similar fashion. The same interaction unfolds between Person B and the friend. All is well. The following week, a friend posts another similar picture. Person A sees the picture and comments, “You don’t look very happy.” Person A expects her friend to understand her. Within a minute Person A is bombarded with angry texts from her friend berating her with messages like, “How dare you? Why would you write something like that? That’s so mean! You don’t even know him!” et cetera, et cetera. Person A is baffled and re-examines the picture and the comment and tries desperately to figure out what she said that set her friend off. Person A is still confused as to what she did to make her friend so mad. Maybe her friend is talking about something else, so Person A, texts back, “What did I do?” The friend responds, “Your comment on that pic I just posted of me and my boyfriend! How could you write that! Everyone can see it!” Realizing what she did, Person A feels really bad for the oversight. Perhaps that sort of comment shouldn’t be made in public.
The same situation befalls Person B. This time, however, upon receiving the first mass of angry texts shoots back, “What the hell is wrong with you?” The friend responds, “Your comment on that pic … Everyone can see it!” Person B does not perceive that this could possibly be her fault because the friend should know that the picture was posted in public, so Person B responds, “Are you serious? You posted that pic in public! You should know better! Stop being such a bitch!”

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My point is obvious, if someone calls you mean names they’re revealing a deep, egoistic defense mechanism against whatever weakness you may see in them. Haha, j/k, but maybe. Of course, these are all hypothetical situations and each person’s perception of any given outcome or response to their behavior is handled differently. All I have attempted to do here is translate the result of Rotter and his fellow researchers’ studies — on the way people behave when given direct information about whether or not a given task requires skill or luck — into the internal or external blame a person perceives when an interaction either reinforces or negates a given expectation. Admittedly, obviously, I have but a rudimentary understanding of all of this behavioral psychology. As an every person who did not study psychology in college [except to fulfill the one psychology course necessary as core curriculum], I am fascinated by social behavior and behavioral psychology, thus, I spend my time studying it for fun.

There’s a really good chance that I’m getting some if not all of Rotter’s hard work wrong. If I have drawn conclusions or said things here that are just pitifully incorrect, please don’t get mad, just tell me where I’ve gone off the rails. I’m here to learn. So, if you just want to tell me I’m stupid, well, good luck. If, however, you want to help further my knowledge, please by all means, TELL ME HOW AND WHERE I AM COMPLETELY WRONG! Honestly, I need to know because I really care about getting this right.

In the meantime, I will press on toward the part of Rotter’s “Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement” where he determines how to determine whether or not someone possess internal versus external control and how that control determines perception which ultimately determines behavior. In conclusion, as for the question on which I concluded Part II, a quote from the summary of the findings to Rotter and company’s Studies of Complex Learning:

A series of studies provides strong support for the hypotheses that the individual who has a strong belief that he can control his own destiny is likely to (a) be more alert to those aspects of the environment which provide useful information for his future behavior; (b) take steps to improve his environmental condition; (c) place greater value on skill or achievement reinforcements and be generally more concerned with his ability, particularly his failures; and (d) be resistive to subtle attempts to influence him. (Rotter, 1966, p. 25)

Hmmm … interesting, if I may say so myself.

[Read Part I & Part II]


References

Bradshaw, J. (2013). Cat Sense. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books.

Mearns, J. (2016). The Social Learning Theory of Julian B. Rotter. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://psych.fullerton.edu/jmearns/rotter.htm.

Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80 (№1), 1–28.

Skilled Yet Unlucky vs. Lucky Yet Unskilled

Skilled Yet Unlucky vs. Lucky Yet Unskilled

|how.odious| Year Two: DAY NINETY-ONE

2017 January 20, 2017 [Friday]

Friday Feature

“‘Victims’ Who Make Victims of Us All” Part II / X

[Read Part I]

While watching an episode of the Food Network show, Chopped, a small sort of understanding befell me. For those who have not seen the show, Chopped, it is a reality-TV cooking competition wherein four contestants are presented with a basket of unknown ingredients with which to make an appetizer, entree and dessert, and at the end of each course, someone gets “Chopped” from the competition by a panel of judges. The last person standing, as it were, wins [usually but not always because there are special episodes when more or different prizes are awarded] $10,000. Despite personal opinion, it is quite popular with 433 episodes to date since 2009 (Lea, 2009-Present). Personally, the show does little to nothing for me except that, in general, I thoroughly enjoy watching people talk about themselves. Also, throughout the show, the contestants participate in talking-heads, which are even more entertaining in the sense that there’s the guarantee that at least one of them will say something really stupid at least once during the episode. But that’s neither here nor there.

My point, thus, is that there’s something oddly satisfying about the show, and it’s continued “success” on air. I never really understood what that appeal was and is until I started my little research project into self-victimization (Weber, 2013), of which this little ditty here is Part II [read Part I to gain further insight as to how I landed here]. Through the desire to understand self-victimization, I learned about Julian B. Rotter’s “Locus of control” (Weber, 2013). And then, through this past week’s reading, I learned about Rotter’s Social Learning Theory (Mearns, 2016). Let me simply interject here that there exists a, what’s the word?, plethora of information and writings by Rotter, and I have only scratched the surface, so for all of you real scientists/writers out there, please be patient. *sigh. Okay, so it’s hard to fully understand the impetus behind a person’s self-victimization without understanding Rotter’s social learning theory (Rotter, 1966). Thus, I have spent the past week trying to get a grasp, however small, of Rotter’s Theory.

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According to Jack Mearns, whose “Overview of Theory” I found and read online [because I have no access to research materials in English here in Seoul], Rotter’s social learning theory depends upon four parts:

Behavior Potential – … the likelihood of engaging in a particular behavior in a specific situation.

Expectancy – … the subjective probability that a given behavior will lead to a particular outcome, or reinforcer.

Reinforcement Value – … another name for the outcomes of our behavior.

Psychological Situation – … Rotter’s idea that each individual’s experience of the environment is unique.

(Mearns, 2016)

Basically, according to Mearns, Rotter’s Theory determines “that personality represents an interaction of the individual with his or her environment” (Mearns, 2016). Each of the above four parts ascertain how a person’s personality will be enacted during any given situation. Furthermore, “Rotter conceives of people in an optimistic way. He sees them as being drawn forward by their goals … rather than just avoiding punishment” (Mearns, 2016). What does any of this have to do with the reality-TV show, Chopped? Well, I’ll get there eventually.

First, however, each of the four parts of Rotter’s social learning theory rest upon an understanding of “Generalized Expectancies” (Rotter, 1966). Understanding Generalized Expectancies then sheds light on the Internal/External perceptions that drive the way we construe the treatment by others in any given situation. This then, of course, is the crux of Rotter’s “Locus of control,” which may or may not fuel a person’s self-victimization (Weber, 2013). *phew. So, for today, let’s start from the beginning and I’ll only attempt to convey an introductory-level understanding of the idea behind Generalized Expectancies.

Okay, so, the way I understand it, according to Mearns’ overview, Rotter’s social learning theory suggests that any person can behave in any number of ways, but each individual cannot necessarily behave in any conceivable way [Behavior Potential]. The decision to enact either A or B behavior is driven by what the person perceives as a possible result: If I do A, then X will happen; if I do B, then Y will happen [Expectancy]. Thus, after a person decides in which way to behave, the consequence of that decision is either received and responded to in a positive (aligns with the expected perception) or negative (refutes the expected perception) way [Reinforcement Value]. Finally, a person cannot forget that all of this behavior stems from a subjective opinion of one’s surroundings [Psychological Situation] (Mearns, 2013).

The keystone for all of this enacted behavior seems to me to be the Expectancy portion of Rotter’s Theory. When a person decides whichever behavior to enact, that decision seems to rest solely on the perceived potential result of that action, and then whether or not that action is lauded or condemned becomes the driving force for the next set of actions. According to Rotter, this tension, this “interaction of the individual and his or her environment” defines a person’s personality. Thus, a person’s Expectancy becomes the impetus of all behavior.

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Rotter, therefore, determines that there is a scale upon which a person’s “characteristic differences” fall whereupon a person believes that the result of their action is “chance determined versus skill determined” (Rotter, 1966, p.2). I think that this is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll try my best to put it into my own words. When a person decides to act but fails, that person can either believe his/her failure was due to forces beyond his/her own jurisdiction, or that same person can believe the result was due to his/her own doing. This is not an either/or situation; it’s a convoluted mix of the two with one being slightly stronger within the mind of the believer during any given situation. Now that perhaps a thin foundation has been laid thus far, what’s the point?

A quote:

From social learning theory one would anticipate that the more clearly and uniformly a situation is labeled as skill or luck determined, in a given culture, the lesser the role such a generalized expectancy would play in determining individual differences in behavior (Rotter, 1966, p. 2).

A dun dun duh dah! We’ve come back to my whole fascination with Chopped and other reality-TV, game-show-type shows. What I believe Rotter to be saying in the above quote is this: If the world labels something as, “This is a game of chance,” then we know that we ought to feel excited or disappointed in our sheer luck, good fortune, or lack thereof, but more importantly, we know not to feel bad about ourselves because the game was a game of luck. If the world, however, labels something as, “This is a game of skill and wit,” we are overcome with feelings of personal ineptitude if we fail and gloating pride if we succeed.

Hence, Chopped, for Chopped is a game built and labeled as a game of chance AND skill. It’s the perfect egoic “out.” If a person gets “Chopped,” that person can tell him/herself that the basket ingredients got the better of them. If a person wins, that person can tell him/herself that he/she is the best thing since sliced bread. Such is the mass appeal and continued, seemingly bottomless, available contestants. The game of Chopped is specifically tailored to give each contestant exactly what he/she wants: No blame or personal responsibility if he/she wins because the game is set upon the unknown variables of the basket ingredients which serve the purpose of luck, yet all the credit if he/she wins because the game requires some level of cooking skills. Get it? It’s quite perfect really, and I’ve got to admit, I feel a bit stupid for not noticing, before all this research, the perfectly balanced egoic stroking that makes up all television game shows and reality-TV game shows.

And then it was at expressly this moment that I realized that there’s another game of chance AND skill that perhaps works as a better example because it’s combination of chance AND skill is perhaps, less apparent to the novice player, and that game is poker. I am only familiar with one variant of poker, and so that is the version I will use.

Texas Hold ‘Em [henceforth referred to simply as poker] is a fairly popular version of poker because of the nature of the betting rounds. There’s so much action that may be enacted as each player has three whole opportunities to bet before all of the cards are revealed, which means that there are four whole opportunities to best your opponent. The excitement of poker depends upon both skill AND luck. The interesting thing about poker is that on any given hand, skill can beat skill; skill can beat luck; luck can beat luck, and luck can beat skill. Once a certain [penultimate] level of poker is reached, there are no egoic “outs.” Sure, a person CAN win huge sums of money on sheer luck, and no amount of skill can predict exactly what cards an opponent holds. Skill, however, can get a pretty good sense of what cards an opponent holds and thus, will not lose all his/her chips on a stupid call on someone who potentially has the highest straight flush possible, etc., &c.

The way my brother so aptly puts it is that, “Sure, you can win with luck, but that means you’ve got to have the cards every hand. No one’s that lucky. Winning with skill means that you can win no matter what you’re dealt. Just having great cards isn’t necessarily what wins. Whoever gets the chips wins.” For those of you who are less familiar with the way that poker is played, I apologize if this example fails to resonate with you, but this is not a lesson in poker; it is a lesson in the way people behave. I mean, no one just sits down at a poker table and thinks, “I’m gonna get lucky today!” Oh wait … shit … never mind.

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The every person understands poker as a game of luck, but like my brother says, you won’t actually win that often on sheer luck. But a person has to possess a little skill because there are rules by which the game is played. Nevertheless, I’d argue that the every person does not have a professional-level understanding of poker, and so, it is a game of luck. Thus, when the every person sits down to play a hand, the monetary loss or gain may be blamed on luck. The player cannot be praised nor blamed for his/her earnings or losses. It’s just luck! Therefore, to the every person, their outlook or generalized expectancy toward poker is “chance determined.”

For the professional or full-time poker player, however, poker is mostly about skill with a little luck here and there being welcome. A professional player, then, approaches poker with the generalized expectancy that winning is “skill determined.” Thus, when a professional player loses, he/she may feel badly about his/her own performance, but I’m sure there’s still a small resolution that an opponent got lucky. I, however, have yet to ever notice a single professional say it was just luck no matter the outcome.

These two examples, Chopped and Hold ‘Em, are, obviously, GAMES. Thus, we must delve into the real stuff, how all of this pertains to LIFE, not the game, but rather, your existence and ultimately, your role within it. The next step, however, is to create a bridge between how our perception of possible outcomes drives all of our action. Then, how do our actions create patterns of behavior that ultimately lead to the effect that every person has upon the others around them. But, of course, that is the end-all to this “‘Victims’ Who Make Victims of Us All” series. If the overall goal here is to get from Point A to Point D or even E, then my hope is that today, after a brief overview of how Points A thru D get us to Point E, I explored the distance between Points A and B, which revealed Point C.

As today’s conclusion, I’ve gained insight into all the little minutiae, according to Julian B. Rotter, that form the patterned actions we all know as each other’s personalities. That insight soon shed light on the way those actions are supported by positive/negative feedback, which is then perceived as either being a result of our innate competence or otherly forces of luck. Thus, here we are now, treading shallow waters within the understanding of Rotter’s theory that suggests that we are indeed creatures of constant give and take. The question that burns in my mind now is: Without the semblance of “best-ness,” is there, perhaps, a better approach to life and the interactions within?

[Read Part III]


References

Lea, L., Noll, D., and Krupat, M. (Executive Producers). (2009 January 13 – Present). Chopped. [Television series]. New York, N.Y.: Food Network.

Mearns, J. (2016). The Social Learning Theory of Julian B. Rotter. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://psych.fullerton.edu/jmearns/rotter.htm.

Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80 (No. 1), 1-28.

Weber, J.P., PhD. (2013, December). Self-victimizing again?: there is relief for the persistently victimized. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201312/self-victimizing-again.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

It’s Not Me, It’s You

|how.odious| Year Two: DAY EIGHTY-FOUR

2017 January 13 [Friday]

Friday Feature

Victims’ Who Make Victims of Us All: Part 1 / X [unknown]

In some place, at some time, I [TK] had the following conversation with Jackie [JK] (whose name has been changed for obvious reasons, but if those reasons are ambiguous to you, then much about what I write is probably lost on you, which means, you probably don’t read this blog anyway, but no one does so what does it matter?):

After meeting for the first time a few days prior, while suffering through those first few awkward interactions, we [or perhaps it was only I] finally felt comfortable enough to speak more than an exchange of greetings.

TK: “So, do you like teaching here?”

JK: “It’s okay.”

TK: “How long have you been a teacher?”

JK: “I just renewed my contract for the second time, so I guess it’s been two years, going on three.”

TK: “Oh, wow! Have you always wanted to be a teacher?”

JK: “Ha, no. It’s just a job.”

TK: “Oh. But you’re basically fluent in English.”

JK: “Oh, yes. I’ve always wanted to speak many languages.”

TK: “Nice. Did you study English in school?”

JK: “No. I actually studied art.”

TK: “No way! I was an art major too!” Lame, I know.

JK: “How cool! We really have a lot in common.”

Note: We learned during our first small chat that, as Koreans [although I’m more technically American, but that’s a story for another time] we are both with white guys.

TK: “Yea. You seem like a good teacher. Do you wish you could teach art?”

JK: Chuckles. “Yes, of course. But when I was in school, my art teacher told me that I was bad at art. So, that’s why I’m not an artist, and that’s why I will never be an art teacher.”

TK: Baffled and unaware of what to say. “Oh. That’s too bad.”

JK: “Yea, she was so mean, and told me that I was so bad all the time. She failed me on all my projects. She only gave passing grades to the students she liked, and she didn’t like me.”

TK: Silence.

JK: “But you can’t really make money making art.”

TK: In an attempt to convey agreement, all I could muster was a “M’mmm.”

In some place, at some time, I [TK] had the following conversation with Katie [KT] (whose name has been changed for obvious reasons, yada yada):

After knowing each other for a little while, we met up for coffee.

KT: “How’s your book coming along? I wish I could do nothing all day.”

TK: Ouch. Why do I even hang out with you? “It’s good. Not as productive as I would like, but it’s like that sometimes. What’s new with you? How’s your job? Weren’t you thinking about quitting?”

KT: “Ugh. Yea, it totally sucks. I wish I could quit. I can’t though.”

TK: “Well, I’m proud of you for being diligent.”

KT: “No, I want to quit so bad, but Kevin [her husband, whose name is not Kevin] won’t let me.”

TK: “He makes good money though.” This is all speculative. No one knows for sure what Kevin even does for work, and he’s so vague about it, it’s hard to believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

KT: “Yea, but I have to make my own money.”

TK: “Oh, yea. I get that. I’m glad I at least make money from tutoring so that I don’t have to buy Evan presents with his own money.”

KT: “Yea. When we need to pay the bills, I give him my half.”

TK: “You keep your money separate?”

KT: “Yea. My money’s mine, and his money’s his. So then we split everything.”

Note: I recalled the time that we all went to lunch together as a foursome and Kevin said over his shoulder to Katie as we were all making our way to the cashier, “It’s okay. I’ll get this one.”

TK: Strange, “Oh. Well, I don’t mean to pry, but doesn’t this job pay you well? Like, it’s good money, right?”

KT: “Yea, I mean, we can pay all our bills, but there’s not much left after that.”

TK: Trying not to sound judgey, “Do you keep a budget?”

KT: “No. We try, but there’s not enough left over to make a budget with.”

TK: Confused and unwilling to explain the nature of budgeting to her, “So, you’re only here for the pay, and it’s good enough, but not great?”

KT: “Yea, of course. I mean, neither of us have rich parents, like other people, who can just buy a house for us. We have to pay rent.”

TK: Other people, what other people? This is the situation for the vast majority of people, right? Or am I missing something?, I think to myself, but then, not knowing exactly how to respond, respond, “Oh yea. I guess you really do need to work.”

KT: “Yea, I just need more money.”

TK: “A job that pays more?”

KT: “Yea.”

TK: “Oh, yea. Rent can be pretty steep.”

KT: “No, so that I don’t have to work.”

In some place, at some time, I [TK] had the following conversation with Alice [AC] (whose name has been, yada yada) and Heather [HR] who joins in later (whose name has also, yada yada):

After knowing each other for over two years, we connect after not seeing each other for over six months.

TK: “Hey! How are you? It’s been so long!”

AC: “Yea, it’s been too long.”

TK: “Yea, sorry I’ve been so busy lately.”

AC: “I saw that you published your book. Congrats.”

TK: Chuckles. “Ha, yea. It was stressful, but now it’s over. What have you been up to?”

AC: “Not much.”

TK: “Oh, really?”

AC: “Yea, I got a new job, but then I hated that job, so I quit.”

TK: “Oh, and how is that?”

AC: “It’s nice, but I have nothing to do.”

TK: “Oh. Isn’t it nice, though, to do nothing? I mean, I love it.”

AC: “Yea, but it gets lonely because all my friends are at work all day. And you write and stuff, so you don’t do nothing. I do nothing.”

TK: A slight pause. “You do?”

AC: After realizing what she just admitted. “I mean, I workout all the time.”

TK: No, you don’t, and if you saw her yourself, you’d think the same thing. “Well that’s good at least, right?”

HR: After overhearing us and interjecting herself, “Ugh, Koreans have like super metabolisms.”

TK: I look around the room, and the Koreans in my presence do not exactly fit that profile. “What?”

HR: “Like, Koreans eat so much and they never gain weight.”

AC: “That’s because they secretly workout. Girls will like workout every day and then pretend like they can just eat whatever.”

TK: “Do they deny working out if you ask them?”

AC: “I don’t have to ask them. I can just tell.”

HR: “Oh yea. I never see Korean girls workout.”

TK: I agree; I’ve seen close to zero Korean females while working out outside, and I would know, I workout outside four-five days a week in areas where people [males] workout, so where would she see them unless she never sees a Korean female at her own gym? “Do you workout?”

HR: “Ewe. No. I mean, I’m active but no.”

AC: “I have to workout. If I don’t burn every calorie I eat, I’ll gain weight. So, I have to workout all the time.”

TK: To no avail, I think to myself [yes, I’m a bitch], and isn’t that sort of how weight gain works for everyone?

firstsnowup01-17
*caption below

Recently, a particular personality trait has made itself known to me through the dozen or so interactions I’ve had with, you guessed it, one [yes, all of the above characters (aside from HR) are, in fact, the same person] particular person. A less-scientific term for this behavior is self-victimization (Weber, 2013). A more-scientific term is victim syndrome (Kets de Vries, 2012). The thing I’ve come to realize, however, after interacting with one of the most toxic people I’ve encountered [aside from the time I, unbeknownst to me when I was hired, worked for two hardcore scientologists], is that there’s something within this behavioral trait to be learned in relation to the way that people, nowadays, behave and interact online. Thus, I have begun the task of gathering research about this personality trait and psychological behavior so that I may understand what I perceive as a shift in general behavior as it pertains to social media and the interactions therein.

So far, I have an article, a research paper and an outline of a book about the topic of self-victimization. Obviously, there is much work to be done before I can even get a small glimpse of understanding so that I may, someday [hopefully] write about the behavior I notice. I am unwilling to merely blab my mouth about this and that and the other, and I am currently unable to write about this topic intelligibly and intelligently. More importantly, I am uninterested in writing about anything else right now. Thus, I will delve deep into this topic of psychology so that I can learn for myself what I am truly up against when I interact with those who self-victimize and make the lives around them so equally miserable.

[Read Part II & Part III]


*There’s no sunshine ahead for the self-victimizing type [sad-face emoji].


References

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R. (2012). Faculty & research working paper: are you a victim of the victim syndrome? Fontainebleau, France: INSEAD.

Weber, J.P., PhD. (2013, December). Self-victimizing again?: there is relief for the persistently victimized. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201312/self-victimizing-again.

‘Unskilled and Unaware’: How Not To Be Stupid

‘Unskilled and Unaware’: How Not To Be Stupid

Friday Feature

|how.odious| Year Two: DAY SIXTY-THREE

2016 December 23 [Friday]

“[Ignorance] more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

– Charles Darwin (1871, p. 3) à la (Dunning & Kruger, 1999, p. 1121)

As an aspiring writing, the toughest thing about writing nonfiction is that I tend to stray into rant-type territory, and at this point in my life, I ought to be a better writer, which ultimately means, I ought to be able to say something without being all, what’s the word, bitchy?, about it. Thus, I’ve done a little due diligence and have an interesting little topic about which to write [rant … no … write … not rant … ]. So, here I go.

ffday63ignorance
*caption below

For years, I have been frustrated by how seemingly crazy [stupid] some people act and behave, and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what exactly “it” was. You know, that sort of Gertrude Stein-ism of wondering if there’s a “there there”? After basically writing and writing and writing about how I just can’t stand people who are, to put it bluntly, stupid, I realized that that’s probably not the best way to approach dealing with the frustration. So, I opted for a headier approach and began reading and conversing about this frustration with real people. Then, one day, the most perfect thing happened. My long-time life-partner “dropped a bomb on me” (Simmons, Taylor, & Wilson, 1982), when he sent me a link to a study about all of the things I could not prove yet constantly felt.

The link was to a research paper entitled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” which was published back in 1999 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The whole point of the study, conducted by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, was to test whether or not their argument, “that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,” holds true (1999, p. 1121).

What they’re trying to prove is, if you’re incompetent and/or unskilled, it’s highly likely that you’re unaware of your own incompetence. Another, more-preferred and less-euphemistic, way to state the problem would be, Are stupid people too stupid to know that they’re stupid? The short answer is, yes. Crazy, eh? Obviously, I suggest that each of you read the paper yourself rather than believe what I have to say about it, but since I’ve read the paper, it’s unlikely that the people who actually should read it [those who are “incompetent”] will actually read it because, like the article states, “the incompetent are less able than their more skilled peers to gauge their own level of competence” (Dunning & Kruger, 1999, p. 1122), which means that those who are “incompetent” are less likely to think that they lack some form of knowledge, which further means that this entire Feature will seem pointless to them.

The long answer is that Kruger and Dunning conducted four different studies that tested the participants on various levels of competencies ranging from humor to logic. If you only read the method and results of one of those studies, read Study 4: Competence Begets Calibration (begins on p. 1127). After each participant completed the tests, they were then asked to rate themselves against the other participants, and then, they were asked to predict their own scores. There are many more details to the study, but I’m trying to give a general impression. Again, you really ought to read the study for yourself. The results shed light on the overwhelming consensus that Kruger and Dunning were correct in their initial argument and predictions.

The predictions were as follows:

Prediction 1. Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.

Prediction 2. Incompetent individuals, will suffer from deficient metacognitive skills, in that they will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize competence when they see it-be it their own or anyone else’s.

Prediction 3. Incompetent individuals … will be unable to use information about the choices and performances of others to form more accurate impressions of their own ability.

Prediction 4. The incompetent can gain insight about their shortcomings, but this comes (paradoxically) by making them more competent, thus providing them the metacognitive skills necessary to be able to realize that they have performed poorly. (Dunning & Kruger, 1999, p. 1122)

As aforementioned, all of Kruger and Dunning’s predictions came true. It seems as though stupid people truly are too stupid to know that they are stupid. Obviously, my writing about all of this is quite crass and probably, what’s the word, condescending?, but I’m just the messenger. Again, since the two research scientists present all of the data in a much more deferential way, you should really just read the paper for yourself. I understand that most people don’t spend their time reading the results of scientific studies, but I find this one to be particularly poignant, especially when considering the state of the world and the past few national decisions, globally, that were voted upon by the general public. The butting of heads, as it were, of the competent and incompetent arise from two very different outlooks. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others” (Dunning & Kruger, 1999, p. 1127).

What’s the point of all this? Honestly, I still don’t know. I only ingested all this info about ten days ago. The study seems to point at two highly conflicting issues: Both incompetent and competent people suffer. “… unskilled individuals suffer a dual burden: Not only do they perform poorly, but they fail to realize it. It thus appears that extremely competent individuals suffer a burden as well. Although they perform competently, they fail to realize that their proficiency is not necessarily shared by their peers” (Dunning & Kruger, 1999, p. 1131).

In conclusion, Kruger and Dunning suggest that they too may have fallen prey to their own incompetencies, which would mean that they are ignorant of their own incompetence. An absolutely wonderful conclusion to have come to realize. They end the article beautifully by basically saying that sure, they found all of these correlations and have results that prove their initial thoughts to be true, BUT the results also suggest that there’s really no way to know whether or not you’re competent because, if you’re incompetent, you don’t know it, which sort of means that all of this work means nothing. Ha! Amazing.

For me, as simultaneously enlightening and frustrating the entire study and research ends up being, the evidence points at something larger. To me, the study sheds light on a simple question that every person should ask him/herself, constantly, but that question can only be asked after s/he accepts that s/he does not in fact know everything, which is the crux of all the research. People are entirely unlikely to consider that they don’t know everything, especially those who know the least. Nevertheless, the question is, “What do I want to know that I already don’t know now?” And further, “How do I make sure I continue to become more knowledgeable aka competent?”

Apparently, no one can really reveal your own incompetence to you, so the answer is quite simple to me. Assume that you’re quite incompetent. Only through this acceptance and understanding of the responsibility you hold over your own life can you ever become more competent. No matter how slowly you achieve some level of competence, all you need to know is that you’ll always be incompetent. All you can hope for is to become less so.


*… not as promotion, of course, but as nostalgia (Gray, 1747).


References

Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man. London: John Murray.

Dunning, D. & Kruger, J. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1121-1134.

Gray, T. (1747). Ode on a distant prospect of Eton College. London.

Simmons, L., Taylor, R., Wilson, C. (1982). You dropped a bomb on me [The Gap Band]. On Gap Band IV [7″ & 12″ vinyl]. Beverly Hills, CA: Total Experience Records.