Your Mental Model is Flawed


I've long been amused at people who tell you what you "should" do or "shouldn't" do. Occasionally I've been annoyed. Always I have challenged them back on these declarations, asking them

  • "Who decided that people should do this?"

  • "How did you come by this information?"

  • "How do you know with certainty that this is right, and others who believe the opposite are wrong?"

This tends to aggravate the individuals prone to moralizing and polarizing to no end. They become flustered and upset. Sometimes they will respond to you and tell you that you are being morally relativistic, and that moral relativism is wrong, because clearly there is a clear black and white, right and wrong, good and bad in the world.

mental model

When asked to explain why heroes to some are villains to others, and villains to some are heroes to others, they simply stutter, stretch, and eventually use blanket statements to cast entire civilizations of people as "wrong," never understanding that the members of the very civilization they call "wrong" would call them "wrong," too.

Rather than engage in lengthy, unending debates with these people these days, however, and spend precious time trying to convince those who are so certain their views are right that they are viewing things too closed-minded and too far to the extremes, I prefer now to just tell them one simple thing that cuts to the heart of the matter as best I know how:

Your mental model is flawed.


mental model

In Jeff Hawkins's book On Intelligence, he postulates that one of the primary functions of the brain is to serve as a modeling and predictive engine, and that the human brain is the best out there of these modeling and predictive engines.

To make the case for this at first rather sensational claim, he cites the example of walking down a flight of steps and missing one of the steps. Why is this so startling?

Whether you miss a step, or you put your foot down expecting to drop to another step only to find you've hit the bottom of the staircase, you end up surprised and alarmed. This common, ubiquitous phenomenon (I'm pretty sure it's happened to damn near everyone on Earth who uses flights of stairs at least every once in a blue moon) isn't something we spend much time thinking about when it happens; of course we'd be startled about missing a stair or being on the ground floor when we thought we were on the staircase! It's... not what was expected.

We expect the stair to be there, or not.

We expect the light switch on the wall to be there when we reach for it to turn it on.

We expect our parents to be happy to see us, our girlfriend or wife to smile and greet us, our children or dog or maybe (sometimes) the cat to be happy when they see us.

And when one of these things goes not as we expect it to, we become alarmed. Something's amiss!

Hawkins's conclusions about the brain are my very favorite sort, short of actual scientific tests on the veracity of claims; it's reductive reasoning, looking at a phenomenon and asking oneself, "Why should this be so?"

With a predictive mental model, this is easy enough to answer from a brain efficiency standpoint: it's simply more efficient to learn the way things are and expect them to be that way than it is to need to be constantly on alert, learning and re-learning and re-re-learning things over and over and over again, never being able to know, expect, or anticipate anything.

The brain evolved as a prediction engine simply because it's easier, and far more adaptive, than being a brain that doesn't predict anything.


The Mental Model as Rationale for Moral Outrage

Most scientists spend a lot of time debating where morals come from. Are they ingrained in us? Are they learned? Are some ingrained (e.g., thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not covet thy sister) and others are learned (e.g., thou shalt not steal thy neighbor's minivan)?

I have a simpler theory than this. My theory is this:

Morals are nothing but the rules upon which an individual's mental model is built.

They are the rules he learns from childhood, etched into his mind by observing others, and by acting and being rewarded or reprimanded. Based on how people act around him, and are rewarded or punished for acting, he builds his mental model:

“The world operates in this way. People are right for doing these things (helping others in need, taking care of those they're responsible). People are wrong for doing those other things (tricking and manipulating people, hurting others). These things no one much cares about (sleeping in late on the weekend, eating more pizza than usual one day a week). So, if I want to be a good person with a successful life, I should do the right things, not do the wrong things, and I can do or not do the things that are neither right nor wrong at my own discretion.”

The problem comes when someone with one mental model encounters someone with a different mental model.

Take a used car salesman.

I once bought a used, but beautiful, black Mercedes-Benz E320 from a used car dealer. My car before that was a red Mitsubishi Galant, which was reliable but not perfect, but it was totaled in an accident when a girl violently changing lanes during slow-moving morning rush hour traffic caused another car, trying to avoid hitting her, to swerve violently out of control, crash into my car, and send me careening across three highway lanes and into a 9' cement wall at 45 miles an hour. My car prior to that, my first car, had been a red Subaru Legacy that I beat to hell: plumes of smoke poured out from under the hood, I constantly had to stop and put more coolant into its leaky coolant system that one mechanic after another could not repair, and after plugging along for 5 years it finally gave out on me one week after I moved with it to Washington, D.C., on a Friday afternoon.

Compared to those other cars, which were both very good, reliable vehicles, my E320 was the best car I've ever owned.

Yet, when I purchased it, I'd had it inspected and was told there weren't any problems. A week after my purchase, the engine light came on, and the breaks began to squeal horribly. I took it back to the dealer, but his reply was a cold one: "That's on you, bro."

"That's on me, bro?" I thought. I'd just paid $2,000 over the Kelly Blue-Book price, and now I was being told I'd need to pay $1700 in repairs, and that was on me, bro?

I'd been a salesman for years. When people came to me with problems, I always fixed them. It wasn't my business, but... I wanted customers to come back. I wanted them to tell their friends about me, and about our store. I wanted them to walk out of there saying, "That's the best damn tire store I've ever been to," and turn people who normally didn't care one way or the other about where they bought their tires into loyal brand evangelists who buy there for life and tell all their friends about us. That was how you sold, I thought.

And here was a guy with an entirely different outlook on things. A transaction was a transaction was a transaction, and once it was done, and you had the product, and he had the money, that was the end of your relationship. What you felt about his business or what you told to other people, well... that was your stuff. He didn't want to see you again, unless you brought more money to spend.

I was angered. I was outraged.

My mental model was flawed. This was not how salesman were supposed to act, I thought... but clearly, despite how I thought people were supposed to act, some people were acting that way anyway.

My moral outrage was caused by a violation of things going the way I predicted they would go.


Differing Levels of Outrage

Obviously, due to the kinds of material that's taught on this site, we get differing levels of moral outrage on here in response to different posts.

The post "Should You Pay for a Date?" is one that frequently attracts:

  • Women who are outraged that men would dare not pay for dates with them, and
  • Men who are outraged that women would dare ask them to pay for dates.

mental model

There are plenty of calm, balanced replies on there from individuals of both genders, but when you see the outrage, that's where it is. (There are also some men outraged that other men won't pay, and women annoyed [if not quite outraged] that other women ask men to pay. That one's all over the map)

Other posts that attracted or continue to attract periodic bursts of outrage are the one on ego depletion (some people are outraged that at the discussion of hard push / hard sell tactics there); how many partners a girl's had (some women are outraged that we'd even discuss this in the first place); the post on when a girl has a boyfriend (some men are outraged that we'd teach something like this); and of course Ricardus's old lightning rod that led to calls the site was in decline, on what he learned about escalation from porn star and seducer California Pimp (make sure you read Part II, linked to at the end of the post, before you get too upset on that one).

Most of the most vitriolic comments never get approved, of course... I want things that are going to contribute the conversation here, not negative diatribes whose only purpose is to vomit up the author's bad feelings onto the Internet to be preserved into perpetuity. But that's a small sample of the most outrage-inducing posts on this website.

If you head to one of those articles and read through the comments, you'll see different levels of outrage. Some people feel like the WORLD is ending... others are mildly annoyed. And you don't see the ones who'd probably stab me in the jugular if they could... the ones who are just spitting obscenities and cursing and acting like the article author murdered their little sister. Those ones simply don't get approved.

Why the differing levels of outrage here?

Why does politics cause some people to become so incensed, and others to bat nary an eyelash?

Why does religion cause some people to ride out on a jihad or a crusade, and others to shrug and go about their business?

Why don't people all react the SAME?

Part of this is personality differences. But the other part is - wait for it - their mental models.

In some mental models, some of this stuff just isn't a big deal, while in others, it feels like a grave threat to the individual's very way of life. The women who risk reduced options in dating if men find out they have high partner counts and are greater infidelity risks, and the men who risk losing unhappy girlfriends to men better able to meet those women's needs if men learn how to satisfy the masses of underserved women out there, feel the threat strongly and gravely. And because self-improvement and changing oneself is not a part of their mental models, they don't look at how they can improve themselves to avoid these issues, and instead fly into a rage in the hopes of scaring and silencing others into compliance.

But that is the providence of the weak, and it is effective only with the weak.

The bigger problem here is, if you are someone who's self-improvement-oriented... if you aren't happy with yourself for flying into impotent moral outrage in judgment and condemnation of others... if you want to become more powerful, more effective, calmer, and better able to get the things you want out of life... what can you do instead of judge, moralize, and fume?


mental model

I have a confession to make: I'm no more free of moral indignation than anyone else.

In fact, I may even feel it more than most.

There are certain things that upset me a great deal, and certain things I absolutely expect out of people. There are principles that I will clamp down on people in my life with an iron fist for violating, like loyalty, trust, and failing to honor their word. In these, I am both willing to forgive someone who is truly conciliatory, and also very willing to battle to the end, out-maneuver, and outlast an opponent who refuses to reconcile and continues to move against me.

I think to be very successful at anything, you have to be driven by some degree of passion and self-righteousness. You must believe that your cause is the cause of the light, and other causes are murky and misleading and misanthropic, if not outright malfeasant. The moral impetus this lends to your cause makes doing the impossible possible; it gave wings to people like Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, and Alexander the Great. It's been the moral foundation of every great religious leader, from Moses to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed. It's provided the thrust behind prominent recent political leaders, from Lincoln to Churchill to, yes, even Hitler. Whether you're the "good guy" or the "bad guy" to any particular group of people, chances are if you are prominent, powerful, and successful, commanding and charismatic, you are driven by moral passion and righteousness.

However, if you go about being outraged about petty things, you will spend your life engaged in petty debates, and never moving beyond small concerns. Your passions, misdirected, can as easily trap you as they can set you free. You must seek to free your mind of small issues if you ever want to engage on the larger ones and bring bigger and greater things into your circle.

How you do this is in part gathering new reference points; and it is in part by forcing yourself to get into the head of someone passionate on the other side, and to feel as they do... to feel the opposite of what you feel right now.


Empathizing Your Way to Better Mental Models

I once had a friend and business partner take a good deal of money from a joint business of ours that I and a third business partner had contributed. Without the money we'd contributed, and myself and the third business partner now deeply in debt from having taken out loans against our persons to fund the business, this business, still young and not yet producing revenue, could no longer pay its bills, and I was forced to shut it down and lay off its nine employees. The (now former) friend who had made off with the business's money frittered it away on vacations and frivolities of his own, then returned, penniless, not to apologize, but to demand we pay him more for his "services" (he had been a full partner in the business, same as myself and the other partner).

My reaction, of course, was one of outrage; we'd been conned, robbed, and hoodwinked by this mercenary, and here he was demanding more? It was one of the few times in my life I found myself absolutely stunned and unable to comprehend how someone could behave the way this individual was.

I had several later businesses that did not work out as well as I'd hoped. Most of these business I spent a half a year or more each building. When they didn't grow as fast as I'd have liked, I simply gave them to my other partners and got out; I didn't want money, I didn't want equity, I didn't want to negotiate. I simply gave them away. I didn't want to divide my focus between things I was working on that were going well, and things that I considered "failed ventures." I knew the other partners cared about these businesses and wanted to continue to work on them and make them succeed; I did not, and I didn't want to be burdened with fighting over small, not-yet-successful startups.

To me, the friendships and affiliations were far more valuable then any small amount of money I could fight and extract out of these still-small businesses - and my former partners. These businesses were not worth much, but the friendships and partnerships I'd had would likely continue to pay dividends, quite possibly in ways I could not anticipate at the time, years down the road. They might not, or they might so. Many times in my life I've had people from years past contact me to offer me things I never anticipated them being in a position to offer me that changed my life radically for the better.

What I finally had to come and realize to understand his behavior was that this former friend and business partner of mine saw things totally differently. He did not see any value in retaining individuals and friends and confidantes; his personal and business history was one rife with falling outs again and again with everyone he interacted with.

And so, he adopted his mercenary-like behavior: with everyone he interacted with, he assumed he would eventually fall into disfavor with them, and become bitter enemies. Thus, rather than build for the long-term, he shifted his mindset to extracting value in the short-term, trying to get what he could now to guard against ending up with nothing later.

In so doing, he caused the very falling outs he so feared, and perpetuated the cycle, further reinforcing in his mind that all people eventually turn on him, and thus he must get value out of them now.

Both of us were acting out of self-interest. However, my self-interest functions under the mental model that if you do good with people, and end on good terms, some of them will sometimes return to offer you boons you never expected and that are far more valuable than anything you could "extract" from them in the short-term. Meanwhile, my former friend's self-interest functions under the mental model that once you're done with someone, you're done, so get what you can from them, burn it to the ground, and worry not about the future because no one ever stays your friend.

Most people without similar life experiences to this kind of person will never be able to understand this behavior. It will always perplex, confuse, anger, and enrage them. It's the very definition of a short-term mentality; "Get what you can now, for tomorrow isn't promised."

So where does empathy come into play? Why should you even bother understanding other people, other viewpoints, other ways of seeing and understanding and interacting with the world?

Because of this: the better able you are to understand the mental models of others, the better able you are to predict their actions, their reactions to you, their reactions to your reactions to their actions and reactions, and what they ultimately want and need and will do.

And this makes you better able to get what you want, help them get what they want (or avoid them entirely if they're someone you simply can't deal with), and make the world you both (or all) live in a better, stronger, and more rewarding place.


Gathering New Reference Points

The other aspect to mental model-building is gathering new reference points. I covered this fairly in-depth in the article linked to above, so I won't go over it again, but I will say that the more reference points you can gather on everything, the more complete your mental model will be.

To have the most comprehensive mental model you can, you must seek out experiences contrary to your prior ones. You need to find things that grossly violate your existing mental model. Things that are upsetting, confusing, and disorienting to you.

That means, if you come from a world where people are gracious and generous to you, you'll want to spend some time around people who are brutal, cutthroat, and ruthless. I did this after graduating from college, and it was one of the greatest educations I had. Three of my closest friends (two male friends, and one girlfriend) were devoid of any real empathy (though they had reams of faux empathy); charming, conniving people who came across like the most magnetic people in the world, at their core they didn't really care about anyone other than themselves, and were merciless in getting what they wanted out of people, sometimes with charm, other times with brute force demanding, intelligence, or manipulation.

I received a lot of bumps and bruises hanging out around these kinds of people; I learned to be able to view the world through their eyes, and saw what a polarized place it was for them - one filled with excitement, pleasure, disgust, and fear. There is no gray zone for the unempathetic; everything for them is totally good, or totally bad. In some ways, they are far more logical than other people (such as in their ability to calculate short-term costs and benefits), but in other ways, they are much more emotional. They're talented at decision-making in the immediacy of right now, but lacking in aptitude when it comes to planning for the long-term.

In addition to the people you spend time around, I'd advise you to travel and experience cultures very different from yours. Live in other cities, countries, and cultures, if possible; immerse yourself in peoples who believe things different than you do now.

I grew up in a small, religious town on the East Coast of the United States; from there I attended a big party school; I lived in the nation's capital after that, overflowing with educated intellectuals and working professionals; I then lived for three years in California, in a town with a far more relaxed pace of life, where most people's ambitions for life were enjoying themselves, hanging out, and relaxing. I lived in Beijing, China, a city of 20 million people with a fast-paced lifestyle in a country with one of the highest average IQs in the world, where half of the populace is extremely trusting and naive, and the other half is utterly shrewd, sharp, and at times conniving. Right now as I write this I'm sitting on an airplane, flying out of jungle country, back to civilization.

In each of these places you'll meet radically different people, with radically different mental models, and radically different ways of seeing the world.

At first you might find this jarring.

Later, you will find this freeing.

People who don't travel are never really able to understand other cultures, because they haven't experienced those cultures, haven't connected with members of those cultures, haven't related to them, haven't seen the world through their eyes.

You must live it to know it.


How Do You Find the Flaws in a Mental Model?

Any time you catch yourself feeling:

  • Surprised
  • Shocked
  • Angered
  • Enraged
  • Upset
  • Depressed
  • Defeated
  • Disgusted

... stop and examine first if this reaction is in response to any real threat of danger. If it isn't, take that as a loud and clear sign that your mental model is flawed in some way (obviously, if there's a threat of danger, then your emotional reaction may be justified, although you still want to make sure you understand it fully).

It means that you were expecting things to go one way, but they went another. You are not a victim (see: victim mentality), you simply did not have the model in place to anticipate the change or event that's caused you the emotions of surprise or anguish.

Here's one example of a flawed mental model:

You're going through security to board an airplane, when the security personnel find an expensive cologne in your baggage that exceeds the maximum size permitted on airplanes for fluid containers. They confiscate your cologne and discard it. You're understandably furious at this arbitrary theft of your goods; you know the facts, and you're well aware that a liquid explosive could not be created out of a bottle of fluid this small, and your cologne posed no threat. Your goods have been taken for no valid reason, and there's nothing you can do about it.

mental model

Here's another:

You start reading an article by some angry-sounding woman about how men are all bad and all manipulators who lie and cheat and use women, and how women don't need men and should stay away from men and that men are useless, terrible people. The article ends with a rallying cry for tougher laws on men, restricting what men can do, granting more freedom to women to sue and prosecute men and criminalize men for normal, everyday activities. You become enraged, and fire off a nasty comment in the comments section of the article, speechless that this person could possibly cast such sweeping generalization over an entire swath of the population, and incensed that she would try to have your gender treated like some kind of second-class citizen.

Now, on the surface, both of these incidents seem to present some kind of danger.

The first presents a danger of losing one's personal property, and of getting onto a "slippery slope;" if I arbitrarily let this person take what he wants from me this time, what are they going to do to me next time?

The second presents a kind of danger of allowing this behavior, unchecked and unchallenged, to potentially lead to new laws that restrict your basic freedoms as an individual in your society.

However, your violent reactions to both of these speak of a mental model that did not expect and does not understand these scenarios.

In the first, clearly you didn't plan around the rules of the airport and not place that expensive cologne in your carry-on bags, or perhaps you thought you'd be able to talk your way out of having your cologne discarded. In the second, you perhaps didn't realize you were about to read some scathing denunciation of 50% of the population, or may be fearful that an Internet article could stir the winds of change, eventually leading to manacles on all men, or perhaps you thought that firing off an angrily-worded comment would cause the author to think twice about her position.

In both cases, your mental model was flawed.

In the first instance, if you fully knew and believed (not just logically knew, but still at the back of your head thought, "Ah, that'll never happen!") that bringing that bottle of cologne in your carry-on bags was going to lead to it being discarded, you may still have protested, but the emotions would have been far calmer because you would've known it would happen. You'd have a better plan for how to deal with it, or you'd have accepted that if your bottle was found, it'd be discarded, and that was a risk you were willing to take because you weren't going to check a bag anyway (and you would've DEFINITELY had to discard your cologne in the hotel room, otherwise).

In the second instance, if you fully understood what the article was about from the title ("Why We Need to Criminalize Men Asking Women on Dates They've Known for Fewer than 6 Months"), you simply wouldn't read it, knowing it's an irrational, emotional vituperation aimed more at venting the author's negative emotions than it is at swaying anyone to enact draconian laws that would make everyone's lives worse. And had you begun reading it and found it every bit the castigating tirade the title declared it would be, you'd quickly click off the article, reasoning you didn't need those negative emotions dumped into your heart, and you didn't want to hang around with all the angry men and women in the comments section, and you weren't going to change anyone's mind by venting your OWN angry emotions anyway, much as the article writer didn't change anyone's mind either.

By identifying the places where you're reacting emotionally in a negative manner to something, you can figure out where your mental models are flawed.

That doesn't mean don't ever fight back and defend yourself when it's called for; but it does mean you need to reflect on why you ended up in that situation (i.e., you didn't appropriately assess the dangers and risks before entering into it, due to a faulty mental model) and why the things that happened happened.


But Aren't "Bad" Emotions Sometimes Good?

When your bad emotions inspire you to change things, they can be useful.

For instance, if you were upset about the cologne bottle being discarded, and you petitioned your government to stop throwing away people's belongings and instead either let them keep them on their persons or designed a more efficient way of getting those belongings into their checked bags instead of into trash bags, and you worked at it tirelessly until you affected change, this would be useful.

Otherwise though, the emotion only serves as a sore point to reinforce a lesson in your mind. The next time you're about to fly an airplane, you'll remember how surprised and angry you were, and you'll place that cologne in your checked luggage (or else you won't bring it).

Within a few trips flying, you won't even remember the bad emotion much, and you'll just know the consequences of putting a big bottle in your carry-on luggage. You won't get upset if you forget and the find something else; instead of being angry at them, you'll be angry at YOURSELF.

"Gah, I should've known better," you'll think.

That's a sign that your mental model now matches the way things actually happen.

And, if you were upset about the article writer's jeremiad against males, and that inspired you to action - getting your own column on the same website talking about how we need to tear down the wall of vitriol-laced tirades on the Internet by one side against another and instead approach each other with empathy and understanding, rather than trying to war with one another - this would be useful.

Otherwise though, the emotion only serves to keep you away from articles and people like that. The next time you see an article like that, you say, "Bah! I'm not clicking on that rubbish," and you protect yourself from getting drawn into someone else's anger and discontent.

What about fighting the system, and fighting injustice? you might say.

Well, if something is actually unjust (like the airport screener confiscating and discarding your expensive cologne), or if something raises the specter of wanting to change society to make it unjust (a rallying cry to criminalize normal, unharmful activities), then yes - it's sometimes good to "fight the system."

However, you must fight it from a place of understanding and calm.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela are three great examples of individuals who affected change by understanding the other side and calmly and rationally, yet still emotionally and inspirationally, presenting their cases.

Those who call for warfare and bloodshed usually don't win, and instead rather bring a great deal of misery and negative affect to their followers. Instead of affecting change, they only manage to dig their hole deeper and polarize the other side in opposition.


How to Change Your Mental Model and Lead a Better Life

If you catch yourself getting angry, upset, or miffed at anything, stop, and take a breather.

Stop focusing on the other person, and turn the spotlight on yourself.

Say to yourself, "My mental model is flawed," and try to understand why the thing that made you angry, upset, or miffed has just happened.

Without resorting to victim mentality ("It's because this other person is an evil oppressor!"). That just takes the power out of your hands and resigns you the victim role.

mental model

No... why did this happen? It's not because the other person was "evil."

There's no such thing.

We call "evil" those who are working to accomplish things that run opposite to what we want. We want to plant trees, they want to tear them down (so it seems to us). But to them, they want to cut lumber to build homes and economies, and we want to stymie the wheels of industry and bring society crashing down in technology-free anarchy (so it seems to them). Understand the other side. Fix your mental model. Then the animosity goes away, and you can actually work with people to get what you want.

Why did that girl reject you? Is it because she's "evil?"

Of course not. It's because you didn't present yourself in a way that made her think you could offer something to her life that she'd value.

So, get out there, figure out what she values, and figure out how to get it to her.

Your mental model was flawed in thinking that she rejected you because she's cold and shallow. And her mental model was flawed in thinking that you brought nothing to her life.

Repair yours, then work on repairing hers (or that of other women's like hers). Not by convincing or cajoling, but by presenting yourself in a light that she will understand.

What does she value? Understand it and become it. Then instead of being angry and confused, you will be happy and satisfied.


Stop Moralizing and Start Fixing

The next time you catch yourself getting all moral about what people "should" and "shouldn't" do, knock it off and instead understand why they're doing what they're doing. Ask yourself:

  • What are their goals, and what are they trying to accomplish?

  • How can I change their minds, or can I change their minds?

  • Is it better to work within the confines of the system, or is it better to try to change this system?

It's usually better to work within the confines of a given system. Changing the way things are done at a large level requires a great deal of time, effort, work, will, and sacrifice on your part. Usually, it requires decades of full-time devotion. So, you may be very upset that:

  • Airports take your cologne bottles from carry-on bags
  • Commercials on TV are louder than the TV shows they sponsor
  • People cut in front of you in line at fast food restaurants
  • Pretty girls aren't partial to computer nerds

... but you can't realistically change all of these. You might be able to change one of them... if you devote the next 10 or 15 years of your life to that, and only to that.

Otherwise, you learn to work within the system:

  • You learn that airports take your cologne bottles from carry-on bags, and stop bringing cologne bottles in carry-on bags or bring smaller bottles that won't be confiscated

  • You mute commercials, or buy TiVo, or watch your TV shows online, or (best of all, in my opinion) you stop watching TV altogether and find something more productive to do with your time

  • You learn to gently tap people on the shoulder or arm immediately when they try cutting in line, and smile kindly but very firmly at them, make eye contact, and motion for them to get behind you, letting them know that they aren't sneaky and you are going to call them out on their behavior. Or, if you really can't stand this and it keeps happening, you go to a different restaurant (maybe a sit-down restaurant, with no lines) or you start ordering delivery

  • You learn how to be more attractive to pretty girls, and don't let on that you're a computer nerd until you've been dating for a couple of months and she's already totally in love with you. At that point, she'll probably even begin to associate computer nerd-dom with having a sexy boyfriend. Score one for the computer nerds!

Spending a lot of time angry or upset or defeated or helpless over what other people do doesn't help you at all.

So cut it out.

Instead, correct your mental model. Learn why other people do the things they do, learn to expect them, learn to empathize with them, learn to communicate with them in terms of their needs (not yours; not "Here's what I want" but rather "Here's how you can get what you want from me BETTER"), and learn the way to work within the world without having to violently struggle against the world over every little thing.

Because trust me, no matter how much spirit you've got, if you're going to fight everyone on everything, you'll be beaten down and worn out in no time.

Stop fighting. Stop moralizing and telling people what they SHOULD do (according to you, anyway).

Instead, understand them, work with them, and treat them as friends and partners. You'll have a much easier, a much more productive and rewarding, and a much more stress-free life for it.

And you may just find you end up getting exactly what you want.

Chase Amante

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Comments

Knight's picture

Effort


Cheers for the read. Appreciate the time and effort, Chase.

Tritium's picture

Morality


I agree with the main points of this article, though I disagree with the idea that morality is entirely learned from childhood.

This idea runs contrary to scientific evidence that we are all born with certain "moral" conceptions, such as empathy. For example, even very young babies (too young to have "learned" morals) will attempt to aid others in experiments, such as by picking up and returning a dropped pen to a researcher. This goes a long way to explaining near-universal moral concepts around the globe, such as "don't murder each other."

The "blank slate" idea also seems to run contrary to many of the ideas on this site, in that denying the evolutionary nature of human morality is not in sync with the many other principles of evolutionary psychology that serve as cornerstone concepts (for example: that women have evolved to prefer socially dominant men).

But then, perhaps I've misunderstood what you wrote and rushed to judgement! ;)

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Morality

Author

Hey Tritium,

I'm in full agreement that a lot of psychology is evolved, however I have serious doubts that morality is. You cite innate empathy as evidence of innate morality, but if we're being straight about it innate empathy is only evidence of innate empathy, not innate morality.

The numbers are rather striking, but approximately 4% to 5% of people are born without empathy. These individuals are normally referred to by the scary-sounding terms of sociopath and psychopath, but they aren't just serial killers - they're people all over our lives, often including some of the most charming, convincing, charismatic people we know. I've known quite a few people who are empathy-devoid. They're intelligent, high-functioning people, but they simply don't "get" what other people consider "innate morality," because they don't feel pain when others do and they're unable to put themselves in others' shoes. Psychopaths you can loosely define as people who take pleasure out of causing harm (physical, psychological, etc.) to others; sociopaths you can loosely define as people who don't care one way or another if they harm others (e.g., if they do something and it hurts you, they don't care; if they do something and it helps you, they also don't care).

If the theory that we have innate morality is correct, then simply missing empathy should not disable this - empathy is only one thing going into morality. But, when you remove empathy, instead of people acting morally because it's what "feels right" despite the lack of empathy, they only act morally inasmuch as it serves their logically decided-upon, self-interested objectives.

On a societal basis, sociopathic and psychopathic people are generally considered "amoral," while highly empathetic people tend to be considered "super moral." Personally, I rate very high in empathy, and I've had to work very hard to tamp down constant desires to spend all my time helping and saving and acquiescing to people... in a way, too much empathy is a handicap much as too little empathy is, though in a different way.

I think what you're defining as "moral" in your comment is really just empathy, rather than out-and-out morals (don't do this; do do this; etc.). The term "morals" is normally used to describe a set of explicitly spelled-out rules, like, "Don't kill," "Don't steal," "Don't rape," "Don't beat people up," etc. I'm highly skeptical of any theory that has to do with explicit rules being programmed into the brain.

I agree that empathy's innate and not really something that's subject to change or learning. I've spent a great deal of time trying to make my unempathetic friends empathetic, and failed every time. And I spent a lot of time trying to shed some of my empathy, but can only keep it at bay by crowding it out with busyness and louder thoughts.

For a very deep and well-researched (and well-cited!) look into the scientific research on morality's biological (or not) basis, see Prinz's "Is Morality Innate?"

Chase

EDIT: I just read through this comment and realized I didn't very clearly explain myself. The comment as it stands makes it sound like my view is that there are no morals without empathy, which would mean that morals ARE empathy, manifested, which is not my position. My position is, morals are learned, although empathy plays a part in how powerfully they are stuck to. But they can differ greatly depending on the environment one grows up in.

So, for instance, many children are programmed since early childhood that it is wrong to curse God or Alla or Yahweh or whomever. They carry this programming into adulthood, and believe it to the core. It's not innate, it's learned, though certainly influenced by empathy - the higher the empathy, the higher the individual will feel his given deity's "pain" when said deity is cursed.

Other examples are killing and rape. If you look at incidences of war, you'll see merciless killings and rape (often unrecorded or left out of the history books) that go far above the 4% or 5% you'd expect if morality was wholly a product of empathy and it's only the empathy-devoid engaging in these activities. Instead, what you're seeing is a result of othering and a learned morality from fellow troops that it's okay to kill these civilians or rape these women because they are less than human.

Property is another one. In peoples without a sense of ownership, you don't have a concept of theft, and even the most empathetic don't feel wrong taking things from others. In my time traveling in more collectivist cultures (and these are cultures that certainly DO have private property), I've spent plenty of time around very empathetic people who'd simply take things from me and use them themselves. This didn't seem amoral to them, although to most Americans this would be a grievous breach of personal space and tantamount to amoral theft. I often found it hard to stifle my own moral outrage and not get upset at having my food or belongings sampled or used, but this is how they do things and it isn't even a question of morality, disrespect, or anything else. In fact, if I spoke up, *I* would be viewed as the boorish and insensitive one, for not being so generous as to share the food in front of me or let others borrow my things.

One other example: in the Philippines, if a foreigner marries a Filipino woman, it's considered a moral obligation for that foreigner to support her entire extended family, since he makes more money than all of they do. To more Western foreigners, this is morally offensive, being asked and expected to support in-laws to this extent out of one's own paycheck. To Filipinos facing an in-law who refuses to do so, THIS is morally offensive, that this individual could be so selfish as to withhold his excess resources from family.

The list goes on...

Chase

Tritium's picture

Thanks for the in-depth reply


Thanks for the in-depth reply Chase! You make it clear that we are talking about different things. I can definitely agree how what I would call "cultural" morality is shaped by mental models, as you pointed out.

I tend to connect empathy with morality because I am used to arguing with a number of religious individuals in my community who declare that society would descend immediately into anarchic chaos without religious morality. In response I argue that we would get on just fine, as natural human traits that encourage cooperation (at least within tribes) would still exist.

Nick's picture

Great Read


Hey Chase,

Thank you for the writeup. These kinds of articles and the ones on fundamentals are my favorite.

I have a favor to ask; I have subscribed to your newsletter but have not obtained any letters or the E book "How to text Girls". Is there something else I need to do on my end? The box for the subscriptions in my profile has been checked for weeks but I have not received anything.

Also, I heard Ricardus had a language product that has just come out. What is the name of it because I am going for being trilingual as of right now.

Thanks again,
Nick

Chase Amante's picture

Newsletter / eBook

Author

Hey Nick,

Sorry for the confusion on the newsletter... the newsletter option when you create an account is actually a relic of days gone by, and it isn't linked to the main newsletter autoresponder. For that, you'll need to signup on the form on the sidebar or at the bottom of one of the blog posts (or in the pop-up that shows up once a week). That'll get you on the autoresponder and start sending you the ebook / newsletters once you're confirmed.

As for Ricardus, his program's actually aimed at helping foreign speakers learn English, so it's not for general language-learning yet (and in fact, it's not even in English... you might not know it from his writing, but English is not Ricardus' native tongue). However, I know he was thinking about doing it in English for language learners to use his method to learn second or third languages at some point - I'll keep the site posted if he opens up his offerings to English speakers.

Chase

KING SINCERE ALLAH's picture

BRAVO!!


once again, excellent work Chase! this was one of the first things i somehow realized i had to do when i began to strengthen my fundamentals. learn why people do things. people not greeting me used to really get under my skin! i've been learning about sociology & pschology ever since. i call this "knowledge of self". most of the people i hangout with are different than me, or from different backgrounds. this may not be all good (i hang w/some questionable types), but the jury is still out!!

Chase Amante's picture

Things Getting Under Your Skin

Author

Hey King Sincere,

Absolutely - when stuff starts bugging you, you know you're not fully getting it (or resolving the problem if you do get it).

Hanging out with questionable people can be very educational, but you've got to keep an eye on yourself and stay out of bad situations, and you need to be calm but firm in turning down offers to get involved in things you know it's better not to get involved in. So long as you're able to manage that though, you can expand your mental model greatly to incorporate a lot of new viewpoints and strip away the fog of the unknown.

Chase

Vaughn's picture

5?'s


This was a very long and insightful article. Had to look up quite a lot of words that I'm not too familiar with. Thanks for the vocab help haha.
Quick question though.... When you talked about a girl rejecting you because you didn't give her value.

1. How do you find out what you could do to give her the value she wants without asking? Or are you suppose to ask and give it? (wouldn't that be like supplicating?)

2. How do you give value without providing too much.

3. How do you not supplicate while giving value?

4. How do you give value? And what value do you recommend to give if we're not lovers?

5. If someone cuts you in line and they're not cooperating, what should you do?

Thank you!!!!

Chase Amante's picture

Knowing What Value to Give

Author

Hey Vaughn,

For finding out what women value, check out this article, all on a technique called exactly that - eliciting values:

What Does She Want? The 8 Things You Must Ask Her

After that, it's a balance of being valuable, but not too valuable - see these:

... for a lot on not overproviding value. And I'm sure you've seen the stuff on the Law of Least Effort and sprezzatura for maintaining a visibly effortless appearance.

On cutting in line, when someone first cuts in line you want to very firmly (not hard, but firm) place your hand on the person's shoulder, and give a nice-but-firm smile and gesture to the line (you can wave your hand back and forth, pointing out the line). This is typically enough for most people to move.

If the person doesn't get the hint, say, "Excuse me, there's a line."

If he still won't move, you need to call out to the person who's responsible for the line - a cashier at a shop or fast food joint, or a doorman at a bar or nightclub, for instance - and say, "Uh, hello? Hi, we've all been waiting in line here, but this gentleman's cut in line - I'm not sure what to do. Should we walk around him or what?"

At that point, you make the guy the worker's problem - most cashiers / doormen will say, "Sir, you have to go to the back of the line, please," and they won't serve the guy unless he does.

Chase

Anonymous's picture

Chase very nice post.I wanted


Chase very nice post.I wanted to know if kissing girls on their cheek whether they are your friend or lover is appropriate. many thanks.

Chase Amante's picture

Kissing on the Cheek

Author

Hi Anon,

Not totally sure what you mean by "appropriate," but let's say you mean it's something that you want to do?

If the girl's your lover, it's a little patronizing, so I'd advise against that. However, if she's your friend, or a girl you're on a date with, kissing her on the cheek can be a nice way of establishing some dominance while also upping the sexual tension simultaneously - so, in those instances, I'd say kiss away!

Chase

studentofthegame's picture

Chase when you first started


Chase when you first started making friends of all people weren't you afraid of being asked to smoke and do things you didn't want?oh yeah and did go your high school prom?just wondering

Chase Amante's picture

Things You Don't Want to Do

Author

Student,

Yes, absolutely, that was a fear. What I found was that the first few times you say "no" to people asking you to do things in "peer pressure" situations, it's pretty tough, but after that, it gets a lot easier, and you can even get a certain amount of pride out of being able to hang with a group of people and be cool and accepted with them while not partaking in everything they do.

The only ones I'd advise you to be careful of are people doing more dangerous things, like hard drugs or committing felonies (selling drugs, weapons, stealing cars, etc.). If you're not absolutely certain your powers of resisting peer pressure are all there yet, I'd avoid having these types of friends until they are.

And, high school prom, no... I went for a long drive that night instead.

Chase

Hunter - Fox21296's picture

When Point of Views Clash?


Chase, this article really vibed with me. The whole notion of checking one's mental processing is something I value, so I got another tool from this article!

After minutes of pondering, I finally realized what questions I have from this article.

Your mercenary friend that burns bridges down, he likely doesn't view the whole process as a concrete "I'm afraid this person will screw me over, so I will just beat him to the punch". It's likely there in his head but it gets fuzzier overtime the more he does to where it's just on autopilot. So to him, it's a natural response that others view as bad.

So there we have a clash of point of view, he views it as normal behavior and others view burning bridges as a bad thing. So my question is:

When do you follow others point of view and when do you deem others point of view as incorrect? What indicates it is time to change to what others are saying?

I feel this is a very big part of life. When I was in 8th grade I was extremely confident, had pep in my step, had a positive outlook on everything and made sure to be nice to everybody I came into contact with. But I kept getting comments that I was arrogant. It puzzled me!

There I was having a good time and making sure others were having fun and people were calling me arrogant. I chose to just ignore the comments.

It was fine at first, but then I started getting harder and harder comments, and my ex girlfriend led the force to hammer it into my head that I was an arrogant punk that nobody wants to be around.

I finally gave in to the point of view and I haven't really felt the same since. It feels almost like every time I feel good somebody tries to bring me down. I think this may be victim mentality talking or just selective thinking of me picking out the bad parts, but even just two days ago I was feeling good and I complimented others and even a guy I complimented said "You're too confident... I don't know if that's a good thing Hunter".

So it's kind of hammered into my head that if I'm feeling super good others aren't going to like me, which explains why when I have a good day at the end of the day I feel anxious about how everybody else took my behavior, because it's linked mentally that when I'm feeling good about myself I get negative feedback.

I want to break this mindset but I don't know how. And I'm sure other men have this where they think they're doing one thing, and others say that's wrong, and they either give in to the opposing frame or keep doing the behavior, without knowing if the original behavior was correct or not. Chase, I feel that your insight would shed some seriously needed light on the subject and help tons of men in the process!

Thanks man, your articles inspire beneficial deep thinking.

Hunter - Fox21296

Chase Amante's picture

Getting Called Cocky, Overconfident, or Arrogant

Author

Howdy Hunter,

That’s a good question. I think any time you get people telling you something over and over again, you need to stop and ask yourself why it is that people are reacting to you this way. If the only answer you can come up with is, “Because people are all stupid!” or, “Because I’m a victim!” then you don’t understand it.

However, there are times people will react to things they don’t understand in improper ways. For instance, you might say, “I’m going to start a new business doing X,” and everyone around you tells you, “Oh, that’s a terrible idea!” But if these people don’t have experience starting businesses and haven’t studied the market or the niche like you have, you need to take their input with a big grain of salt.

Getting called “confident” or “arrogant” isn’t necessarily bad. I get called these by women I sleep with, and by people who hold me in high regard. The only thing you want to monitor on those comments is if you’re coming off so arrogant that it’s off-putting to others. If it isn’t – if it’s rather charming instead – then it certainly isn’t something you want to adjust.

If you’re not sure how to take a remark, ask for clarification. So, someone says, “You’re kind of arrogant, huh?” ask, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

Then – and this is important – ask multiple people.

Some people believe it’s better to be timid and keep your head down, and they’ll tell you it isn’t good to be too confident. If you go based off of one or two people’s opinions, you’ll probably get poor advice.

So, go around and ask people (especially people who know you well), “Hey, I’ve had people telling me I’m arrogant lately. I’m not sure if this means I’m being annoying or off-putting, or if I’m kind of cocky and it’s actually appealing, or what. What do you think? Am I an asshole, do I need to tone it down, am I James Bond-confident, or what?”

That way, you’ll get some data you can work with, and use to adjust (if needed… it might not be).

Chase

Matt's picture

Cut Off Marks


Can you explain cut off marks (ie, cutting off contact with a girl... say if she doesn't sleep with you or is not responding well) in more detail? You've talked about that before in several posts, how now if a girl does not sleep with you on the first date, you usually end things with her and are not going to up forth the effort because you have many other options. Do you just delete her number? Richardus talks about keeping "bad" numbers and then firing off texts to all of them in the future and see who bites. What's your opinion?

Maybe a more nuanced guide of cut off marks for every level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) would be helpful. Also I'm a little confused about how persistance seems to contradict this. Hopefully I've made some sense!

Matt

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Cut Off Marks

Author

Hi Matt,

Sure, I can write something about this. You're right, I suppose it's a sufficiently alien view from how most men treat women they meet (e.g., chase her until you get her, or things go completely to hell, or you get another girlfriend... even then, maybe still chase her a bit!).

Meanwhile, I don't normally delete numbers, unless I'm going through my phone and clearing out people I don't recognize or am not in contact with anymore. As far as pinging is concerned, I might occasionally ping women who were being "difficult" to get somewhere with, but I tend to have a pretty good idea about where I am with each girl, and if I've dropped her or cut contact with her it's usually for a good reason, and I won't follow up with her (unless she resurfaces and gives chase).

Anyway, I'll do a post on it.

Chase

Jason's picture

Rules to cutting contact


Hi Chase!

Thanks for this article! It makes a lot of sense and it made me rethink a lot of things. One thing I thought about was how I would sometimes cut off contact from girls in cases where they lose interest or where they reject you when you ask them out. In cases where you cut off contact, do you even wish them happy birthday on facebook? Would that have the effect of rejogging their memories of you in a very subtle way? Thanks!!

Mike's picture

Wishing girls (or anyone for


Wishing girls (or anyone for that matter) HBD on Facebook is not productive at all. You'll be just like the 200 other orbiters she's got on FB competing for her attention.

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Rules to cutting contact

Author

Hi Jason-

Per Matt's request above, I'll get a post on cutting contact up to make my thoughts on handling that situation clearer.

Re: happy birthday... Mike's right on the money. The instant you do that, she gets a feeling of, "Ha! Gotcha!" and you're chasing after her, right in the same pile with every other guy chasing after her and wishing her happy birthday. If you're going to cut contact, then cut contact, and only get back in touch if you're doing so on your terms for your reasons, and not because it's her birthday or a holiday or something like that (which gets seen as a lame excuse to go back on your contact-cutting and try to "sneak" back in... just like every other guy who cut contact with her and then tried sneaking back in).

If you're cutting her off, just ignore her Facebook entirely. Otherwise, she knows you're monitoring it - not exactly the act of moving on that cutting someone off is supposed to communicate.

Chase

Doobie doo's picture

Hey chase, thanks or ur


Hey chase, thanks or ur advice the last time. 
Anyway today I just tried to chat up a girl for the first time, and in public transport.
 In retrospect I failed to move past small talk and I wasn't smooth. Also, I creeped her out. 
We were standing face to face. And when the train came to a stop I moved to stand at her right. 
Me: excuse me
Her: *looks at me with fear and stares*
me: I can't help but notice your headphones are really special. (they were)
And then she just stares apprehensively and I wonder if she doesn't understand English. 
Me: did u get them here or overseas?
Her: my...friend got them overseas for me.
Me: where?
Her: the US. 
Me: u ever been to the us?
Her: no. 
Then I see that she holds a textbook and asks if she's on her way to school. Then she just ignores me and looks away. And soon she just moves to another part of the train. 
While this means I have to continue practicing deep diving, I have another problem, how do I put someone at ease and not come across as unsettling, especially in a place where pick ups are not common? Thanks. 

Chase Amante's picture

Not Being Creepy

Author

Doobie-

On not being creepy, check this article out:

How to Not be the Creepy Guy

Also, quick note on your direct opener - props on using one of those, but make sure you keep it to something specific about the girl herself. I know it feels "safer" to compliment her on something she has on her person (a handbag, earrings, a shirt, etc.), but it also feels much weaker and odder to the girl than if you compliment her directly (e.g., she KNOWS it's HER you're interested in... not her headphones. So it seems like you're dancing around what you want to do / say / hiding your banana [see here on that last reference: "How to Use Indirect Game to Get Girls"]).

See this post on using direct openers:

Book Excerpts: The Direct Opener

... and stick to complimenting her on something intrinsic to her person (her hair, her sense of style, her walk, her smile, etc.). Your openers will perform much more strongly this way.

Chase

The M's picture

Scents and nerds


Hey Chase,

Speaking of expensive cologne...is it worth the investment? Right now my only scent is my deodorant, lol.

You mentioned not saying that you're a nerd until after dating a couple months. While I don't think I could do that (no way I can hide my books!), I understand where you're coming from. What do you think is the best way to present my nerdy career so that it enhances, rather than detracts from, my developing sexy persona? (Also, if the girl is a nerd, too, does anything change?)

And I suppose that leaves one more question: do scents and nerds go together? Well, I guess scents and sexy nerds go together!

Best,
M

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Scents and nerds

Author

Hey M,

On scents, that one's a weird topic without a lot of "do this for sure, and definitely don't do that" advice out there. There's varying research, and a bunch of different opinions.

I'd actually like to do a post on it, now that you mention it. It's such a weird and varying topic that it'd be good to write on.

For now, I'd say the best thing to do if you want to use cologne (I did for quite a while) is to try different colognes that women tell you they like, and see which ones get you the most compliments, as different colognes match differently with different men's body chemistries. For me, I found that Cool Water by Davidoff got me a lot of compliments... I hated the smell, but women seemed to love it on me. Eventually I found Very Sexy for Men by Victoria's Secret, and that one netted me even more compliments and I actually liked it. CK One was another scent I had some good luck with personally, although Very Sexy for Men became my favorite and default scent.

On presenting a nerdy career, I'd just mention it in passing. I never much go into my career with women... it's just not a very interesting topic. The past few girlfriends I've had never ever really knew what I did for money much of the time. Typically, I'd advise just talking to her about the feature of the job ("I help people figure out their business systems and save them time and money") rather than the job title, and then move on to more interesting things.

And scents and nerds... well, you'll just have to experiment ;)

Chase

Franco's picture

On "scents" (and not just Colognes)


This is completely trivial. The cologne industry rips off men very easily by displaying their expensive products through campaigns marketed by "men in tuxedos with fancy cars."

Do you want to know what I wear out on a regular basis and get women complimenting me on all the time? Aqua Velva. It's not even cologne -- it's a $5 after-shave product.

Definitely save the big bucks for clothes and accessories. If you really want to know what scent women enjoy the most, go for something that smells "shower-clean and fresh." I've had by FAR the best results with anything that smells this way.

Cheers,

Franco

Mikel 's picture

Chase I may be wrong but what


Chase I may be wrong but what I sort of am getting that you say is that our goodness and humanity is just a "function" or "invention" which I is disturbing really. What I'm trying to say could basically be summed up in one example, elephants.

Elephants despite not being as smart or developed as we are, have emotions, the best example of this is how they hold funerals for their dead. From there one can see how if they do that, we as human beings must have developed our morals and definitions of "good" and "evil" from somewhere, sure different cultures have different ways of being, but we are all human and we all came from the same place, and even though different cultures around the world really are different (as in your examples) many share the same basic rules (no killing,raping,hurting others etc.) I got kind of lost in my own words but my point is that morality, good and evil, wherever they come from be it genetics, divine creation, etc. exist for a bigger reason than as just a "biological function"

PS. I may be misunderstanding you Chase, the thing is that in many of your previous articles sometimes I would misunderstand you because from my point of view you use very "strong" wording but whenever my doubt is too strong to leave be and I give you my point of view and present any doubts to and you respond you answer my questions clearly and prove to me that I am right (as in that I sometimes misunderstand you)

sorry if my writing isn't clear it's 4 am where I am so yeah haha.. anyways thanks for reading this and I hope you respond soon

Chase Amante's picture

Morality

Author

Hey Mikel,

Actually, I think you're largely correct in your understanding of my meaning.

Personally, I'd be pretty horrified to learn that, say, a Christian crusader's morals of killing Arabs being good, and an Arabic Muslim jihadist's morals of killing Christians being good, were both inspired from some higher source that wants each sect to go massacre the other for the good of mankind. People tend to morally justify whatever it is they're doing, and you can find some terrible things getting morally justified (from some pedophiles feeling that what they do is "harmless," to rapists believing that their victims - women and men - actually like being raped, to town-wide lynch mobs justifying their jury-less murders of guilty and innocent alike as "doing the right thing," etc.).

The thing that is inborn, however, is empathy, and 95% of the population has some degree of that to another. Empathy puts a lot of the brakes on human savagery, and when you feel "disturbed" at the idea of morality not being inborn, that's actually your empathy kicking in - fearing that morality that isn't inborn will lead to widespread suffering. But the fact is, the world already is the way it is, and realizing it is one way will no more change things than realizing that the Earth was spherical and not flat changed gravity for anyone when this was first understood.

Personally, my belief is, if you could completely discard "morals" and instead instill everyone on Earth with a deeply felt sense of universal empathy (i.e., no ability to partake in othering), the worst atrocities of humankind would completely disappear. Until then, there will probably be people out there who will feel that, no matter who you are or what you believe in, it is morally right (due to cultural conditioning) to kill you and wipe you off the face of the Earth because your beliefs are different from theirs, without taking half an instant to bring empathy into the picture and wonder how that'd make you and the people who care about you feel.

I'd trade morality for empathy any day of the week.

Chase

Lu's picture

Chase, I like your analysis


Chase, I like your analysis of how there is no black and white between what is good and what is evil, because both are seen in different lights by separate cultures, societies, and individuals.

However, do you think having this "black and white" mentality is good for other areas, such as leadership? I feel like in moving your interactions forward with women, or in business, you're either going to do something, or you aren't. A gray area when it comes to leading, I believe, would be a sign of indecisiveness.

A response on how you have become a leader, not just with women but in all areas would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work!

Chase Amante's picture

Black and White Thinking

Author

Lu-

Actually, yes - you hit a nail on the head here. There are times when black and white thinking is absolutely necessary, and leadership / competition / fighting an enemy / struggling toward a goal / trying to bed a girl are all situations in which it's a helpful adaptation.

Black and white thinking is most useful for winning. In fact, you can even say I'm guilty of it in this article - I'm telling people that black and white thinking is absolutely WRONG, and the gray zone is where it's at.

If you want to win an argument, or successfully persuade someone, or lead people in inspiring ways, you usually need to tap into black and white.

Anyway, it's a great topic, and a nice contrast to this one... I'll jot it down for a post sometime soon.

Chase

Some Angry Guy's picture

Then no one is right


I'll just throw in some quick context: I'm a conservative guy, living in a very liberal city. If I wasn't able to accept opposing mental frames, my mind would have detonated by now. Also, despite the majority of my friends being atheists, I'm a religious person myself.

Now, to get to my point, if you can accuse a religious person for having an incorret mental frame, then I can do the same to you. Because there is evidence to back up both sides (early manogamy in Mesopotamia vs the example you highlighted), neither side can EVER logically trump the other. A skilled debater would, instead of struggling and stuttering, would simply throw your statement right back at you, because neither of us can prove that our mental frames are the "right" mental frame. Granted, though, most skilled debaters have mental adaptability to significant levels.

While I understand that this post is rather old, I'd still love to see a reply. Why? Because I think that this is a constructive post.

Now, if you dislike people telling you that you shouldn't (or should) do things, then hear this: you shouldn't tell people their mental frames are flawed. To tell someone else they have a flawed aspect is to imply (albiet unintentionally, at times) that you have an unflawed version.

Shouldn't you just tell them that they are incapable of looking outside their mental frame?

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