Studies: Disgust, Prisoner’s Dilemma

Disgust leads people to lie and cheat; cleanliness leads to ethical behavior


Prisoners better at Prisoner’s Dilemma than non-Prisoners


“… In one experiment, participants evaluated consumer products such as antidiarrheal medicine, diapers, feminine care pads, cat litter and adult incontinence products. In another, participants wrote essays about their most disgusting memory. In the third, participants watched a disgusting toilet scene from the movie “Trainspotting.” Once effectively disgusted, participants engaged in experiments that judged their willingness to lie and cheat for financial gain. Mittal and colleagues found that people who experienced disgust consistently engaged in self-interested behaviors at a significantly higher rate than those who did not.

“In another set of experiments, after inducing the state of disgust on participants, the researchers then had them evaluate cleansing products, such as disinfectants, household cleaners and body washes. Those who evaluated the cleansing products did not engage in deceptive behaviors any more than those in the neutral emotion condition.

“At the basic level, if you have environments that are cleaner, if you have workplaces that are cleaner, people should be less likely to feel disgusted,” Mittal said. “If there is less likelihood to feel disgusted, there will be a lower likelihood that people need to be self-focused and there will be a higher likelihood for people to cooperate with each other.” ”



“for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.

In the sequential game, far more students (63%) cooperate, so the mutual cooperation rate skyrockets to 39%. For prisoners, it remains about the same.”

A several things may be going on:
1. Defecting on your fellow prisoners may have really negative consequences that college students don’t face.
2. Prisoners may identify strongly with each other as fellow prisoners.
3. Prisoners may be united by some form of hatred for the people keeping them in prison, leading them to cooperate with each other over outsiders even when they don’t like each other.
4. Prisoners may have been through enough bad crap already in their lives that the promise of a few cigarettes seems trivial and not worth defecting over.
5. Prisoners are drawn disproportionately from a population that happens to have strong norms or instincts about not defecting.
6. College students are jerks.


Sociopaths within, sociopaths without

A few posts back, I made a comment to the effect that liberals tend to be “good people” (or at least well-intentioned people) who are concerned about sociopaths.

I feel like this comment deserves some explanation, because it comes across as harsher than intended toward conservatives.

Conservatives would kill themselves to save the people they love. My mother would literally give me her good kidney if I needed it; she has stated on many occasions that she would die for her grandchildren.

Conservatives are disproportionately employed in the riskiest fields that require risking their lives to save or protect others, like fire fighters, police, and military. They also take on shitty, dangerous jobs simply to feed their families, like crab fishing and coal mining.

The flipside to that extreme level of altruism is that you simply cannot extend it to everyone. You cannot die for just anyone.

Suicidal altruism can only exist if it makes the individual’s genes more likely to persist into the future.

If I die to save my childrens’ lives, then my genes will continue to exist, because they (each) carry half of my genes, and in their genes they carry some altruistic sentiment. Not sacrificing myself to save my children means that my genetic line ends with me, and with them dies my lack of altruism.

But if I die to save the life of a stranger, orphaning my own children, someone else’s genetic line is more likely to continue, while mine is more likely to end as my orphans starve. If a stranger cannot reciprocate my altruism, then being altruistic to them lessens the chance of altruistic genes in the future population.

The amount of charity (altruism, help,) people are willing to extend to each other therefore has a lot to do with how much they can afford to risk the other person not reciprocating. If you can guarantee that the other person will reciprocate (“cooperate”, in the Prisoner’s Dilemma,) your kindness, then you will be likely to be kind to them. If the other person can defect without consequences, then you would be a fool to help them.

Liberals and conservatives show different patterns of altruism, suggesting that they perceive different patterns of cooperation/defection and are possibly genetically distinct from each other.

Conservatives display very high levels of altruism toward their kin, friends, groups they identify with. They display comparatively low levels of altruism toward strangers, whom they will readily kill in order to save their loved ones.

Liberals display low levels of altruism to a much wider range of people. They are much less willing to risk their lives to save anyone (few liberal firefighters or marines,) but they are also less willing to kill random Iraqis on the off chance that one of them might be a potential terrorist.

The two groups perceive threat differently–conservatives see strangers as basically threatening, while liberals assume that strangers have no particular reason to cause them any harm. Conservatives would rather kill ’em all and let god sort ’em out, whereas liberals do not believe in god and would rather just make friends.

I recently posed a moral dilemma to several of my relatives: A man’s wife is dying of cancer. A doctor has invented a miracle drug that will cure the cancer, but he’s charging a million dollars a bottle and the man simply cannot afford it. Without the medicine, his wife will die.

Should he steal the medicine?

Now, my sample size is very small, (N=6), but the pattern has been amusingly consistent. The conservatives answer automatically–of course they would steal the medication. (One person launched into a discussion of the importance of properly casing the joint, so that you don’t get caught and go to jail, but I’m counting that as “would steal.” Another person objected that I must have the question wrong, because there was absolutely no way anyone would ever answer “no”.) The liberals, by contrast, equivocated. The question made them uncomfortable. I got responses like, “He should work/appeal to charities to save up/raise enough money,” and general refusals to fully answer the question.

To the liberal, conservative behavior toward the strangers looks sociopathic. To conservatives, liberal behavior toward their loved ones looks sociopathic. (Liberals see themselves as merely trying to be nice to everyone, of course, whereas conservatives see no real point in being nice to people who might try to kill them.)

Now, I feel I should stop for a moment and note that there are plenty of strangers toward whom conservatives are not openly hostile. Conservatives do a lot of charity work. There are many parts of the world where religious groups are pretty much the only people trying to help people and make their lives less desperately poor. They also adopt more kids than liberals. But the flipside of that greater willingness to cooperate is coming down much harder on defectors.

Liberal and conservative philosophical approaches to the world and political positions make a lot of sense in this light. Conservatives emphasize the importance of personal sacrifice and duty, that is, reciprocating to those who have shown you kindness in the past. For example, a conservative would argue that you should make personal sacrifices to help a parent in need, even if that parent is kind of an ass, because they are your parent and they used to wipe shit off your butt. For the conservative, group memberships and strong relationships with others are of prime importance, and trying to change all that is not tolerated.

Liberals tend toward anomie. They believe that relationships between people should be voluntary and mutually beneficial (fun, a virus-value,) and that you don’t “owe” people for past kindnesses that you didn’t necessarily want or even ask for, or that may have been delivered under some form of duress that made you unable to say no (being a child who can’t wipe their own behind counts as a form of duress.) Liberals believe that it is acceptable to sever relationships that do not benefit the individual, and are more likely to see others as individuals, rather than as members of some group.

To the conservative, a mother has a duty to her unborn child (and the child, a future duty to their mother.) To the liberal, there is no such duty.

I hope it is obvious that both views, if taken to extremes, cause problems. Society functions best when people have some flexibility to determine their duties and obligations, rather than having everything dictated to them at birth, and it also requires that people have some confidence that others will reciprocate altruism, otherwise everything falls apart.

Feedback Loops

I am pretty sure that neurotypicals (normal people) have “feeedback loops” in their brains that reward them for conformist behavior and punish them for non-conformist behavior.

We can call this “mirror neurons”, though I understand that’s probably an oversimplification.

Americans tend to glorify being non-conformist in their words, but are actually pretty darn conformist in their actions. The average person seems to think of themselves as a radical noncomformist, while going along with whatever ideas happen to be in their vicinity. Then they loudly trumpet about how great it is to be a nonconformist like them and how terrible it is to be a sheep.

Such people are annoying.

In reality, conformity actually has a lot going for it. You learn to talk by imitating the people around you. If you can’t imitate, then you probably won’t learn to talk, and you’ll be fucked for life. Other people do tons of things right, every day–hence why they are alive. Imitating other people is actually a good way to learn how to do lots of useful things.

In the state of nature, if everyone in your tribe eats the blue berries and avoids the red ones, its probably a good idea to eat the blue berries and avoid the red ones. Even if your fellow tribesmen give you a totally dumb reason for avoiding the red ones, like, “Thors blood got on them,” you should probably avoid them.

Likewise, if you’re out collecting berries one day and a fellow tribesman runs past, yelling “LION!” it’s probably not in your interest to say, “Are you sure it was a lion?” You should probably imitate him.

These feedback loops may not just encourage you to imitate others, but also punish people for non-imitation. That is, people may feel deeply unsettled or uncomfortable if they find themselves out of sync with others. This provides strong incentive to fix the problem, or if unfixable, may create long-term psychological stress.

Downsides to these feedback loops:

1. Sometimes, everyone around you is wrong.

2. Sometimes, you cannot conform to everyone, especially if everyone does not conform to each other.

3. These loops may induce great discomfort in people merely observing other people non-conforming.

If I have a strong urge to conform at all times, and that urge utilizes mirror neurons to tell me what other people are doing, and then I observe you non-conforming, that may induce the same reaction in me as if I were the one non-conforming. Then in order for me to feel psychologically at peace, I have to make you stop non-conforming.

Memetic Separatism => Ethnicity (part 2 of the meme posts)

So, as I was saying, before I had to run off…

Meme Mitochondrias reproduce primarily by hitching a ride on human reproduction. Success, therefore, optimizes them to encourage human reproduction.
Meme mitochondrias do not optimize for pleasure.

Meme Viruses reproduce by convincing people to adopt them.
Success, therefore, optimizes them to encourage pleasure or beneficial habits.
Meme viruses do not optimize for human reproduction.

Memes can switch forms–Christianity was originally spread as a virus, but quickly became mitochondrial. Today, with church membership waning across the US (and the Rest of the West,) American churches are campaigning actively for more Hispanic members via immigration reform–failure of mitochondrial mode leads to activation of viral mode.

Mormonism has spread particularly well because it employs both modes.

One of the conclusions I draw from this is that mitochondrial memes will tend to look rather unpleasant to people. Few people will adopt these memes if exposed to them after childhood, and many people raised with these memes will “defect”.

EG, being Amish. The Amish community has had significant out-migration over the years–about 25% each generation, from what I’ve heard–but almost zero in-migration. Being Amish simply isn’t attractive to terribly many non-Amish. (By contrast, being an American is attractive to millions of non-Americans.)

The Amish continue to exist because they have tons of children–enough children to replace the defectors (and then some.) To put it in numbers:

If the average Amish woman had 2 children, and 25% of Amish children defected during Rumspringa, the effective TFR would be only 1.5 children per woman, and the population would quickly shrink.
If the average Amish woman has 4 children, and 25% defect, the effective TFR remains 3 children per woman, and the population still grows.

We can call this process, “boiling off”. Over time, the Amish who are most inclined toward the outside world are most likely to boil off, while the most Amishy-Amish are most likely to stay, leading to an ever-more distinctive Amish population.

Genetically, the Amish and non-Amish Pennsylvanians are quite distinct, despite 25% or so of Amish out-migrating each generation.

(I have recently seen people commenting upon a quote attributed to Ben Franklin that complained about the Germans in Pennsylvania, as proof that people have historically been bigoted and over-reacted to new immigrants. I think it entirely possible, though, that Franklin was basically correct–having a bunch of people around who set up ethnically-exclusive communities and are explicitly opposed to interacting with the broader culture could actually be problematic.)

We would also expect the dominant narrative outside of any particular mitochondrial meme complex (ie ethnic culture) to be heavily influenced by the accounts of deserters–people who did not like that society. By contrast, people within an ethnic culture probably tend to like it (they tend to be the people who did not defect, after all.) Non-Amish find the Amish lifestyle boring and exhausting, but the Amish probably actually like it.

A similar case study is Judaism. Memetically speaking, Judaism is strongly mitochondrial. (It once spawned a viral offspring, called Christianity. This was very bad, as the newly infected could not recognize carriers of the parent meme as members of their viral community, and so kept trying to infect or exterminate them.)

There is an axiom in regular evolutionary science that two closely related species (or sub-species) cannot occupy the same environmental niche. Either one group will out-compete the other, thus replacing it, or the two groups will merge.

Is there no hope for an equilibrium solution, with neither replacement nor merger?

If the two groups have different behaviors, then sooner or later, one group will get the upper hand (or claw, paw, wing, or fin,) and out-compete the other, (or their behavior will steer them into a different environmental niche.) If the two groups have identical behaviors, then they will not be able to distinguish between each other as mates and will merge. (If they are genetically incapable of mating, then they will also be genetically incapable of performing the same behaviors, and we are back to out-competing.)

Among humans, people who possess similar values and behaviors (that is, culture, that is, memes,) tend to mate with each other, leading to genetically distinct groups of people.

In the absence of a physical barrier (like being on isolated island for a few thousand years,) memes create ethnicity. A coherent meme-system is a culture.
Cultures contain both mitochondria and virus memes, eg., Americans value democracy (virus) and monogamous marriages (mitochondrial).

Back to the Jews. The Jews have managed to exist for thousands of years (despite some pretty big obstacles,) and are genetically distinct from their neighbors, despite tremendous out-migration over the years. The Ashkenazi, for example, have very little German DNA, despite having lived in Germany for, what, about 800 years? (Rather, they’re about half Italian, mostly along their maternal lines, surprising no one who has ever observed immigrants.) Today, out-marriage among American Jews is estimated around 50%.

Looking at the behavior of the various major Jewish denominations in the US, the haredi Jews operate much like the Amish–they have a bunch of children, about 25% of whom defect to other Jewish denominations, and receive very few formerly-Conservative or Reform Jews into their ranks. Being haredi just isn’t attractive to people who aren’t born into it–it’s mitochondrial. However, the ranks of haredi Jews are still growing, due to their extremely high fertility rates.

Reform and Conservative Judaism, by contrast, receive continual infusions of new members from ex-haredim. However, their fertility rates are very low (by contrast.) They are dependent on “converts” in order to continue to exist. Therefore, they are viral, not mitochondrial.

The endpoint of this progression is obvious: Reform, Reconstructionist, and Atheist Jews who marry non-Jews and whose children and grandchildren cease being Jewish.

Incidentally, if you want your descendants to be Jewish, you must teach your children mitochondrial Judaism. Virus-Judaism is too similar to non-Judaism to maintain ethno-cultural separatism.

How can this be, if Jews have been so separate over the years?

Before Napoleon invaded the rest of Europe and imposed the aptly named Code Napoleon, Jews and Christians throughout Ashkenazi lands were legally forced into separate communities and professions, eg, the Prague Ghetto. This means they were forced into different niches, and just like birds cracking different nuts developing different beaks, we should expect to see the development of different norms, values, and skills suited to their particular niches (and a quick examination of the professions available in the Ashkenazi niche explains their development of higher IQs than other Europeans.)

Napoleon was defeated, but his Code remained, emancipating the Jews across much of Europe. With the legal restrictions gone, the two groups now occupied–more or less–the same niche. The two groups must either compete, merge, or find new niches.

The rates of out-migration, even in the 1800s in Germany, were apparently tremendous, at least according to the Jewish sources I have read on the matter. (My and my spouses’ DNA attests to this.) Like the Amish, would expect the out-migration to leave behind a remnant population that is less interested in being like the non-Jewish world. In the Ghetto days, a more liberal or atheist Jew would have been forced by circumstances to marry another Jews, probably one more religious than themselves, and their children would have reverted to the norm. More devout Jews would have been likely to marry not as devout as themselves Jews, again returning their children toward the norm.

Without the Ghetto, the less-religious marry out, and the more-religious marry each other, the only folks left. The probable result: a (growing) remnant population of increasingly haredi Jews on the one hand, and an assimilationist group whose meme-virus begins to look increasingly similar to the more secular branches of Christianity, like Unitarian Universalism.

For obvious reasons, the haredim will come to “represent” what Judaism “means” in people’s imaginations, because the assimilationist Jews simply aren’t distinct enough to be viewed as a separate group.

(Unfortunately, I would not be surprised to see American Ashkenazi IQ plummet over the next century toward the American norm, since being haredi selects more for ability to birth lots of children than IQ, and the most intelligent Jews tend to be atheists or something close to it.)

Or to put it another way, once the Ashkenazim and Christians begin occupying the same niche and inter-marrying, they adopt new meme viruses to support their new behavior patterns, and people and their spouses will want to adopt the same viruses so they can have the same behavior. Otherwise, it’s not going to work. If I want to send my kids to Hindu School, and you want to send them to Catholic School, we’re going to have a conflict. If we declare that Jesus is just an avatar of Vishnu, then we have eliminated the conflict. Our ideas (and thus our genes) have merged.

We can also see this working on a broader scale–eg, modern transportation makes it pretty easy for disaffected Texans to move to Massachusetts.

Conservative American culture is more mitochondrial–they have more babies, outsiders find their culture oppressive, and I bet you the children of conservatives are more likely to become liberals than vice versa.

Liberal culture is more viral. Liberals often forgo reproducing entirely, preferring instead to spread their ideas by talking about them. This leads to people referring to liberals as “defectors” or “traitors”. (I would rather conceptualize them as allying, but perhaps that is me being overly optimistic.)

With no credible outside threat to force Americans to unite, liberals would rather unite with other liberals and define themselves in contrast to conservatives than cooperate with (and occasionally marry) conservatives (and vice versa.) (While liberals definitely report more positive views on interracial marriage than conservatives, I should note that the actual statistics on interracial marriage and multi-ethnic households may lean just slightly toward the conservatives–possibly because of class stratification and geography in America making liberals less likely to actually interact with ethnic minorities, and possibly because Conservatives adopt more kids, often internationally.)

1. Liberal culture assimilates with cultures not traditionally part of the American mainstream, like African American, European, or Asian cultures (eg, liberals are more likely to have adopted the Asian norm of removing their shoes upon entering the house, and are more likely to pride themselves on watching foreign movies.)

2. Conservative culture becomes a remnant, like the Amish or Haredi Jews. And like them, the Conservatives become the cultural “symbol” of what it “means” to be American.

3. Liberals become very uncomfortable with identifying as “American” because it now represents “conservative” to them. I’m pretty sure that liberals who fought in the trenches of WWII self-identified pretty strongly as “American”, and believed that America was a great and glorious country out to make the world a better place by defeating the Nazis and Japanese. Modern American liberals quite frequently report being “ashamed” of being Americans, and cringe (or mock) the sight of a bald eagle alighting on an American flag hoisted aloft by Jesus delivering the Constitution to the Founding Fathers.

Conservatives, meanwhile, wish Liberals would pack up and leave already.

4. Liberalism requires a constant influx of new believers, otherwise “liberal” will shift consistently rightward due to low liberal birthrates. (Conservatives, by contrast, are closer to replacement.) It is therefore perhaps not coincidental that liberals push strongly for the incorporation of new groups of people into the country–people who will probably vote liberal, at least for a while.

There is one complication I have basically been glossing over: genetics influence your meme preferences. People with a genetic propensity toward anger will probably prefer memes that are pro-anger/violence. People with a genetic propensity toward empathy will probably prefer memes that emphasize the importance of empathizing with others. Nice people talk about how much they like Gandhi; jerks appreciate Hitler. People with larger amygdalas have stronger disgust reactions and are more likely to be conservatives and neophobic. People with smaller amygdalas think that eating raw fish sounds like it could be fun, rather than revolting. Some people are more genetically inclined to pick up new ideas, while others are more “immune” to them.

An interesting case of “immunity” is the general Western reaction to Christianity in the past few decades. Westerners are leaving Christianity in droves, (much like Judaism,) but Christianity will likely continue in this country because the new population of Hispanics is much less immune.

Mitochondrial Memes (part 1)

I have been enamored with the “meme” concept of ideas–that ideas spread like viruses, and their propagation can be understood via metaphorical evolutionary theory–ever since I first heard it.

So I was thinking this morning, that “virus” is not the only way a meme can propagate. Mitochondria are foreign DNA that long ago hitched a ride in our cells, to our mutual benefit. Mitochondria might once have been virus-like, but now they are just passed from mother to child.

Many of people’s cultural norms, like religious beliefs and political orientation, correlate strongly with their parents’ norms, suggesting that they are passed down in some way from parent to child. Obvious examples are the continuing conservatism of the American South, which has been notably more conservative than the North for over 200 years, and the remarkable stability of patterns of religious affiliation across the globe–not many Pakistani kids are going to convert to Neo-Paganism in the next decade. We shall call the way these values are transmitted “mitochondrial”.

So we may think of “meme viruses” and “meme mitochondrias”.

This construction immediately suggests that “viruses = bad”, but I think that is over applying the metaphor. After all, I can immediately think of meme viruses that I think are good, like the shift in attitudes toward smoking over the past few decades, or meme mitochondira that I think are bad, like homophobia.

A better set of inferences would be that long-term, mitochondria memes must encourage people to have children in order to be successful (otherwise they will be out-competed by mitochondrial memes that do encourage people to have more children.) So, for example, if one group of people believes in having only one child on whom they dote excessively, and they manage to pass this idea on to their child who passes it on to their grandchild, while another group of people believes that birth control is evil and manages to pass that idea on to their children, the doting people will be outbred by the anti-BC crowd.

Successful viral memes have to be good at convincing people to adopt them, so they have to sound good. Having lots of children sounds like a ton of work, so most people are not terribly convinced by that meme if they are not already inclined to it; watching TV or going to a club right now sounds like fun, so lots of people can be convinced to do these activities. Viral memes can exert a significant dampening effect on their hosts’ reproduction, so long as they still manage to spread via conversation.

Shakerism comes immediately to mind as a meme virus that could not attract enough people to overcome its depressive effect on fertility, mostly because “never have sex” is not much fun. By contrast, “Use birth control” might be a sustainable meme virus despite its depressive effects on fertility, because it allows people to do lots of fun things.

Study: Aspies don’t lack empathy; they have too much

Theory claims that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t lack empathy – in fact if anything they empathize too much

A couple of quotes:

“Children are asked to watch two puppets, Sally and Anne. Sally takes a marble and places it in a basket, then leaves the stage. While she’s gone, Anne takes the marble out and puts it in a box. The children are then asked: Where will Sally look first for her marble when she returns?

Most 4-year-olds know Sally didn’t see Anne move the marble, so they get it right. By 10 or 11, children with developmental disabilities who have verbal IQs equivalent to 3-year-olds also get it right. But 80 per cent of autistic children age 10 to 11 guess that Sally will look in the box, because they know that’s where the marble is and they don’t realize other people don’t share all of their knowledge.”

“When it comes to not understanding the inner state of minds too different from our own, most people also do a lousy job, Schwarz says. “But the non-autistic majority gets a free pass because, if they assume that the other person’s mind works like their own, they have a much better chance of being right.” ”

You know, I’ve been saying that. I’ve been saying.

“Shy People are Narcissists”

I recently saw a quote attributed to Freud to the effect that shy people are narcissists. This is undoubtedly true, in many if not most cases. I say this from the inside, as an obviously shy person. I–perhaps we–am extremely focused on my internal emotional state and the high amounts of distress socializing generally causes, either by its presence or lack.

(I feel duty-bound to interject that this is not necessarily the shy person’s fault–experiments have found, for example, that introverts have stronger unconscious reactions to noxious stimuli, eg, salivating more in response to lemon juice than extroverts do.)

After a social interaction, the shy person will generally dissect all of their faults and failings, feel anxious about any friction in the situation, and often feel hopeless and incompetent.

The obvious advice to introverts is to stop being neurotically self-absorbed and realize that other people do not hyper-analyze and criticize them nearly as much as they think other people do.

That advice, though, rests on a critical assumption: that the introvert is wrong. As I see it, there are actually two possible scenarios:

1. The shy person is wrong, and other people actually like them fine. The setbacks they experience are totally normal setbacks that everyone endures. Successful people recover from setbacks, get back on that horse, and keep going until they have lots of friends.

2. The shy person is correct, and has become intensely self-critical after years of social failures indicating that they are clearly doing something wrong.

2.a. The thing the shy person is doing wrong is being neurotic and self-absorbed instead of gregarious and other-focused in conversation. In this case, the Obvious Advice, while based on a slightly wrong assumption, is still functionally good advice, as it tells the shy person to stop the bad behavior.

2.b. Alternatively, the shy person may just have some different set of conversation styles or cultural norms or interests or aggression levels or whathaveyou than the other people around them, meaning that interactions generally don’t go very well, are stressful, and the shy person and the other person actually don’t like each other for reason other than the shy person being shy. In this case, simply acting more extrovertedly won’t solve the problem–it will probably just make the shy person an annoyance to those around them.

Aspie != Sociopath

I hope that goes without saying. But I’ve been reading lately about sociopathy (okay, I’ve been reading fiction on the subject,) and it struck me that the POV of trying get through life by reducing socialization to a set of rules is, more or less, common to both groups. Sociopaths do it because they don’t have normal human emotions and see humans as objects to use if they’re useful, whereas Aspies do it because they simply lack a normal instinct for copying other people and have to have social norms explained to them in a rule-like fashion or else they tend to screw up.

There’s a big difference here that Aspie people generally mean no one any harm and genuinely want to be nice to others or at least not harm them and want friends for all of the totally normal reasons that everyone else does. (Note: Aspies may differ in the number of friends they desire, but the vast majority probably do want friends). Unfortunately, Aspies seem to process emotions a little more slowly than others and don’t always come up right away with the correct emotional (or verbal or physical) response. This leads to social awkwardness.

Normal people (neurotypicals, if you prefer,) process emotions (and more generally, the world,) in very different ways from Aspies. For example, normal people seem to use words as functional stand-ins for emotions they feel about things. Normal people expect others to respond with the same emotions as they do, in the same ways, mimicking their facial expressions and so on. Without the underlying instincts, Aspie people can end up completely lost.

My own personal experience as an Aspieish person is that I tend to like people more than they seem to like me. In my constant quest to Make Friends and Be a Better Person, I’ve noticed that many of the resources that I find helpful, interesting, or useful get super-duper bad reactions from other people (principally liberals.) For example, Pick Up Artist materials–I have not spent much of my life trying to pick up women, being a heterosexual female, but I have read/watched a few books/episodes on the subject, and found that I could generalize the rules to regular social situations in helpful ways. And yet, most respectable people find PUA materials and people who read them utterly repugnant. Why?

Obviously, everyone loves shitting on losers, and people who need explicit help with dating are the definition of Capital L LOSERS. So are, I suppose, people who need help making friends. Luckily, people who enjoy shitting on the less fortunate for social status are not people I would even want to be friends with in the first place. (See how I inverted their negs on others into a neg on them? That raises my social status by indicating that I am not completely pathetic and can actually afford some standards.)

BUT. There is another, perhaps far more important reasons why people respond badly to PUAs: PUAs come across as sociopaths.

NOTE: I have no idea if any of these people are sociopaths, and I am not accusing anyone in particular, PUA or not, of sociopathy.

However, sociopaths, as mentioned above, do not “get” human emotions in a direct way, do not feel warmth and love for others, view other people as objects to be used, and conduct their socializing via a series of rules about the ways other people operate.

An Aspie and a sociopath trying to write out “rules for socializing with others” might produce very similar looking lists of rules, even though they have vastly different intentions. It would never even occur to Aspies to try to use the rules in ways that would hurt others, though they might have to out of necessity. Aspies are not naturally deceptive, and have to be explicitly taught to do the everyday lying that normal people do all the time without even realizing it.

In short, Aspies are using these rules because they don’t want to get fucked by society. Sociopaths use them because they want to fuck society.

Good People do not want to be sociopaths, don’t want anything to do with sociopaths, and try to stop sociopaths from hurting others. These kinds of Good People tend to be disproportionately Liberals.*

*More on this distinction later–too much to go into here.

Good People interpret PUAs as sociopaths. I do not know if they are correct–it is fairly immaterial to me, as I am neither a PUA nor do I have any friends or loved ones who are. But I think there is a problem that a particular approach to trying to understand humanity is widely denigrated, not because the approach itself is wrong, but because of assumptions about the intentions of the people involved.

This same set of responses starts up in response to virtually any attempt to understand humans or human behavior from a rigorous, testable, falsifiable, scientific angle. The approach is “cold” and “dry” and “impersonal” and “unemotional”, and so must be done by people who are the same, and therefore bad.

This potentially cuts off many people from perfectly valid fields of inquiry and knowledge that could actually help them, without offering anything useful in return (eg, feminist websites are definitely not the place to go for tips on asking out a girl you know.)

Hatred of sociopaths is perfectly reasonable, but screwing over perfectly nice Aspie folks in the process (this is always rationalized under the “well, they’re just LOSERS” doctrine,) is really shitty. And if the only people who are offering up rational explanations for all of the strange, irrational things people do are PUAs and their ilk, then that’s where Aspies will have to go for explanations.

If urbanization leads to the smart people leaving the countryside, then the average IQ in the countryside will plummet. But that doesn’t mean that every farmer is dumb, or that farming is a job for dumb people.

Why Do Liberals Mock Conservatives’ Fear of Disease?

Note: I wrote this back when Ebola was big news, but most of the points remain relevant.

EG: Today’s Shortpacked!

Short answer: Because they hate conservatives. If conservatives hate or fear something, then ipso facto, that thing must be good, loveable, or at least harmless. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all, or at least someone I’m not too inclined to shoot.

I’ve been thinking about the logic behind social norms related to hygiene, lately, for all of the obvious personal reasons. (Everybody in the household coming down with vomit-diarrhea after a trip to McDonald’s will do that to you.)

It seems to me that a lot of conservative behavior can be understood in the context of disease avoidance. For example, foreigners are more likely to have diseases to which you lack immunity–regardless of their cleanliness. The Japanese are probably the cleanest people on Earth, but an American friend who lived in Japan for a year reports having had low-level colds for nearly the entire time. A Japanese visitor to the US would doubtless suffer the same sniffly fate.

Liberals tend to live in dense, urban environments where they are exposed to a lot of other people. Conservatives tend to avoid cities, preferring much lower-density areas like suburbs and farms. (Here I must point out an aspect of income, where urban-dwelling white* liberals can generally afford to live in more affluent neighborhoods where disease is less of a problem, whereas poorer conservative whites cannot afford those neighborhoods. It is easy to laugh at someone else’s fear when you yourself can buy your way out of dealing with the same problem.)

*My critique is focused on white liberals and conservatives, as I do not have the experience to speak about liberals and conservative dynamics in other groups, though obviously the conservative-hygiene obsession dynamic is also found in Judaism.

Conservatives tend also to strongly discourage “sexual promiscuity.” There is, of course, an actual correlation between # of sexual partners and likelihood of STD infection, and certain forms of sex do present an increased likelihood of disease transmission.

Consequently, liberals mock conservatives’ fear of “catching the gay.”

Conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals–meaning that they process more of reality through the part of the brain that tells you to stay away from poop because it’s icky. As a result, I believe that they literally feel emotions like disgust in response to common stimuli (like other humans.) Liberals, by contrast, do not share this gut-level reaction; conservative behavior, therefore, makes no intuitive sense to liberals.

[Note: I have discovered since I wrote this that the amygdala research/interpretation may be incorrect, though the basic idea may still be sound. More on that later.]

In this conception, the conservative fear of novelty is really a fear of novel germs; liberalism denotes lack of fear. Taken to its extreme, conservatism becomes a life-crippling paranoia that renders the individual incapable of dealing with the outside world (hint: hermits tend not to be liberals.) The extremes of liberalism, by contrast, leads to pathological recklessness toward disease (and other things that might kill them). (Interestingly, Toxoplasma Gondii infection seems to make men act more conservatively and women more liberally–perhaps T. Gondii attacks the amygdala, or similar regions of the brain.) (Also, liberals like cats better than conservatives do .

Look, if you haven’t read the T. Gondii link all the way through, yet, GO READ IT. It is really interesting.

Anyway, back to Shortpacked!

Now, I feel compelled to clarify that I don’t actually watch the news. So my knowledge of “conservatives’ opinions on Ebola” is largely confined to personal conversations with conservative family members. Since I am generally fond of my family and not fond of Ebola, I tend to be a bit reflexively protective of my family, whether they are assessing risk accurately or not.

My knowledge of liberals’ opinions on Ebola is likewise limited to friends, family, and the internet.

Honestly, it seems rather dumb to mock people for being afraid of Ebola. After all, Ebola is actually a terrifying, horrible disease that liquidates your internal organs and kills you and everyone who comes in contact with your suddenly spewed-out organs. It is brutally killing lots and lots of people right now, and it is perfectly reasonable to look at Ebola and think, “Jeeze, I sure don’t want to catch that!”

Now, does that mean you should stock up food and water in preparation for holing up in your house for a few months while the Ebolapocalypse passes? Probably not–Ebola is unlikely to be as big a deal as, say, traffic accidents. (Of course, I also find driving at high speeds in cars kinda terrifying. Um, and I also worry about airplanes and such randomly dropping out of the sky and hitting my house with me in it. I worry, so I understand worrying.) But still, I don’t think it’s appropriate to mock people for being afraid of something that is actually really scary and is actually killing lots of people. If anything, it seems awfully damn insensitive to the people who have caught the disease–American or not.

To my liberal friends, look, you have finally been given something you’ve been wanting for ages: conservatives who are actually willing to let the government do something about public medical care. Maybe this is a chance to convince your conservative friends and family that we need to make sure that poor people can get access to medical care so that they don’t spread Ebola.

Why fight over disease, or try to score cheap political pot shots over Ebola? Why not work together to try to make the world a better, healthier place?

3rd world in the 1st world

Update: After many years of unfulfilled promises from the local municipality, the family finally has running water.

A large chunk of my family lives in a part of the country where the wells have run dry due to drought. They survive by filling up a big tank of water when they go into the city and driving it back home. It has been this way for years.

The nearest city has been promising a water pipe out to them for over 7 years. The family gladly and eagerly declares their willingness to pay for running water. Their willingness to help dig the trenches and lay the pipe necessary to get the water. And after seven years, much of the pipe has been laid, but they still can’t get the right people and authorizations out to turn on the water.

Once upon a time, we sent a man to the moon. Now we can’t lay some damn pipes.

People in Detroit have running water, but chose not to pay for it–that, of course, is cause for international concern. “The city of Detroit must restore access to water for its citizens who remain unable to pay their bills, two United Nations experts urged today, adding that a failure to do so would be a violation of the most basic human rights of those residents.”

The family could have running water with a better, deeper well (maybe not the best water, but hey, they could flush their toilets on a regular basis.) But digging wells is difficult and expensive.

There are multiple charities that dig wells in Africa and other parts of the 3rd world. I have contacted some of them, but they do not have the paperwork and authorizations necessary to dig wells in the US.

We are paperworking ourselves to death.

Another branch of the family, located in a wetter part of the country, belongs to a church that sends aid projects to Ethiopia, digging wells and planting trees (which apparently the Ethiopians keep chopping down). But they do not dig wells for their own kinfolk here in the US.