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  1. #1
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    Default what I don't get...

    when I was in high school I read my first Studs Terkel book and it really enamored me to the thoughts of what I could learn from ordinary people who I run into every day... what could they teach me if I struck up a conversation?

    in college I took a lot of stats classes and classes on survey research, design and analysis (because they were interesting!) and started to learn more about sample sizes for drawing conclusions and such... I started to wonder "if I talk to enough people can I possibly draw any conclusions about humanity?"

    I graduated and moved on into the curious world of "normal people"... a world where you go and work most days a week, where you pay your bills, shop for groceries, go out to the bar, attend weddings, funerals and celebrations and are responsible for bringing a food to Thanksgiving dinner every year... once there, I kept talking to people to try and figure the world out some more... striking up conversations while waiting in line, while at work, while riding the bus or on break... what is it that people want? are we all different? are we all the same? is it possible to categorize people or is it more of a vast human grey area?

    over the past 10 or more years I've spoken to thousands of people from a variety of backgrounds- I know that in the scheme of world population that's just a drop in the bucket, but statistically speaking it's a pretty significant population and have really started to wonder about things...

    though nobody is the same person, everybody has most of the same basic drives and concerns- everybody worries about money, for instance, and those close to them, everybody likes to laugh, people tend to react when they notice someone smiling at them (most smile back!), things that happen close to home or to people who we know have a bigger impact than things happening to strangers and if you want to see someone show emotions get them good and tired

    on the other hand, everyone also has their strange little quirks that set them apart from anyone else I've spoken to and some are rather surprising... the retired businessman who had taken up a crusade to bring back a beverage from his childhood, the night audit guy with no college education who read philosophical works that would make the average college student run and hide while on the clock, the bus stop minister, the metal worker who enjoyed giving out copies of his demo album to anyone who would give him the time of day, the multi-ethnic group of minimum wage workers who have a boys II men tribute band... everyone has their hobbies, their dreams, their quirks... while humanity has it's universal truths, there's nothing truly monolithic about any group of people...

    what I don't get is why anyone can think in terms of black and white about humanity in general... good v evil, us v them... how can there be only 16 types of people who use cognitive functions in a rigidly prescribed manner?

    do we need a them to be us? do stereotypes make us feel more comfortable? like there's a more manageable number of people on the planet?

    do we need to feel like we are special so that our lives have meaning? do we need to put our money where our mouths are? and even then, what makes us special when everyone else has their hidden hobbies and talents as well?

    are we all special? is nobody special? are we all special just like everyone else? why does anyone even have the gall to think that nobody can understand them?

    I don't get it... the more I learn, the less set in stone anything becomes... certainty goes out the window after a certain number of exceptions... any thoughts, explanations or attempted rationalizations?
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

  2. #2
    Glycerine
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    From my limited life experience, it is truly hard to completely understand other people (and most likely impossible). In some ways, I think it is beyond our comprehension and ability to understand because there are so many factors we are aware of and many more we are not aware of. One way to combat that is to reduce people into simpler parts and groups. Black and white just makes everything easy and comforting while most grey areas causes confusion and uncertainty. Following that, black and white creates a false sense of security and helps to frame the unknowable and ambiguities.

    At least, that's how I rationalize it.

    I might use someone's type as a frame of reference for their behavior but then brainstorm what I know personally about the individual, possibilities of why people generally might do things and general patterns I have picked up on the person. It's rarely if ever just because the person is type X. I swear if I just took the word of FPs in trying to understand the Fi users in my life, I would probably end up having a lot more conflict in the end because just being FP doesn't really tell the full story and I would be applying generalities to a specific individual without truly trying to understand them. This is why, the "type-specific issues" thread can be a disaster.

  3. #3
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    Models to explain something complicated are always reduced in complexity.

    For example, we have 16 types that we look at, even though we probably could have 16,000. Why?

    Because types are a model for understanding a complex system of sorts. And like any model, it must be reduced.

    This is because when you model something as a way of understanding it, the more accurate you try to make the model, the more complex it becomes. A perfectly accurate model is useless because it is just as complex as the thing it models, so therefore you gain absolutely no utility from it.

    This is also why the brain is hard to model. A totally accurate model of the brain pretty much IS a brain, in all of its complexity, so the totally accurate model of the brain is just as difficult to comprehend as the brain itself is, and would be entirely useless.

    "Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable." ~ Paul Valéry

  4. #4
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    How do you stand it? I guess something that has always annoyed me is that at the end of the day, certainty seems impossible. Anything I've ever thought for certain has proven to be laughably false in hindsight...yet I still look for it. It's a masochistic way to live life, yet, I find I have no other choice.

  5. #5
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    @Glycerine I guess black and white IS more comfortable... a sense that what you're doing and who you are is good and right makes people ok with their worlds

    and the descriptions' tendencies to clump people are somewhat terrifying

    @sprinkles... I see... just focus on one sentence in an entire post why don't you?

    sensibly thinking, there should be over 7 billion types to fit everyone... if the system is so flawed though, why do people dogmatically focus on it?

    @xisnotx... the sense of grey on grey IS somewhat disconcerting, but I can't shake it... every time I try to just settle a matter as black and white mentally the thoughts that "it really isn't that simple and you know that!" keeps sneaking in... I want answers, I'd like to have something to believe, but it's kind of one of those "what has been seen cannot be unseen" types of things

    masochistic, yes... but look on the bright side... it gives you more open ends to play with on ideas!
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

  6. #6
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    I don't know. I think my brain is going on strike. It's been overworked and underpaid lately.

  7. #7
    Glycerine
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    Quote Originally Posted by whatever View Post
    @Glycerine I guess black and white IS more comfortable... a sense that what you're doing and who you are is good and right makes people ok with their worlds

    and the descriptions' tendencies to clump people are somewhat terrifying
    That's why I am scared when corporations use them to help categorize their employees based on perceived strengths.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Ism's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glycerine View Post
    That's why I am scared when corporations use them to help categorize their employees based on perceived strengths.
    This reminds me of those online test some applications have that are theee most stressful. If I answered honestly, I know I'd probably be the least wanted candidate, haha. No one wants a sales clerk who doesn't like approaching people and gets bored easily.

    But I know that it's a role that I can slip into, that I can still do. Just because I have a preference to behave a certain way, it doesn't mean I can't do my job the way it needs to be done. I think those tests miss that aspect when there is no in-person interview to show a more complex picture.

  9. #9
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    when I went to the guidance councilor during college the first thing she did is make me take the MBTI test... no questions about my aptitude or classes or what types of things I enjoy... the MBTI test and then a list of recommendations... that pissed me off because that doesn't really capture me in the least- I found most of her list of recommended jobs to be rather blood-curdlingly boring...

    still though... categorizing makes us COMFORTABLE with life because it tells us who to be and tells us who we should and shouldn't like... it gives an us and it gives a them and it makes things SIMPLE... this isn't OJ's trial, if the model doesn't fit then perhaps it's YOU who isn't legit, because otherwise the universe might be more complicated, more difficult to understand

    sorry for the bitterness... I've been here for 5 years and I've been living outside of here the entire time as well... I'm not trying to bite the hand that feeds me with the forum or anything, I just genuinely want to understand
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

  10. #10
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    First thoughts--

    Defining others in terms of (perhaps only perceived) similarities and differences carves out our own identity. Hell, look at cultures who simply viewed their enemies as explicitly "not human."

    Groups are a heuristic, which, like every mental shortcut, can aid us or fail us. Groups are created and solidified through experience and through the fact that they already exist in our minds--that is, we have a way of looking for information that reinforces our own perceptions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ism View Post
    This reminds me of those online test some applications have that are theee most stressful. If I answered honestly, I know I'd probably be the least wanted candidate, haha. No one wants a sales clerk who doesn't like approaching people and gets bored easily.

    But I know that it's a role that I can slip into, that I can still do. Just because I have a preference to behave a certain way, it doesn't mean I can't do my job the way it needs to be done. I think those tests miss that aspect when there is no in-person interview to show a more complex picture.
    Yup. I would tell myself, "Why, sure, I can see myself that way.."

    Makes interviews and questionnaires a lot easier.

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