Small lies matter

A new study shows that even small lies can weaken our self control, causing us to tell bigger lies and more of them.

Lead author of the study, Neil Garrett, says of it:

“It is likely the brain’s blunted response to repeated acts of dishonesty reflects a reduced emotional response to these acts. This is in line with suggestions that our signals aversion to acts that we consider wrong or immoral. We only tested dishonesty in this experiment, but the same principle may also apply to escalations in other actions such as risk taking or violent behaviour.” [emphasis added] (How lying takes our brains down a ‘slippery slope’)

The study itself can be found here: The brain adapts to dishonesty.

Here is the abstract:

Dishonesty is an integral part of our social world, influencing domains ranging from finance and politics to personal relationships. Anecdotally, digressions from a moral code are often described as a series of small breaches that grow over time. Here we provide empirical evidence for a gradual escalation of self-serving dishonesty and reveal a neural mechanism supporting it. Behaviorally, we show that the extent to which participants engage in self-serving dishonesty increases with repetition. Using functional MRI, we show that signal reduction in the amygdala is sensitive to the history of dishonest behavior, consistent with adaptation. Critically, the extent of reduced amygdala sensitivity to dishonesty on a present decision relative to the previous one predicts the magnitude of escalation of self-serving dishonesty on the next decision. The findings uncover a biological mechanism that supports a ‘slippery slope’: what begins as small acts of dishonesty can escalate into larger transgressions. [emphasis added]

Though this is only one study based on results from only 80 people, I find it very credible.

In Buddhism we learn that even the smallest of thoughts can have enormous consequences.

An important aspect of Buddhist mindfulness is watching how our thoughts develop and how they affect us and others. FIML practice is based on sharing the fruits of real-time mindfulness with a partner.

Done correctly, FIML allows us to observe small transitions in our minds and correct them in real-time if they are wrong.

FIML does not deal all that much with lies per se because partners are expected to be beyond that and FIML won’t work if partners lie.

Nonetheless, FIML does deal with small misunderstandings that can lead to slippery slopes similar to what is described in the study.

For example, if you think your partner’s tone is dismissive and it isn’t and you don’t do a FIML query, the next time you hear that tone you will experience confirmation bias and be on your way down the slope. It’s very hard to trace that sort of thing back to its origin after a few occasions. Your misunderstanding of your partner’s tone could be construed as an unconscious lie that you are telling yourself.

This is why FIML is so important and why it is very helpful to start doing it early in your relationship when all is well and there are no misunderstandings.

FIML can be described as detailed, shared, real-time moral and existential awareness. It demands integrity and mindfulness from both partners and rewards them with greatly enhance shared integrity and mindfulness.

A major purpose of FIML is to prevent the sort of thing that happened in the study. To prevent partners from sliding down a slippery slope that sometimes cannot be regained.

What can easily happen if you don’t have good FIML practice

Being a little tongue-in-cheek but not that much.

‘I’ll fight you for the kids’: ‘Furious’ Brad Pitt attacks Angelina over bitter divorce paper claims that he’s a ‘bad dad with anger and alcohol issues’ – but Jolie tells him: ‘I just can’t do this any more’

The story above is tabloid fare, but it’s reasonable to suppose the anger and battling are real, as are the explosive emotions that are causing the whole thing to go public.

How do two people with time, brains, and money get to this point?

It’s a long buildup of misunderstandings and failed communication. I actually believe that if the couple had learned FIML five years ago, they would probably be happy together today and almost certainly would not be wrangling in public, which does neither of them nor their kids any good.

Even a small misunderstanding—even one that begins innocently—can have massive consequences as it snowballs through the years.

The best time to begin FIML practice is when you are happy as a couple, when you know you can trust each other, when you want to keep doing well and even improve on it.

Properly done, FIML will not take the glow off your relationship. It will only improve it.

When couples don’t do FIML at all, no matter how much they profess ideals of tolerance and love, there is no way for them to stop small misunderstandings from growing into massive differences.

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance. (link)

The notion that Chomsky is wrong is not new, but the linked article still a good read.

See this for a rebuttal of the above: Don’t believe the rumours. Universal Grammar is alive and well.

__________________

The following is only tangentially related to the above articles.

The key point in FIML is that messages (language, semiotics, etc.) are often misunderstood and that these misunderstandings can have large psychological effects.

Messages can be misunderstood on many levels, but the level that is least appreciated today and thus has the greatest unacknowledged implications for human psychology is the micro-level.

The micro-level is the level of the short-term memory (time component) and the psychological morpheme (emotional component). Psychological morphemes arise as brief (short-term memory) associations are made with other semiotic and thought systems in real-time.

If errors at this level are not corrected, large effects can ensue. Errors at this level are best corrected in real-time as quickly as possible (while the contents of the short-term memory are still fresh). This is why the FIML technique is done the way it is and why it works as well as it does.

A psychological morpheme is:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

Google and FIML

Google has helped all of us upgrade our info about the world around us, whatever we are interested in, etc.

In the past, people had brains as complex as ours and a love of good information as great as ours, but they had to make do with less.

Somewhat resembling Google, FIML practice upgrades interpersonal information shared by (usually) two people.

Rather than guess and fill our minds with superstitions about the people we care about most, FIML allows us to “look up” the info we need when we need it.

This has a dramatic and beneficial effect on both the self and other(s). The foundations of human psychology are exposed in FIML practice.

Once you see how FIML works and what it does, you will be doing it as often as you jump on the computer to look up something you want to know.

FIML is advanced interpersonal technology that makes first-rate psychological information as readily available as a computer search. It does take some practice, but is emotionally even more valuable than Google.

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of interpersonal abuse that works by manipulating meaning, memory, and perception.

Gaslighter(s) play dirty pool with the ambiguity inherent in all human communication.

Gaslighting could not work if interpersonal reality did not contain a great deal of ambiguity. Gaslighters know this and exploit it for selfish advantage.

In this respect, gaslighting shows how important it is to remove as much ambiguity as possible in relationships with significant others.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to tell if you are being gaslighted. Gaslighting relies fundamentally on abuse of interpersonal trust.

Victims of gaslighting…

…might harbor feelings of anger toward the person they sense is an aggressor but also find themselves thrown into positions of anxious defensiveness, which makes them feel unjustified and unsure of themselves. If their manipulator also happens to be skilled in the art of “impression management” — displaying superficial charm and enjoying the capacity to make favorable impressions on others — those on the receiving end of their tactics are likely to feel even crazier. (Gaslighting Revisited: A Closer Look at This Manipulation Tactic)

I bring the subject up for itself but also because it sheds light on FIML practice. FIML is the polar opposite of gaslighting. Rather than manipulate each other, FIML partners seek to remove the source material of gaslighting—interpersonal ambiguity.

From a FIML point of view, gaslighting is the worst thing one person can do to another short of criminal acts.

If you suspect you are being gaslighted, I suggest you try to get your partner to do FIML with you. If they are gaslighters, my guess is they will not want to do it. Or if they do, they will try to manipulate you through FIML.

But that won’t work for long. Before long, you will begin to see that they are lying and that their purpose is not to help you but to control you by distorting interpersonal “reality.”

I will venture a guess that most gaslighters will be incapable of the mindfulness or metacognitive self-control FIML requires. I will also guess that they will be deeply frustrated by FIML queries and that this will lead to anger and a spike in gaslighting behaviors.

Gaslighters are “reality bullies” that seek control of others by forcing their interpretations on them. This is the exact opposite of what FIML does.

(Note: Obviously not everyone who cannot or will not do FIML is a gaslighter.)

Triggers and microaggression

I greatly dislike the way these two words—trigger and microaggression—are currently being used.

Trigger implies that something inevitable will follow while microaggression outright claims that the other person is at fault.

I much prefer my own neutral term for those small stimuli that might cause emotional discomfort.

My term is psychological morpheme, which is defined as:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

I strongly believe psychological morphemes exist and that they arise at distinct moments and that these moments can be perceived by the owner of them and that that owner of these moments can and must learn to control them, analyze them, learn from them.

It is a huge mistake to automatically blame another person for our own psychological morphemes. From a FIML point of view, there is almost nothing worse.

The reason this is a really bad thing to do is you are very likely wrong.

Even if you are wrong only one out of twenty times, the consequences of your mistake can be very large. I guarantee you are wrong much more often than that.

I say this after doing years of FIML practice during which I have discovered in myself and my partner hundreds of wrong psychological morphemes, most of which were connected to subjective networks that had grown large over many years.

Most psychological morphemes arise due to habits of subjective interpretation.

Rather than let these subjective interpretations have their way, a far more profitable and much wiser course of action is to stop that process at the initiating morpheme. Stop it before it gets going and fills your mind.

If you can stop it at the psychological morpheme and analyze it with the help of your FIML partner, those morphemes will not become mindless triggers that you wrongly interpret as microaggression, but rather opportunities to see and understand how your brain is actually functioning in real-time.

Psychological morphemes are also commonly misinterpreted as signs that reside in the other person of boredom, anger, contempt, arrogance, insecurity, optimism, happiness, pleasure, and so on including as many states as you can imagine.

When a sign becomes a (wrong) symbol

Signs become symbols all the time. What you want to be careful about is wrongly making signs into symbols.

A sign is a simple element of thought or communication. Symbols are signs with extra meaning.

Here’s an example. My partner spends a lot of time at her job working outside. She works hard and sometimes it bothers me. This morning I noticed that a sign in my mind had become a symbol.

The symbol was an imaginary image of her at her job with rain falling, wind blowing, and her in a panic to finish. It was one of several images I have of her at work.

As it floated into the foreground of my mind, I simply asked her, “Tell me this image is not true.”

I described it and she said, “No, that’s not true. Sometimes it happens, but generally I enjoy what I am doing.”

My imaginary sign (her in the rain) became a symbol (her being worked too hard) that she corrected with a few words (“no that’s not true”).

Our years of FIML practice allowed me to allow the symbol to lose all meaning and the simple sign to become a sign again. My bad feeling about her going to work and the conditions of her work changed immediately.

To become symbols, signs must be invested with meaning and feeling. Sometimes signs are symbols and sometimes not.

We all turn signs into wrong symbols all the time. Observing how that happens in you with the help of a trusted partner will do more to clear your head than anything else I can think of.

In this respect, FIML is a form of analytical psychotherapy that removes wrong symbols from the brain’s semiotic networks.

Since humans are fundamentally semiotic animals who react instinctively to symbols, it is essential that we have a way to clear out wrong ones. FIML, or something similar, is an absolute must for clear thinking and rational psychology.

You cannot clean up most wrong symbols (or signs) by yourself. You absolutely must have a trusted partner to help you because signs and symbols function as tools of communication.

Since they are also the building blocks of human psychology, clearing up wrong signs and symbols also clears up human psychology.

Metacognition improves memory retrieval

In this post I am going to argue that strong metacognitive awareness of one’s own intentionality in real-time translates into better and more accurate memory retrieval.

More specifically, I mean that the strong metacognitive awareness of one’s own intentionality that results from FIML practice is a skill that transfers to memory retrieval.

FIML partners spend a good deal of time asking and answering questions about each others’ intentionality in real-time.

The metacognitive skills that develop out of that practice streamline communication between partners, while also streamlining communication within the brains of each partner.

Each partner benefits psychologically as a standalone individual from the practice of FIML because FIML skills can also be applied to individual, subjective brain functions.

One of the psychological benefits of FIML practice is greatly enhanced awareness of the difference between truth and lies during interpersonal communication with the FIML partner.

This awareness beneficially affects memory retrieval.

It does so by increasing the individual’s capacity to better know when memories are reliable and when they are dubious if not outright false.

Advanced FIML practitioners will have less need for egotistical interpretations of their pasts (or anything else), and thus have minds and memories that are more streamlined and efficient.

This happens because FIML practice gradually shifts brain organization away from the heuristics of a static ego to operations that can be described as “metacognitive.”

Metacognitive operations of this caliber are a great improvement on static beliefs in a self or an egocentric narrative.

Additionally, since psychology is based on memory, fine metacognitive awareness of memory retrieval will also improve psychological functioning in other areas.

For example, emotions based on memory (all of them really) will be less likely to negatively influence intentionality if fine metacognitive awareness of memory retrieval is also functioning in the individual.

The same can be said of psychological schemas, framing, values, beliefs, instinct and its interpretations, and so on. All aspects of human psychology can enjoy improvements (more truthful, less stupid) through the metacognitive skills that result from FIML practice.

Repost: Linguistics and psychology meet in FIML

FIML is a practical technique that optimizes communication between partners by removing as much micro ambiguity as possible during real-time interpersonal communication.

FIML will also greatly improve meso and macro understanding between partners and discussions of these levels are of significant importance and cannot be ignored, but the basic FIML technique rests on micro analysis of real-time communication. Please see this post for more on this topic: Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding.

Real-time micro communication means communication within just a few seconds. If we are reading we can focus on a word or phrase and think about it as long as we like. If we are listening to someone speak, however, we normally cannot stop them to analyze deeply a particular word choice, a particular expression, a particular tone of voice, or anything else that happens rapidly.

This missing piece in the puzzle of interpersonal communication is of great—I would argue massive—importance because huge mistakes can be and often are made in a single moment.

FIML practice corrects this problem. In other posts we have referred to psychological morphemes, which we have defined as:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

The theory of FIML claims that psychological morphemes arise quickly and if they are not checked or analyzed can have massive influence on how people hear and think from that point on. This is why the practice of FIML focuses greatly on the initial arising or manifestation of a psychological morpheme. The morpheme may be habitual, having origins in the distant past, or it may have first arisen in the moment just before the FIML query that seeks to understand it.

The important point is that the person in whom the psychological morpheme has arisen, or has just begun to arise, realizes than it has arisen due to something that seems to have originated in the other person, their FIML partner.

This is the reason a basic FIML query is begun—because one partner notices a psychological morpheme arising within and wants to be sure it is correctly based on objective data shared with the partner. If the partner honestly denies the interpretation of the inquirer (who need not say why they are inquiring), then the inquirer will know that the morpheme that has arisen in their mind is baseless, a mistake. By stopping that mistake, they further stop a much larger mistaken psychological or emotional response from taking hold in their mind.

The stopping of a much larger mistaken psychological or emotional response from taking hold in the mind is the point at which FIML practice greatly influences psychological well-being. If we can see from the honest answers of a trusted partner that some of our most basic emotional responses are not justified—are mistakes—we will in most cases experience a rapid extinction of those responses.

In some cases of deep-seated mistaken interpretations, we may need to hear many times that we are mistaken, but extinction will follow just as surely even though it takes longer. FIML can’t cure everything but a great many people who are now dissatisfied or suffering with their emotional or psychological conditions will benefit from FIML practice. With the help of a trusted FIML partner it is easier to extinguish mistaken interpretations than it may seem upon fist hearing of this technique.

In addition to the above, FIML practice itself is interesting and will lead to many enjoyable discussions. Furthermore, FIML practice can also find and extinguish dangerous positive mistaken interpretations. A positive mistaken interpretation is one that feels good but that can lead to dangerous or harmful actions due to overconfidence, false assumptions, and so on.

FIML cannot remove all ambiguity between partners. That may be possible one day with advanced brain scans, but I suspect that even then ambiguity will still be part of our emotional lives. FIML can, however, remove enough ambiguity between partners that they will feel much more satisfied with themselves and with how they communicate with each other. When micro mistakes are largely removed from interpersonal communication, meso and macro emotions and behaviors will no longer be undermined by corrosive subjective states that cannot be analyzed objectively or productively.

Brain optimization

Optimize your brain by optimizing broad-spectrum communication with at least one other person.

By optimizing broad-spectrum communication with at least one other person, signal sending and receiving is optimized both externally and internally.

“Broad-spectrum” communication means communication involving  a wide range of brain activities, including perception, speech associations, emotion, memory, subjectivity, narration, and so on. The only limits are what can be imagined.

When broad-spectrum signals are optimized in the brain and between that brain and another brain, the apparent structure of the mind or personality will change because clarity and depth are increased as mistakes are removed.

Many brain activities based on mistakes will cease, freeing brain energy for other tasks. At the same time, many broad-spectrum associations and functions will become clearer, allowing the brain to imagine new things.

FIML practice is designed to optimize brain activity in these ways.

Listeners are different from speakers

A listener’s state of mind is different from a speaker’s.

It is more dreamy, often more visual, and has a wider range of associations in play.

For this reason, listeners often react more to their own minds than to what the speaker meant.

An example of this occurred recently.

While my partner was speaking, she referred to someone as a “douche bag.” She meant to distinguish that person from someone else with the same name (who is not a douche bag).

As she said “douche bag,” a strong image rose in my mind of the person in question being pushed into a region of darkness.

In response to that image, I protested “he is not a douche bag”; not so much to recover his honor or reputation as to keep him from being pushed further into the darkness.

She changed her wording and the conversation went on. I completely forgot the incident and the image that had arisen in my mind.

The next morning my partner brought the subject up again and explained in FIML detail why she had used “douche bag.” The memory came back to me.

It’s a good example of how a speaker’s mind differs from a listener’s.

You can’t say what they don’t already know

The main problem with culture is, in virtually all cases, “you can’t say what they don’t already know.”

Some very small cultures of just a few people are exceptions to this rule, but no large culture with anonymous and/or not-well-known members is.

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

In the world today, you cannot escape the above truth about culture. You will find it prevails no matter where you go.

In your private life you can escape the above truth by doing FIML practice. The whole point of FIML is to speak about things you don’t already know.

Intellectual intimacy

My partner said today that she thought many people ignore or avoid intellectual intimacy.

“They’re either afraid of it or don’t understand it’s possible,” she said.

I agree.

We know we exist, have minds, perceptions, emotions, thoughts. And we also have language. Shouldn’t many topics of conversation involve our intellects probing and sharing these rich areas of subjectivity, idiosyncrasy?

Great film, especially from a FIML POV

The following link contains a short film written by an algorithm.

From one point of view, the film illustrates through exaggeration what communication is like without FIML.

Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense

I do not see the film as particularly hilarious because that is the way most interpersonal communication is.