Are humans biased in favor of punishment?

A new study indicates that we humans seem to get more reward from punishing wrongdoers compared to compensating victims.

…By combining a novel decision-making paradigm with functional neuroimaging, we identified specific brain networks that are involved with both the perception of, and response to, social injustice, with reward-related regions preferentially involved in punishment compared to compensation. (Source)

Whether we favor punishment over compensation or not, it’s obvious that we humans like punishment and do it often.

My guess is this accounts for a big part of interpersonal strife. Rather than look for a solution to interpersonal problems, a common default mode is to blame and punish instead. We even blame and punish ourselves.

This is why it is so important to know how to identify problems as they arise and how to deal with them as soon as possible.

Since we are probably born with a tendency to favor punishment, this must be taken into consideration whenever we make social and interpersonal decisions.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, “How Emotions Are Made”

One sentence I liked a lot in this vid is: “The experiences you cultivate today become the predictions your brain uses tomorrow.”

FIML practice cultivates in real-time the experience of changing your real-time interpretation, emotion, perspective, or understanding. Once you have done this many times with a partner, you will find that you will also be able do it with unwanted mental states when alone.

Basic FIML practice can be compared to musical scales or basic sports skills. Once these have been mastered, more complex skills become available. For this reason, FIML is a uniquely effective form of interpersonal psychotherapy.

Why narcissism works

Narcissism works because its victims don’t see it.

Victims don’t see it because they are children being raised by narcissistic parent(s) or very commonly adults who were raised by narcissists. There is even a term for the latter: ACoN, Adult Children of Narcissists.

Other kinds of people also fall for narcissists, but having been raised by narcissistic parent(s) is probably the most common.

Narcissists often appear normal to others due to narcissism being a fairly common disorder and also due to the narcissist’s deep-seated need to appear normal to others. They are experts at “impression management.” That’s a big part of what narcissism is.

For many ACoNs, narcissistic traits look perfectly normal because that is what they experienced at home. Narcissistic smiles, glares, malice, selfishness, ostracism, false concern, abuse, and more all seem normal because they were imprinted on the primary instincts of the child to need and trust their parents and siblings.

In truth, entire culture can be narcissistic, abusive, hierarchical. To break these habits in interpersonal relationships, you have to do FIML practice or something very similar.

Fundamental to narcissism…

…is it is a one-way street.  The narcissist must define and control “reality” so it travels in only one direction—from them to you.

Narcissism is a zero-sum game. The narcissist must win and cannot allow deeply shared realities that require nuance and complexity.

Most narcissists will act maliciously to achieve these ends.

Malice (often hidden), zero-sum, and one-way streets are very strong signs of narcissism.

If you are dealing with a narcissist, especially interpersonally, their narcissism will probably not be clear to you. That’s why you are staying in the relationship.

If you suspect you are dealing with a narcissist look for one or more of the signs above.

Malice, which frequently is concealed, can be the hardest to see. Narcissists gas light, abuse, reputation damage, backbite, physically harm, destroy property, steal, poison, and more. Their pleasure comes from watching you suffer.

Their one-way street deeply needs to define you and your reality. This is typically easier to see than their malice. They may come right out and say what kind of person they think you are. Just saying this does not make a person a narcissist, but saying it often and never accepting your explanations does. And if you say something similar to them, they will become angry either openly or concealed. Remember, it’s a one-way street with a narcissist.

You can’t win with a narcissist because they are always playing a zero-sum game.

At the same time, most narcissists are skilled at “impression management.” They need other people to see them as being right and you being wrong. This is why narcissists often conceal their malice. They may conceal it completely. Or they may hide it in plain sight by explaining to everyone around you (behind you back) what your “problems” are and how they are only trying to help.

If you see any of these signs in parents, siblings, friends, or mates, look more closely. Don’y jump to conclusions. Ask yourself, is my relationship with that person deeply shared or is it a one-way street?

“Russian collusion” by Trump – ‘Game Over’

It’s been obvious for a long time to anyone paying attention that the “Russian collusion” story aimed at Donald Trump is a lie; and known to be a lie by those directing it within the Democrat Party, the FBI, and MSM.

One of the best researchers in this line of thought posted a terrific article last night: Game Over – Judge Jeanine Interview With HPSCI Rep. Chris Stewart…

I highly recommend reading that piece and perusing others on that site.

Just as tool awareness is nascent in animals so deep semiotic awareness is
nascent in humans.

The Russian collusion story is a story of semiotic manipulation that was too hard for most humans to figure out.

Much of our world—both public and interpersonal—is characterized by semiotic manipulation, often malicious. You cannot understand most of what happens around you (and in you) if you do not understand that.

Consciousness, Big Data, and FIML

Modern neuroscience does not see humans as having a discrete consciousness located in a specific part of the brain. Rather, as Michael S. Gazzaniga says:

The view in neuroscience today is that consciousness does not constitute a single, generalized process. It involves a multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes, the products of which are integrated by the interpreter module. (Source)

Computer and Big Data-driven sociology sees something similar. According to Alex Pentland:

While it may be useful to reason about the averages, social phenomena are really made up of millions of small transactions between individuals. There are patterns in those individual transactions that are not just averages, they’re the things that are responsible for the flash crash and the Arab spring. You need to get down into these new patterns, these micro-patterns, because they don’t just average out to the classical way of understanding society. We’re entering a new era of social physics, where it’s the details of all the particles—the you and me—that actually determine the outcome.  (Source)

Buddhists may recognize in these insights close similarities to core teachings of the Buddha—that we do not have a self; that all things arise out of complex conditions that are impermanent and changeable; that the lion’s share of “reality” for any individual lies in being attentive to the moment.

Notice how similar Pentland’s insights are to Gazzaniga’s—the whole, or the common generalities (of society), can be far better understood if we can account for the details that comprise them. Is an individual mind a fractal of society? Do these complex systems—societies and minds—both use similar organizational processes?

I am not completely sure how to answer those questions, but I am certain that most people are using similar sorts of “average” or general semiotics to communicate and think about both minds and societies. If we stick with general averages, we won’t see very much. Class, self, markets, personalities don’t give us information as sophisticated as the detailed analyses proposed by Gazzaniga and Pentland.

Well then, how can individuals cognize Gazzaniga’s “multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes” in their minds? And how can they understand how “the products” of those processes are actually “integrated” into a functional “interpreter module”?

And if individuals can cognize the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter,” how will they understand traditional psychological analyses of the self, personality, identity, biography, behavior?

I would maintain that our understanding of what it is to be a human will change deeply if we can learn to observe with reliable clarity the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter.” That is, we will arrive at a completely new understanding of being that will replace the “self” that truly does not exist in the ways most societies (and people) understand it.

FIML practice shows partners how to observe with great clarity the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter.” Once these process are observed in detail and for a long enough period of time, partners will realize that it is no longer necessary to understand themselves in the “average” terms of self, personality, identity, biography, behavior, and so on.

Partners will come to understand that these terms denote only a more detailed version of a naive, static view of what a person is. Most psychology is largely a more detailed version of a naive, static view of what a person is.

We see this in Gazzaniga and Pentland’s findings that are derived from complex analyses of what is actually happening in the brain or in the multitude of real transactions that actually comprise a society. We can also see very similar insights in the Buddha’s teachings.

It is my contention that FIML practice will show partners the same things—that their actual minds and actual interactions are much more complex (and interesting) than the general semiotic averages we normally use to understand them.

From a Buddhist point of view, when we “liberate” ourselves from “attachment” to “delusive” semiotic generalities and averages and are truly “mindful” of the “thusness” of the ways our minds actually work, we will free ourselves from “suffering,” from the “ignorance” that characterizes the First Noble Truth.


First published 09/01/12

Basic FIML practice

Mastering basic FIML practice is similar to mastering musical scales or the basic skills of any sport.

Basic FIML is a kind of mental training that allows you to identify, understand, and react to real-time communication problems quickly and efficiently.

FIML analyses put both partners on the same page. Over time, partners develop a wealth of experience that improves communication while also illuminating individual and interpersonal psychology.

It is a fact that it is difficult for people to talk about how they talk when their talking has become heated for any reason.

FIML is designed to make it much easier to do that. Once mastered, the basic FIML technique results in a kind of metacognition that makes interpersonal analyses of all kinds easier and more efficient. Instead of fighting you can have fun with communication missteps.

After basic FIML has been done successfully a few hundred times, the basic technique does not need to be used as often because the metacognition that has developed between partners can handle many more situations than before.

FIML optimizes communication between partners thereby also optimizing psychological well-being. Though basic FIML can be done less often as skills improve, just as in sports or music it is always best to practice the basics frequently.