Illusions: Asymmetric Insight & False Equivalency

The following is my response to this article:

The article covers a lot. The example of the boys didn’t surprise me. Forming groups is normal and predictable behavior. The mask issue intrigues me more. I’m not sure what to think about it.

I know I have various masks, but I don’t like masks in certain ways. My solution is to have as few masks as possible and to combine them into a singular sense of self as much as possible. I try to live my live in a consistent way, even if that is an endless challenge that I tend to not entirely live up to.

I really don’t like the idea of hiding myself. On the other hand, I find myself often hiding myself. But I don’t have any illusions about entirely being able to hide myself. I can be aloof as a Sphynx at times, but I also can be very transparent. I’m perfectly capable of being direct and it seems an easier way to go about things. I have a lazy personality and I don’t like creating more effort. Multiple masks that are complex and different for each person and situation would be tiresome and irritating.

The article talks about the illusion of asymmetric insight. I’m not sure what to think of it. I don’t fool myself that I know people better than they know me. With my best friend, I’d assume we know one another about equally. I suppose there are certain people I might think I know better than they know me, but I would say that simply because I’m a person who sits around thinking about and analyzing people all the time. That doesn’t mean I have them figured out or anything, but I tend to feel I have a good sense of other people.

Another thing that was said was that people define others by behavior. I don’t know that I do that. I tend to have a feeling about someone, a sense of their essence, the type of person they are, their pattern of being in the world. I try to look past mere behavior, even with people I only know superficially such as co-workers.

There was one thing I felt particularly uncertain about. The author wrote:

“The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves.”

There is also the illusion of false equivalency that is popular in the mainstream media. Liberals and conservatives aren’t merely two groups of boys at a summer camp. Liberals and conservatives are groups that are defined partly by psychological differences. For example, research shows liberals tend to empathize more with strangers, i.e., those outside of their group. Or, to put it another way, liberals tend to have a larger and more amorphous sense of who belongs to their group.

Also, there is the problem of the word ‘liberal’ being used differently in American society than the word ‘conservative’. ‘Liberal’ is a dirty word, but ‘conservative’ isn’t a dirty word. In the US, ‘liberal’ as a word is more equivalent to the word ‘right-winger’. I’m not sure many people know what ‘liberal’ means considering that it has become mostly a taunt and even people who seem to be liberal-minded will often deny being liberals, preferring instead some other label.

But maybe that is just inherent to being a liberal. People are confused about what liberal means because liberalism embraces confusion. The liberal tendency is to avoid confining labels, especially labels that seek to confine people into clearly demarcated in-groups.

In terms of Kanazawa’s theory, conservatism represents evolutionarily familiar behaviors and liberalism represents evolutionarily unfamiliar behaviors. So, accordingly, everyone is familiar with conservatism because even liberals use evolutionarily familiar behaviors. It’s just that liberals don’t limit themselves to evolutionarily familiar behaviors. That isn’t, however, to say liberals have more understanding necessarily.

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