Shortcuts: Labeling (repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

Recently, Fleur and I have been having debates on the proper label for some pictures. I call them whales whereas she calls them sharks because they look like the animations from Baby Shark. Instead of a post about that, I decided to repost this series.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Homo Sapiens Sapiens cheated evolution in one critical way by creating language. Rather than rely totally on instincts passed along by genes, we pass along an enormous amount of information to our proteges through memes. These may not even be the descendants of our genes. In working together on something, we share enormous amounts of information.

Everything including physical objects, ideas, and behaviors all have a label. Sometimes more than one. A label is a way of identifying something without having to go into the gory details of explaining it every time. (Like I just did.) I can call something an “apple” and anyone who understand this word knows what I mean. Labels bring efficiency to language. Until it does not.

Framing and metaphors are a couple of the tools behind labels. Through them labels acquire properties which then influence how we think. We can be manipulated by these thoughts simply by others choosing one label or the other. A great experiment has test takers write random number at the top. The larger the number, the better the test takers did on the test. How a question is phrased in a poll skews the responses. When we use metaphors also we constrain our thinking. Using the metaphor of a clockwork universe makes us think of mechanical devices and how everything around us are such devices.

Maybe English is a special case. Between Frisian (the ancestral language that make English belong to the Germanic family) and French from the Norman Invasion, English has multiple words for things. Throw in the Melting Pot that is the United States with making up jargon for everything. This language is an absurd mixture of strange meanings. Certain words like “set” have so many definitions one needs to hear or read it in context to understand it.

Then we also have LABELS. LABELS are also labels but have the special nature of how we classify other people. They are how we split people up into groupings to say one is not like another. White vs Black. Extrovert vs Introvert. East Coast vs West Coast. Democrat vs Republican. All are arbitrary. Many are misunderstood. They drift into caricature stereotypes causing hurt. This is where our -Isms arise. Nationalism, racism, or sexism would have no place without powerfully overly broad LABELS. As our conversations become more mature, we need more and more LABELS to express the nuances even while others resist change.

We need labels in order to communicate with each other. We just need to recognize their fallibility. And somehow avoid hurting each other while expressing ourselves.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

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baby children cute dress

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In encouraging Fleur to eat new foods, I often give her something I am eating. When she falters at consuming her meal, I often eat some of hers and make yummy sounds with the idea of showing it is safe to eat.

This safe to eat approach is based on evolutionary theory that children pay attention to what parents eat to determine what is safe. She would look dubious at some things we gave her that we also were not. And then she also demanded things we had in front of us.

The eating and saying yummy has backfired because when she is done, she now holds it out to me to eat. No one else. Just me.

Recently, this has morphed into her feeding me. She will put food next to my mouth until I eat it. Of course, these are foods given to her to eat that she stopped consuming.

At least the food doesn’t go to waste.

 

Evolution makes us think our kid is adorable

Children are wired to seek protection from adults around them. Being born years before their ability to survive on the savannah, they need us to keep them safe from the dangers around them. And being adorable is how they ensure we will do so.

It is not vanity making us think our child is the cutest of all. Adults who find their offspring adorable spend more time aware of them and keeping them out of danger to survive to produce descendants. It is an evolutionary hack of our brains.

Of course, even knowing all this, I think my own is still the most adorable of all. Cognitive dissonance tells me so.