Proper Names

Fleur calls me Honey. I am sure it started as parroting my wife. But, she does it now as a replacement for Dada. Well, when she wants my attention.

Fleur: Daddy.

Actually, you know what? That latter is similar in approach to how the wife calls the teen. Booooboooooooooooo!

Fleur has taken to calling the male Little People toy in the toy house “Honey” too. I need to observe the name she has for the female. Curious if she has a name yet. I am also curious if she will call other adult males Honey. (And their reaction to it.)

The first toy I noticed she named was an annoying unicorn that makes noise. We never named it because, honestly, we hoped it would disappear (burn in a fire). Fleur named it Lady. Same as a dog down the street she loves to visit.

I ponder often the psychology of names.

  • They occupy space in our brains. And they seem important due to processes in the brain encoding and retrieving them.
  • Our language seems built around labeling things. English has a subject and an object, both of which are “things” and the verb saying what we are doing with the things. So we need nouns to identify and distinguish between the things with greater and greater accuracy.
  • I think what I like most about science is the precision I gained in thinking about what things are by developing ever increasing vocabulary about them.
  • We start with physical things and move into more abstract. I call myself a technologist which is not an actual object. It is a job title with a loose and very subjective sense of duties.

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)

Platonic uncles

My father had a single sister. My mother had brothers and sisters. I should ask, but I wonder if this lack of paternal family is why my father’s friends were my uncles. I cannot think of any friends my mother had who were platonic aunts or uncles.

I still honor these men with “Uncle” titles. Occasionally, if it becomes confusing, I will explain they’re a friend of Dad’s.

What led me down this thinking is I also have the single sibling. Maybe I should label my friends as uncles for Fleur? How does one go about this? Ask permission?

We are being watched

cropped-2018-12-02-15.10.42I noticed a while back Fleur would track my own attention habits. She also lingered on things, even returned to them well after I stopped.

Yu and IU colleague Linda Smith evaluated attention span in infants at play. The team employed head-mounted cameras to track the eye movements and gazes of three dozen parents and infants aged 11 to 13 months, who were turned loose in a play space and asked to simply play as they would at home with brightly colored plastic objects.

This kind of “free play” data enabled Yu and Smith to chart childhood concentration and learning in ways that traditional experiments involving a single child at work on a computer or other task could not, notes cognitive neuroscientist Sam Wass, of Cambridge University and the University of East London. “They show that what the parent is paying attention to, minute by minute and second by second, actually influences what the child is paying attention to,” he notes. “These kinds of social influences on attention are potentially very important [and] most scientists tend to ignore them.”

When parents paid attention to a toy during play, the infants also continued to focus on it—even after the mom or dad had turned elsewhere. The authors likened this effect to the way a parent will initially hold the back of a bike while their child learns to peddle before letting go and sending them off on their own.

We also try to label things to which Fleur is paying attention. And have also noticed the problem the article describes of not having much success getting her to shift her attention to something.