Berkeley: being other people

post by KatjaGrace · 2018-10-21T02:50:01.408Z · score: 19 (10 votes) · LW · GW · 7 comments

Sometimes I enjoy understanding better what it is like to be other people. You can do this somewhat subtly by talking to people for ages about other topics, and making inferences. Lately I’ve been asking more directly, something like, ‘what about your experience do you think other people would be surprised by?’  But that’s hard to answer, because one doesn’t necessarily have things cached in that way, and many of one’s own idiosyncrasies are probably like water to a fish, and it involves imagining other people imagining you.

Another way to learn about such things is to ask a bunch of people about the details of a common experience. For instance, I have enjoyed:

Going to evensong in Oxford with a bunch of people from the office, then later discussing what we thought about when we got bored: 

Learning about the YouTube genres that different people are into: 

Hearing different people’s views of the monkey waiter sculpture in my house’s foyer 

One thing I take away from this kind of thing is that different people are paying attention to different things about their environment, and thinking about it in different terms, and getting different kicks out of it.

Many of my friends say they think they are pretty legible, so there would not be much surprising to others about their internal life. My guess is that they are thinking their experience is mostly a sort of standard one, with this window of visual experience, and some accurately represented sounds, and some reasonable thoughts about the things going on in their lives, and so on. But I guess that actually the same visual scene looks in some sense very different to different people, because of things like where their attention goes, what abstractions they use to think about it, and what associations and emotional flavor things have for them.

If you want to play this game with me, what do you think about when you are waiting in the grocery line? What YouTube genres do you come back to? What about your experience do you think other people wouldn’t guess?

7 comments

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comment by mingyuan · 2018-10-22T18:46:13.979Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Grocery line: This basket is too heavy. But maybe my physical limitations are all in my head and I should just get over it. Stop being so tired. Look there's candy! It's so pretty I bet it tastes so good I want it. No, remember, candy makes you feel bad (*remember the physical sensation of eating too much candy*). Is the person behind me mad at me for taking up too much space on the conveyor belt? Does he think I'm stupid or inconsiderate or poorly dressed? How fast can I make this transaction? In what order should I put these things in the grocery bag? What if I suddenly forget my PIN number and can't pay? Am I being degrading by not having a conversation with the cashier?

Youtube: I'm not a regular watcher of Youtube, but the most recent thing I discovered was the genre of videos akin to "the Hamilton soundtrack but every time they say his name it gets 10% faster." I also like in-depth analysis of movies and TV shows - even ones I've never seen, if the reviewers are entertaining.

Experience:

  • I'm in pain most of the time.
  • I'm unusually prone to anger and have a lot of rage fantasies, and I want to scream and break things unusually often (when I was in school I would often break my pencil in half when I got angry, because it was inconspicuous but still helped a little).
  • I barely have any episodic memory stretching back more than one year at any given time, and >90% of my memories are bad memories, despite me having had a pretty good life.
  • I dissociate a lot (and have since childhood), including dissociating basically every time I look in a mirror, because I'm like, "who is that? what is that? who are these people around me? how did I get here?". As a result I have a constant sense of suspicion that nothing is actually real. This only goes away when I'm really wrapped up in what I'm doing and not thinking about the fact that I'm a human in a physical body in a physical world, but it's easy to be jolted out of that.
  • I'm not good at allocating my attention between competing sensory experiences. If I'm in a room where a lot of conversations are happening, I'll try to follow the ones to my left and right in addition to the one I'm supposed to be in. I can't work while listening to music or if people are talking or if I can see movement in my visual field, or sometimes even if my clothes are too tight. I lose my train of thought when I hear a baby or child.
  • I pay much more attention to what other people (mostly strangers) are thinking about me than I think is normal. Oli phrased it as something like, the world around me is made up of giant heads and their giant faces are staring at me all the time and judging me. (I think he said other people's heads are 20x bigger to me than they are to him). I learned to walk and eat and open and close doors maximally silently because I hated bothering other people. If someone tells me off or even just corrects me I usually want to cry.
  • When I have a plan to do something, I rehearse it in my head over and over beforehand. Usually before big events that I've planned I have a nightmare the night before where I experience the entire next day but a bunch of things go wrong. The rehearsing also makes me feel kind of stuck, so e.g. if my implicit plan was to sit in bed and read, and one of my housemates starts a conversation with me when I walk into the kitchen to get water, I feel a ton of internal tension even if I've read the book before and the conversation is way better than sitting in bed, because it's just not what I planned to do and I can't adjust.

comment by bbleeker · 2018-10-22T08:58:48.968Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Grocery line: I'd think about why I am waiting in it, wishing the supermarket had a self-checkout system like my usual one, which is so much faster and more convenient.

Youtube: background music for work, like music from World of Warcraft, 'world music', classical music.

Experience: compared to most people, I'm probably hyper-conscious of dogs. I like dogs, but only if they're friendly and well-behaved, and until I'm sure a dog is in that category I'm very wary of it (and even if I know a dog is friendly, I still don't want to startle it).

comment by DanielFilan · 2018-10-22T22:28:57.855Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Grocery line: usually in my head listening to music, sometimes trying to figure out which line to be in, remembering that one line is actually served by 2 registers and is therefore half as long as it looks, looking at the selection of items for sale next to the register and being amused by the available magazines.

Youtube genres: professionals reviewing TV shows about their profession for accuracy and teaching you about their profession. Examples: this lawyer one, this doctor one.

Experience: usually don't think I'm feeling any emotion, particularly not the emotions people seem to think I'm feeling when I'm circling.

comment by ChristianKl · 2018-10-21T08:11:11.184Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There's a lot of vulnerability that comes from actually sharing what's unique about one's experience. That kind of vulnerability might not be what you get by a direct question.

In my experience the Circling context is very good for learning these things about other people.

comment by WonkyTelescope · 2018-10-23T00:06:07.695Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW
My guess is that they are thinking their experience is mostly a sort of standard one, with this window of visual experience, and some accurately represented sounds, and some reasonable thoughts about the things going on in their lives, and so on. But I guess that actually the same visual scene looks in some sense very different to different people, because of things like where their attention goes, what abstractions they use to think about it, and what associations and emotional flavor things have for them.

I think you are overestimating the amount of variation in experience that can be generated by focusing on different things in the scene or even having vastly different personal histories. The thought that your experiences are mostly standard is a rational one. Most people have typical experiences. I don't think anyone would argue that our experiences aren't colored by our unique traits but I think care needs to be taken not to romanticize and inflate the idea of "hugely varying experiences."

comment by KatjaGrace · 2018-10-23T21:37:07.527Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty unsure how much variation in experience there is—'not much' seems plausible to me, but why do you find it so probable?

comment by brown (niclas) · 2018-10-21T04:25:40.966Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

grocery line - wonder if this guy enjoys his job, that wine bottle may fall, you're often rushing to pack shopping here, it's like they've outsourced packing to customers.

youtube genres - anime music videos, long film soundtracks

what about your experience - the number of associations. I've had multiple friends remark how slightly "erratic" my conversation style can be at times. eg: questions asked of the form: "how does this relate to the previous thing"