Mental TAPs

post by elriggs · 2018-02-08T17:26:36.774Z · LW · GW · 2 comments


  TAP Problems
  mTAP Solutions

(Prereq: Knowledge of Trigger Action Plans (TAPs). alkjash's here & LifelongLeaner's here)

I converged (sort'of) upon the idea of TAPs on my own two summer's ago, but the difference between my idea (which we'll refer to as mental TAPs or mTAPs) and TAPs is continuous mental simulations.

TAP Problems

Usually with TAPs, you commit to the trigger-action once and mentally rehearse 5 or so times and that's it. This fails in several ways:

  1. When the trigger doesn't happen every day (social fear, being confused, junk food temptations)
  2. The trigger is not easily recognized/understood. (not always catching when you're confused, disappointed, stressed, mentally fatigued)
  3. Doesn't take full advantage of wins/times you actually did the thing!

mTAP Solutions

The only difference is daily mental simulations/rehearsals of your TAPs. I have a sticky note near my toothbrush, so when I brush my teeth, I mentally rehearse my 9 TAPs a couple times each. This helps with (1) above due to being tied to a daily routine (or at least I hope I brush daily!).

Regarding (2), you do your mTAP, face the trigger in real life, update on what the trigger actually feels like in real life, and do an mTAP later that day with your updated trigger. Ex. I mentally simulate (being disappointed -> being curious), I go out and am actually disappointed that I didn't get to spend time with a friend, update on what feeling disappointed actually feels like with this data point, and finally hone in on that feeling when I mTAP that night.

Regarding (3), If you have a BIG WIN, you can hone in on that experience as when you mTAP. Last night I was red in my face embarassed due to social fear, but I still made the right choice despite that. I AM SO FREAKING PROUD OF MYSELF, lol, so I'm honing in on that experience this morning to build off of that win.

WARNING: my last TAP is a meta-TAP (brushing teeth-> look at sticky note and do mTAP). From n=4 experience, if you don't do this, it will become an obligation or you'll forget it.

Request: Has this idea already been explicitely stated elsewhere? Anything else regular old TAPs are missing?


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comment by SquirrelInHell · 2018-02-08T17:39:42.054Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Request: Has this idea already been explicitely stated elsewhere? Anything else regular old TAPs are missing?

It's certainly not very new, but nothing wrong with telling people about your TAP modifications. There are many nuances to using TAPs in practice, and ultimately everyone figures out their own style anyway. Whether you have noticed or not, you probably already have this meta-TAP:

"TAPs not working as I imagined -> think how to improve TAPs"

It is, ultimately, the only TAP you need to successfully install to start the process of recursive improvement.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2018-02-08T19:57:17.179Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not quite the same thing, but the title "mental TAPs" reminded me of Brienne Yudkowsky on cognitive TAPs:

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of good epistemic practice is best thought of as cognitive trigger-action plans to customize and internalize.
[If I'm afraid of a proposition] → [then I'll visualize how the world would be and what I would actually do if the proposition were true.]
[If everything seems to hang on a particular word] → [then I'll taboo that word and its synonyms.]
[If I flinch away from a thought at the edge of peripheral awareness] → [then I'll focus my attention directly on that thought.]
Before looking back through some of the Lesswrong Sequences, I installed the trigger-action plan "[If I notice that something I read feels important] --> [then I'll ask myself, "In what real-life situations is it important?" and design a trigger-action plan to impliment the insight.]" Sometimes I fail to identify a correct action, but I at least come up with some hypothesis for what the right trigger would be, so I can study my own experience of relevant situations.
(When I train a trigger well, I often find I'm done, anyway.)
You can gain a lot of abstract insights by reading, which can re-orient your mind and shift your whole approach to the world. You can learn some great hacks for problem solving by taking the right classes and workshops. But when it comes to advancing your own art in the ongoing context of daily life, CTAPs is the name of the game. It is the way to change your default responses to sensations of thought and emotion.
[If something feels key to advancing your art as a rationalist] → [stop, drop, and trigger-action plan.]