I’ve had it up to here (FYI: I’m holding my hand up to my chin) with all you people agreeing with one another on the Internet.
Doesn’t anyone like to fight anymore?
Maybe not, and maybe we never did. According to this article, “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings,” there’s some research that shows human beings want to treat all opinions, even objectively proven false ones, as equally valid. They’ve named it “equality bias.” This research might explain why human beings give credence to the anti-vaxxers, climate change-deniers and flat-earthers.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I disagree with the study’s conclusion, as I’ve been known to disagree. Instead of believing that humans strive for “equality,” I think the experiment shows that humans naturally work towards consensus or accommodation, even with idiots, and especially when we are working/living in close quarters with them, as opposed to across a natural boundary like a river or a mountain range. When idiots live on the other side of the mountain, the idiots on one side gather sticks and stones and mountain climbing gear and then head over to take what they can.
Anyway, I’m not going to weigh in on the import of this new research. Long time readers of this blog already know my opinion: lots of supposedly “scientific” research just confirms the existing biases of the researchers. In a few months, there will be a new study that contradicts this one, and confirms the biases of a whole new set of researchers. Still, I won’t dismiss this research entirely, and I like to think of it as a starting point for
argument debate discussion.
argue debate discuss.
I’m intrigued by what this new research might mean for something that has long puzzled me: why do people leave comments on blogs such as, “You are so right! Great post!” and “Is it ok if I re-blog this? You put the words to my thoughts exactly!” I mean, they leave those sorts of comments on your blog posts. I don’t get those sorts of comments on my blog posts, because
no one reads my blog who wants to be seen endorsing porn, or admit they were Googling the best places to have sex in public or reading about, um, Miley Cyrus?
Now let’s see what “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings” has to tell us about why people leave those comments. If you didn’t click on the linky-link to the article, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up: The article reports on an experiment examining the Dunning-Kruger effect. From the Wikipedia entry (despite what your teachers told you, Wikipedia is a great source of information on all things), here’s the definition, because I know you slept through Intro to Psych, on account of that was the semester you were dating the guy in a band who played a bunch of gigs out of town and what were you thinking when you signed up for an eight am class, anyway?
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.
So that’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. This new experiment looked at the behavior of those high-skilled individuals when they encountered the unskilled. To the surprise of perhaps no one except the researchers, the highly skilled folks worked toward consensus with the unskilled, even after the incompetence of the unskilled was exposed, time and time again. Instead of being discounted, the view of the unskilled was treated as being just as good.
Ok, I can’t be the only one who was reminded by this experiment of the various “teams” I’ve participated on in the workplace: the goal of the workgroup isn’t so much to come up with some great new idea or process (Yay, synergy!), it’s to control the PITAs. It’s not that we believe their ideas are “equal”; we just want to go home at 5 o’clock.
By now you’re probably thinking, What the hell does this have do with comments on blogs? Am I suggesting that you, or your readers, are
idiots incompetents unskilled? No, I’m suggesting this explains why you got 274 comments (of which, 137 were your reply of “Thanks!”) on your last post, all of which said, essentially, “Great post! I agree with you so, so, so much!” and not one “You could not be more fantastically, historically, gargantuanly wrong!” There seems to be a human need to reach agreement, or at least the appearance of agreement, and the evolutionary benefits are obvious: if we didn’t mostly agree with one another, we’d rip each other’s throats out, and long ago the earth would have been over run by amoebas, who don’t have enough brain cells to form an opinion, let alone a cohesive argument. (I wonder what amoebas would argue about if they could. Perhaps whether phagocytosis or pinocytosis is a superior method of absorbing nutrients. Again, Wikipedia comes in handy!)
Except, every once in awhile, a reader (like me) comes along and says, “Hold on a minute. I don’t agree with your blog post and here’s why.”
As a person who enjoys
arguing debating discussing things, and, as the writer of a blog that occasionally veers from its stated goals of humor and sex to discuss the way we behave on the Internet, I often wonder why people bother to express their agreement in comments on posts. If all I have to say is “Right on!” or “Word!” or “IKR” (depending on your generation), why bother? The blogger has already said what I wanted to say in the post, apparently, and better than I could have said it. Do I really need to give him/her a thumbs up in the comments? Isn’t that why we have a “Like” button? (Oh, man, don’t get me started on the “Like” button). Does what I will call a “cheer-leading comment” really add to the discussion?
Or maybe I’m thinking about it all wrong. Maybe it’s not a discussion. Maybe the comments section of a blog are just a bunch of human beings milling around, trying to convey a more primal message: “I’m not dangerous. Please don’t attack me. See? I agree with you. Now let’s go off and hunt a mammoth together.”
Of course, that doesn’t explain why I don’t
want to go off and hunt a mammoth agree with you.
I’m sure if I were born out on the tundra somewhere 2 million years ago, I would have slowly starved to death because I pissed off the rest of my tribe.
Anyway, don’t worry. Despite what this research says about me (I’m an anomaly? A weirdo? A jerk?) I’m still going to wander over to your blog to
argue debate discuss. You’ll write some nice post about the dinner you had at Applebee’s, and then you’ll see my little gravatar show up in your comments and you’ll think, “Oh, no, not this asshole again.”
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