Category Archives: storytelling

Hanzi Freinacht on effective value memes

The author of the metamodern treatise Nordic Ideology. From this interview:

“I’d like to say then about effective value meme that a lot of people are familiar with something quite similar, namely value memes from the spiral dynamics thinking. And it’s not just in the spiral dynamics framework, it’s all over adult development psychology really, that people have noticed, and it’s not just actually in adult development psychology, it’s also in anthropology. Those anthropologists that still or again start believing in the stage development and the evolution of stages of societies. They notice that there is a pattern here. They notice that people in smaller societies and farther back in history tend to believe more in magic and rituals and rights, for instance, in spirits, and things go on from there to larger and larger core principles or universal stories or narratives and perhaps the gods, or perhaps one God over all gods, which unify many people, many perspectives, and so on, and find one higher truth, the truth higher than any person.
 
“And then people go on from there noticing that, “Hey, there are many visions of this one God, there are many visions of objective reality. And then in modern society, even that objective reality seems to break down under the weight of so many perspectives. Some people start to wondering into what’s called post-modern perspectives and ideas. So these things align anthropology, history, psychology and personality. They align around some kind of stages which are recognizable. And even in any society, people aren’t just of one stage that correspond to that kind of society. Rather, you can see on the one hand, that people have learned a certain code or demeanor or worldview from the society that we’ve been brought up in. But at the same time, we also develop differently as human beings, as persons. Some people never really grasp the society and the narratives we’re in and go back to ways of grasping the world which would have resonated more with earlier societies.
 
“Others go on and pick up more conventional views and some even start to experiment with post-conventional views, which may intuit, perhaps, societies of the future or future forms of human life and life philosophies. So an example would be that in late medieval times, there were some intuitions of the renaissance and modernity. For instance, Roger Bacon, this monk was before his time in, I believe, may have been the late 13th century. And he intuited that we will study nature and there will be wagons that roll without horses. And there will be machines flying in the air and boats made of metal traversing the sea with no sails, and so on. He didn’t really know about any of the technology or couldn’t guess on it, but he was before his time. He was thinking already according to, well, according to what, and there it is, a value meme which corresponded to a society after his own. He was before his time in that developmental sense.
 
“So in any population, let’s say you’re in Switzerland, you’re going to have some kind of a normal distribution that’s not exactly a normal distribution, but something along those lines with some people having simpler worldviews and effective value memes that come before, that would have resonated with earlier societies. A large bulk of people who resonate with what’s conventionally Swiss in the 2020s, for instance, and then a minority of people who already are hooked on to some kind of cultural resonance which perhaps is more of what is going to emerge or emerging already. And I call these then, effective value meme because the theory here I’m commenting upon is called spiral dynamics and it has these color codes for these different value memes.
 
“So you can have traditional values, you can have modern values, you can have postmodern values. Traditional values would be more authoritarian and you believe in maybe one God, one truth, one religion. Modern values would be perhaps more achiever-oriented and have to do with business and democracy and, well, a materialist reductionist world view for instance. And postmodern values would be seeing the world more relationally and having more egalitarian views and wanting to soften the hard and harsh sides and destructive sides of modern life and society. So the problem I noticed with this developmental view was that people seem to fit in some ways within these categories and in others, they didn’t. So some people were complex thinkers, but maybe spiritually relatively flat. Some people have profound emotional and spiritual depths, but they’re not necessarily super smart. Some people are very learned in terms of all the progressive ideas out there, but understand them in flattened ways so they’re reduced to cliches, and so on.
 
“There appear to be at least four dimensions then, that put together is not necessarily a value meme that is recognizable as such, but if you put them together there is still a pattern that is vaguely recognizable, and that’s why I call them effective value meme. In effect, this person will reproduce the values of modern society. Why? Well, because they are at a certain, you mentioned four dimensions. They are at a certain level of complexity in terms of their thinking. They have a certain worldview which they have imbued from our surroundings. They have a certain level of introspective individuation or divination as a human being, knowing their own emotions, and so on, and defining their own self and their own life philosophy. And they may have a certain level of subjective states or happiness which facilitate this kind of life and participation in these kinds of values.”
 

The story of our reality

Interesting article on how what we perceive isn’t always the reality. We make up stories that shape our perceptions.

“‘It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,’ says neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College in Canada. ‘We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.’ Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.”

“Why are we seeing a story about the world — a story — and not the real deal? It’s not because evolution made our minds flawed. It’s actually an adaptation.”

“‘The dirty little secret about sensory systems is that they’re slow, they’re lagged, they’re not about what’s happening right now but what’s happening 50 milliseconds ago, or, in the case for vision, hundreds of milliseconds ago.’ If we relied solely on this outdated information, though, we wouldn’t be able to hit baseballs with bats, or swat annoying flies away from our faces. We’d be less coordinated, and possibly get hurt more often.So the brain predicts the path of motion before it happens. It tells us a story about where the object is heading, and this story becomes our reality.

“What we experience as consciousness is primarily the prediction, not the real-time feed. The actual sensory information, he explains, just serves as error correction. ‘If you were always using sensory information, errors would accumulate in ways that would lead to quite catastrophic effects on your motor control,’ Hantman says. Our brains like to predict as much as possible, then use our senses to course-correct when the predictions go wrong. This is true not only for our perception of motion but also for so much of our conscious experience.”

“The big principles that underlie how our brains process what we see also underlie most of our thinking. Illusions are ‘the basis of superstition, the basis of magical thinking,’ Martinez-Conde says. ‘It’s the basis for a lot of erroneous beliefs. We’re very uncomfortable with uncertainty. The ambiguity is going to be resolved one way or another, and sometimes in a way that does not match reality.’ Just as we can look at an image and see things that aren’t really there, we can look out into the world with skewed perceptions of reality. Political scientists and psychologists have long documented how political partisans perceive the facts of current events differently depending on their political beliefs. The illusions and political thinking don’t involve the same brain processes, but they follow the similar overarching way the brain works.”

Kuhn: The structure of scientific revolutions

This excerpt from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Kuhn about paradigms supports my claim that worldviews are transcended and replaced, not included. Kuhn, by the way, got his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard before going into the philosophy of science.

“The functions of a paradigm are to supply puzzles for scientists to solve and to provide the tools for their solution. A crisis in science arises when confidence is lost in the ability of the paradigm to solve particularly worrying puzzles called ‘anomalies’. Crisis is followed by a scientific revolution if the existing paradigm is superseded by a rival. Kuhn claimed that science guided by one paradigm would be ‘incommensurable’ with science developed under a different paradigm, by which is meant that there is no common measure for assessing the different scientific theories. This thesis of incommensurability, developed at the same time by Feyerabend, rules out certain kinds of comparison of the two theories and consequently rejects some traditional views of scientific development, such as the view that later science builds on the knowledge contained within earlier theories, or the view that later theories are closer approximations to the truth than earlier theories.”

What is metamodernism?

A few of you have wondered what is metamodernism? One of my FB friends wrote this piece giving a broad overview of the history of the movement and some of it’s implications. The opening paragraph:

“What is metamodernism and how can it help us collectively navigate these troubled, transitional times? The meaning of such a word must be disambiguated and its complexity foregrounded. At this point, there is no shortcut. As my colleague Hanzi Freinacht says, there’s no elevator pitch, you have to take the stairs. In this article, I will try to carry you, dear reader, up a few flights.”

The psychology of rituals

Subtitle: An integrative review and process-based framework, by Hobson et al. (2018), Personality and Social Psychology Review 22(3). The abstract:

“Traditionally, ritual has been studied from broad sociocultural perspectives, with little consideration of the psychological processes at play. Recently, however, psychologists have begun turning their attention to the study of ritual, uncovering the causal mechanisms driving this universal aspect of human behavior. With growing interest in the psychology of ritual, this article provides an organizing framework to understand recent empirical work from social psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience. Our framework focuses on three primary regulatory functions of rituals: regulation of (a) emotions, (b) performance goal states, and (c) social connection. We examine the possible mechanisms underlying each function by considering the bottom-up processes that emerge from the physical features of rituals and top-down processes that emerge from the psychological meaning of rituals. Our framework, by appreciating the value of psychological theory, generates novel predictions and enriches our understanding of ritual and human behavior more broadly.”

A war broke out in heaven

See Zak Stein’s reflections on how the pandemic signals the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. This could be an opportunity to transform our dominant cultural worldview if we but accept the responsibility and get busy enacting it. Just a brief excerpt follows. Click on the link and be rewarded with the rest of this inspiring scripture.

“One world is now gone and a new one has yet to emerge; we are now at the beginning of the beginning. We are living in the liminal: a time of pure potential and change, a time between worlds. This is it: we have arrived at the end of the world. Finally. Now we can start to build a new one.”

The Political Mind

By George Lakoff.  A copy can be found at academia.edu here. An excerpt:

“One can see in scripts the link between frames and narratives.
Narratives are frames that tell a story. They have semantic roles,
properties of the role, relations among roles, and scenarios. What
makes it a narrative-a story-and not just a mere frame? A narrative
has a point to it, a moral. It is about how you should live
your life-or how you shouldn’t. It has emotional content: events
that make you sad or angry or in awe” (250).

Winter 2020 discussion prompts

  • What is humanity’s situation with respect to surviving long-term with a good quality of life? (Frame the core opportunities and obstacles.)
  • What attributes of our evolved, experientially programmed brains contribute to this situation? (What are the potential leverage points for positive change within our body-brain-mind system?)
  • What courses of research and action (including currently available systems, tools, and practices and current and possible lines of R&D) have the potential to improve our (and the planetary life system’s) near- and long-term prospects?

Following is a list of (only some!) of the resources some of us have consumed and discussed online, in emails, or face-to-face in 2019. Sample a few to jog your thoughts and provoke deeper dives. Please add your own additional references in the comments below this post. For each, give a short (one line is fine) description, if possible.

Storytelling as adaptive collective sensemaking

Bietti et al. (2018), Topics in Cognitive Science. The abstract:

“Storytelling represents a key element in the creation and propagation of culture. Three main accounts of the adaptive function of storytelling include (a) manipulating the behavior of the audience to enhance the fitness of the narrator, (b) transmitting survival‐relevant information while avoiding the costs involved in the first‐hand acquisition of that information, and (c) maintaining social bonds or group‐level cooperation. We assess the substantial evidence collected in experimental and ethnographic studies for each account. These accounts do not always appeal to the specific features of storytelling above and beyond language use in general. We propose that the specific adaptive value of storytelling lies in making sense of non‐routine, uncertain, or novel situations, thereby enabling the collaborative development of previously acquired skills and knowledge, but also promoting social cohesion by strengthening intragroup identity and clarifying intergroup relations.”