Impressionability (and deceptive body language)


I began to see the immediate sensations of my eyes and ears as a series of disconnected pictures (though highly similar pictures), rather than as a movie, as if the film projector in a cinema had slowed down to the point that it were possible to see each slide for about 1/10 of a second. Each picture approached my mind’s eye from the front and would either drop straight downward out of sight, revealing the next picture behind it (usually an identical or highly similar picture, because throughout the experience I didn’t move my head much), or in rare cases I would “attend” to a picture with my conscious mind and it would pass around and through me and be recorded straight into long-term memory. This latter point will become important in a couple of paragraphs.

Reflections on marijuana use

Took me long enough to get from A to B, but I finally have a definition for impressionability: rate of attention per time. More to the point, it is the number of sense impressions converted to primary memories, per second. (It is probably the case that some people’s brains interpret more sense impressions per second, so we have to be careful not to say it’s merely the proportion of memories formed that are primary memories.)

If it helps you to understand, use the following application: the memory of a particular person’s face is a primary memory, whereas a memory about a type of person’s face is a secondary memory. Think of a time you’ve met someone who looked so much like someone else you’ve known that it was uncanny. Afterward, you might have trouble recalling the new person’s face instead of the old friend’s face, and you might have to remind yourself about specific features that were different. E.g. Ryan looked like Jeff, but with a much smaller nose that made him look funny.

Given that it is generally more efficient to rely on stereotyped secondary memories built from placeholders for primary memories, it makes sense that adults will tend to be less attentive because they already have more stereotypes stored up.

Borrowing Bruce Charlton’s weird terminology for a moment, “attention” can be described as an exogenous cognitive task. It is completely outward-focused. Perfect attention means you are living 100% in the moment, rather than thinking about the past, the future, or anything other than your immediate external environment. The opposite would be introspection, or an endogenous cognitive task. Attention and introspection can take the forms of different modes (ex. dreaming, reflecting, and the creative trance are different modes of introspection), but you can’t be doing 100% of both at the same time. They have to add up to 100%.

Now then, time to talk about deception! This will actually be useful because deception is 99% of modern life. (Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.)

When people lie without thinking, they will retain eye contact and watch the other person’s face for reactions. Usually this is done by instinct and projective empathy- they want to elicit an emotional belief in the other person, so they say whatever they think will create that feeling regardless of whether it’s true or coherent. When somebody lies and tells a story they’d made up and rehearsed beforehand, they will keep perfect eye contact because they don’t have to think about the story. But they still have to worry about keeping the facts in their story coherent, so sometimes they’ll break eye contact to think about it. If they are making up the story as they go, they will have to use a lot of creativity and won’t be able to maintain eye contact because they are too busy thinking, which might make them feel rushed, frustrated, and/or anxious.

A problem here is that people also break eye contact for truthful reasons. They might turn inward in order to remember and relay the facts truthfully, or to craft a more precise answer. The only thing that can be said for sure is that a person who breaks eye contact is thinking before answering.

Extraverts are usually paying attention to the environment. They tend to be in some kind of “attentive” mode. Most of the time when they lie, they are simply saying what they think the other person wants to hear. Part of this involves studying the other person’s face very closely for signs of pleasure or distress, depending on their goals at the moment. If they get the wrong reaction, they will say something like “Oh, that’s not really what I meant, what I meant was…” There is no global coherence to the words they are saying in this mode, the only thing that matters is whether coherent feelings are produced. If the truth serves this goal, they will tell the truth, and if a lie will serve better, they will tell the lie.

This is why breaking eye contact is a useless “tell”. As usual, people have this 180 degrees backwards. When a person is making perfect eye contact they are responding instinctively, in the moment, to the other person’s facial expressions, rather than reflecting on the answer. This doesn’t mean that a person who breaks eye contact is telling the truth, it just means they are thinking before speaking.

Sometimes, an extravert will get called out on a flagrant contradiction of facts. Sometimes, they will simply ignore the contradiction and plow on through the conversation. But if they sense some kind of danger from the other person’s expressions, they might decide to either fess up or prevaricate, depending on which is most beneficial. If they decide to fess up, they’ll temporarily be apologetic, agreeable, and submissive (until the other person’s facial expression changes).

If they decide to prevaricate, they will briefly change to an endogenous mode and break eye contact in order to think and reflect. This is where people get the idea that eye contact = straightforward honesty. During this time, the extravert is recalling what has been said previously in the conversation, and is trying to decide on the best “spin” to run with. When they decide on a narrative, their eyes move back to the other person’s face.

Politicians make use of some important hacks here, because they know nobody who matters is paying much attention to the content of what they say. In fact the less meaningful content, the better (though I think I’m using the term “power talk” here when I mean baby talk). Something you’ll note is that they never, ever pause to think before speaking, even if this means going into a caged reply that is a rehearsed statement completely irrelevant to the question they were asked. Thinking means weakness, low confidence, bad people skills (which just means instinctive LYING for goodfeelz), and most importantly it signals not an Alpha male.

I’ve been reading too much Robert Lindsay because I’m starting to constantly repeat myself like he does.

About Aeoli Pera

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6 Responses to Impressionability (and deceptive body language)

  1. Nottuh says:

    Yeah, maybe go easy on Robert Lindsay. He writes well, but he is prone to repeating himself and seems to get mentally entrenched in dogmatic thinking; for instance criticizing aspects of his heterodox leftist politics is expressly forbidden on his blog. I do admire the man for having the cojones to think for himself, and not adopt PC, heterodox leftist views. He may be a rabbit, but he’s a rabbit with balls.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      I don’t think he’s a rabbit, I respect the man a lot. Doesn’t mean he’s not a narcissist, and part of being a narcissist is repeating yourself a lot.

      • Nottuh says:

        Yeah, he’s a very strange and interesting man. I tried to classify him in Edenic terms over at the Neanderhall, and it wasn’t easy at all. I think he’s probably an Aspieface, Mousterian MT. I reckon he’d be a narcissist, too, as he seems fairly unwilling to question his political beliefs.

        I think you’re right that he isn’t a rabbit, as he doesn’t really seem to embody rabbit values, and appears to be traditionalist in some ways. His political views are probably more of an antiquated leftism of the labour unions back in the mid-late 20th century.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          Good point about aspieface, I’d missed that. I agree with your typing up to the M-back part. I don’t see the M-back, but we don’t have any good pictures either. He also doesn’t act like an M-back in any way that isn’t explained by narcissism. If anything, I’d guess he’s T-back because of his scattered interests and unusual political stances/fixations. Having very strange political beliefs is a T-back thing, whereas M-backs will tend to flexibility, and reference obscure classical politics. And they typically don’t comment on Bigfoot under their real names.

          >I reckon he’d be a narcissist, too, as he seems fairly unwilling to question his political beliefs.

          He’s said he is, and I believe him.

  2. Koanic says:

    Lost me at the beginning, good exposition on extrovert liars.

  3. Pingback: Evopsych is important but it is very limited | Aeoli Pera

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