Monday, April 5, 2010

Using guilt as a weapon and emotionalism

I saw this incident involving an online game (Farmville) and saw a few interesting components about it.

First I'll tell you what the incident was. The game involves operations where a few people set a goal and need to do their part to be able to achieve the goal in due time.
It takes effort on the part of each participant and if the goal is achieved, there is a reward at the end for all participants.

It is possible, under the way the co-op is built to join an operation, not do a thing and get a reward at the end if other people manage to complete the task on time.

OK, so now that we're done with the boring details, here is what happened:

Apparently, some people join those operations but do nothing to contribute to their success. They wait and see if others do enough to get the task done and then do other things.

In this specific incident, one player wrote a note to one of those exploiters asking them to quit the operation so that someone who IS going to get some work done can join.

Guess what the reply was? The "exploiter" posted a note on the Facebook wall (publicly visible) of the one who sent the note saying: "You asked me to quit so I did!".

Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? But it is actually complex and contains many interesting small elements.

For starters - this reply is unjust and dishonest. It is meant to punish the one who sent the note - to make them feel guilty - as if, if they felt guilty, it means the exploiter is off the hook for what they have done. The interesting component is that this is a good example of a second hander, but stunning, to me, in its depth.

Think about what it means - if the other person is made to feel guilt, then the other person is convinced that they were wrong about the case, therefore the exploiter can rest assured that they did nothing wrong because they rely entirely on the judgment of the other person's mind.
Notice that there is no reference to facts, no independent judgment - just an attempt to change the mind of someone else so that, in turn, one's mind can become convinced of the same thing. Insane, isn't it?

Secondly, I find it interesting that the exploiter's state of mind is entirely emotional, bearing very little rational structure. They received a note blaming them for something - the facts of what they are being blamed for do not register in their mind and do not matter. What they do register is that they are being blamed and that makes them feel bad. They then decide to shift the burden of that negative feelings to someone else, as if feelings can be poured from one soul to another. Using ideas is just a tool. In this case, the idea is that the person who sent the note has taken an action against someone and that this, by itself, is suppose to be bad.
Does the exploiter actually believe in such an idea? No - they obviously take actions against other people without any shame or inhibition. The idea here is used carelessly, without any thought, without any understanding that ideas matter. The exploiter felt something bad, and took whatever random action their subconscious could gather up to shift the emotion to someone else.

This guilt trick is very common: Someone judges you badly? Make them feel guilty for it, and, like magic, the blame is gone. Facts of the case? Who cares! Just work to change the content of the mind of the accuser and that would be enough.

It is a good indication of a mind of a second hander - a mind who relies on the judgment of others for its own certainty and ideas.

Another common thing people do is to be emotionalists. Now what does that mean? Obviously, ?I am not going out against emotions as such, nor against the pursuit of pleasurable emotions. The question here is not the goal but the means.

Pursuing pleasure by following every urge and every feeling one happens to have is not going to make one happy. Nor does this means that life consists of a constant struggle to suppress one's emotions that stand in the way of reason.
Without going into the details of what is ideal - here is one thing which is not ideal - what many people are doing, of which this exploiter lady is a good example.

Her emotions mean everything to her. She follows them blindly, with complete servitude. In her mind there is no room for facts or ideas, only for satisfaction of her emotions. Ideas in her mind have no relation to facts and should have no relation to facts - they are mere tools to achieve satisfaction of emotions.
So if insulting someone else (justly or unjustly, hypocritically or not) works to shift her emotions - there is no hesitation - she will do it.
This is an incredible mentality. I am very curious to know how this sort of mentality can develop. I have seen, at times, elements of something like that in myself, as a child - so I can understand it to some extent. But a mind devoted entirely to satisfaction of emotions bypassing rational judgment? That is fantastically bizarre.
One day I will discover how this sort of mentality comes to dominate a person's psychology. I'm guessing it involves some laziness as a child and after enough time it become automatized enough that the person does not even recognize anymore what is motivating them nor their departure from reality. All they know is their emotions.
There is more to understand about this.

The last interesting element is the use of emotions as a replacement of ideas. This is the least visible elements of the three elements involved in this case.

One element is the emotionalism of this woman (what motivated her action).
The second element is the second hand judgment (relying on someone else's judgment to substitute it for one's own) - however, there is yet another thing hidden here, which is: She was not going directly after this guy's judgment. Instead, she was going after his emotion. If she could get him to feel guilty, it would be as if he had judged her to be good.
People are not generally aware that there is a tie between emotion and ideas, but here is a case that shows it well. This guy feeling guilty in general could not be of any interest to her. She wanted him to feel guilt about THIS CASE. Now why? The reason is that the feeling of guilt indicates a judgment. What she was really after was his judgment, not his feeling - the feeling is simply an indication of a subconscious judgment.

OK, that concludes my thoughts about this.

Feel free to leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

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  1. Interesting post! It creates a validation based on the other party's judgement and feelings of guilt. I think a lot of people don't consider the broader implications of something as innocuous as FarmVille, or MMO RPGs, but I beleive that the behaviours in games that are socially connected do carry over into socially connected reality. Given the increase in popularity of these types of games I think that there will be much more study done in the future regarding the influence of the two relms on each other.

  2. "You asked me to quit so I did!"

    I don't understand how you can read so much emotion in those 8 little words. Maybe she was being blunt. Perhaps she had good intentions when she joined the co op. Maybe she found out it was %100 seeded after she joined?

  3. I was using the facts provided by the one who told the story. According to what he was telling he was desperately looking for people to join to help because he needed it, and she joined and did nothing even though help was needed.

    Secondly, in the note she wrote back to him she did not give any explanation as to why she did nothing. Nothing like "I didn't know I was suppose to" or "I forgot" or anything of the sort. Her reply, in other words, objected any blame without any reference to the facts of the case - as if the act of blaming her by itself is bad. She did not make any attempt to justify not helping.

    Even putting all this aside... her purpose in posting that comment on his wall was clearly to create public humiliation - to present him in a bad light in front of his friends, to hurt him and punish. Whether or not such punishment was deserved is a different story, but I don't think there is disagreement that the act of posting that was an attempt to punish and induce guilt.

    So all I did was to put 1+1 together.

    1 - she acted to punish him and induce guilt
    1 - she at no point made any reference to the facts of the case (whether or not he deserves a punishment or an apology)

    1+1 = She acted based on her emotions without regard to the facts.

    Hope you can see better where I'm coming from now and see that I am not just trigger happy - I am actually making an analysis.

  4. Another note: I read the Farmville forums and learning a lot from it the game, how people play it and what they think about it.

    A lot of people are emotionalists and have an entitlement mentality.
    They present demands to Zynga as well as other players to receive stuff without seeing a need to give anything in return, but then if someone asks something of them they react as if it is rude. This is a very good example of a mind that puts together ideas using emotions instead of facts and logic. "I want it" --> "I deserve it"
    There is no logical way to connect the two, to conclude the second from the first yet a lot of people do it and use rationalizations.

    So this mentality is not something isolated to this incident - it is very widespread: using emotions prior to logic in one's thinking.


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