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ChristianKl comments on Social Insight: When a Lie Is Not a Lie; When a Truth Is Not a Truth - Less Wrong Discussion

7 Post author: Bound_up 11 August 2017 06:28PM

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Comment author: jimmy 12 August 2017 06:38:17PM 3 points [-]

This is really cool stuff and I think you're hitting on some important things. I think you're basically right in most of it, and yes, this is what Scott Adams is talking about when he says that trump says things that are "emotionally true" even if it "doesn't pass the fact checks".

I have a few minor quibbles though.

What do people hear when you explain concepts they cannot understand? If I had to guess, very often they interpret this as an attack on their social standing, as an attempt by the speaker to establish themselves as a figure of superior ability, to whom they should defer. You sound uppity, cold, out-of-touch, maybe nerdy or socially inept. So, then...if you're socially capable, you don't say those things. You give up.

Yes, they take it as an attack on their social standing. It is very hard to communicate new concepts without positioning yourself as someone who might have something to teach, and that requires your audience to position themselves as someone who might have something to learn. This gets ten times harder when the thing you have to teach isn’t just something about a topic they’ve never thought about before, but something they feel confident about and would feel dumb being wrong on. Notice, for example, how people refer to Scott Adams as the “sex hypnotism guy”, try to twist his words and ask why he’s supporting a “master liar”, and do other things in attempts to sleazily discredit him instead of just letting people laugh at him for being an idiot that believes in voodoo hypnotism or beating him on the object level and giving more persuasive arguments. You’re absolutely right when you suggest that people might take it as a threat to their status.

Here’s where I think you go wrong:

You don’t come off as “socially inept” unless you also come across like you’re unaware of what you’re doing or are doing it on accident. When it is clear that you understand what you’re doing and are doing it intentionally, it comes off as intimidating, and if you do the rest of it right, not in a bad way.

In the cases that count, what you do is use their (limited) vocabulary to build a picture that they cannot comprehend/violates the beliefs they’re attached to, and leave them with it to do what they want. Yes, they will still often take it as an assault on their status and a claim of “I am better than you”, so you want to make really really sure that you aren’t motivated in part by an attempt to make them look bad, but rather to teach them/to give them a chance to teach you (which requires you putting out your model so that they can show you what’s wrong with it). Since, if you’re doing this right, you aren’t claiming to be better than them, any “I’m better than you” feelings will be entirely internally generated and they’ll know this. That’s why it will feel intimidating to them, but not in a bad way. When they are the ones saying “I think he’s better than me” and you are the one saying “no, really, I’m not. I just know this one thing and I’m telling you so that you can know this one thing too” (and meaning it), then that is a very good outcome given the situation. That’s not to say some people won’t try to pin their feelings on you anyway, but they don’t have to stick, and not everyone will.

Basically, the trick is to use their vocabulary to point out contradictions and keep inviting them into that cognitive dissonance while not at all pushing them in or actively implying that you’re better than them. If you do it right, they’ll realize that you’re right, that you know something they don’t, and that you won’t think any less of them for saying “huh, never thought of that” nor that you think it’s your position to be giving out approval or disapproval. I really do admire people who can put their ego aside and learn things, and I aspire to be that way myself. When that comes across correctly, I generally don’t have problems explaining weird/potentially threatening concepts to people.

Yes, even when you do a good job people will react hostilely to you, try to misrepresent you, and try to paint you as someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else. And yes, if you don’t have the time/energy/ability to deal with this, the right answer is to not do this. Personally, while I understand the justification for saying things like “you’re the best!” and while this insight you conveyed has also caused me to move in that direction, I would still be very cautious about how you do that kind of thing. For one, I really value the ability to say “no, that dress doesn’t make your ass look far” and for it to be taken at face value and remove all anxiety, and for compliments to be undiluted in meaning when they come from me. More relevant to the point at hand though, if you aren’t careful you might end up telling them that you can’t threaten their status, and that would be a harmful lie. To speak metaphorically, if you can come off like clifford the big red dog, that’s a really good thing. It means people can feel safe around you because the idea of you turning on them just doesn’t occur to them in the first place. However, if you can’t pull off “I am a ridiculously oversized predator with fangs the size of your head, and you’re not afraid of me because you trust me”, it is not a worthwhile compromise to defang yourself, let your muscles atrophy, and let them keep you in a cage so that they no longer fear you.

If that is the choice at hand, I think it’s better to be fairly quiet and just not really engage with those types, because at least then there’s the option for them to ask why you’re so quiet and you can give them the honest answer that you didn’t think they wanted to hear what you would have to say - and that gives them the chance to decide that they do.

When you do have the time/energy/ability to deal with it, that hostility is a feature, not a bug. It’s peacocking and inviting shit tests, in PUA terms. Heck, look at how much that hostility “got in the way of” Trump’s political campaign so far.

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 August 2017 08:40:12PM 1 point [-]

I don't think it's the same thing. Trump's speech leads to people adopting wrong beliefs.

There are many issues where Trump lies about an issue where the truth would be simple to explain and be understood by average people. When Trump tells the public that John Stewart invited Trump multiple times when John Stewart did no such thing it might be "emotionally true" in the sense that people who watch Trump want to emotionally belief.

Trump tells lies that are wrong on a very simple factual level and lead to people believing simple factual falsehoods.

The post has more to do with lies that other politicians tell. Berny Sanders for example said in on of the debates that America is the richest country on earth. There are countries with a richer per capita GDP but that's besides the point that Sanders made for the debate.

Comment author: lmn 13 August 2017 07:04:34PM 2 points [-]

There are many issues where Trump lies about an issue where the truth would be simple to explain and be understood by average people. When Trump tells the public that John Stewart invited Trump multiple times when John Stewart did no such thing it might be "emotionally true" in the sense that people who watch Trump want to emotionally belief.

It's interesting that the best example you could come up with appears to be an obscure bit of trivia. I wasn't able to figure out the exact details by searching, but Jon Steward certainly said many things that sounded like he was implying he'd love to have Trump on his show, e.g., this. I suspect, what may have happened is that Jon Steward (whose whole schtick is telling lies and half-truths, using a laugh track in lieu of a counter-argument, and pleading "just joking" when called on it) likes to imply he would totally beat Trump in an argument. A much more fun thing to say until Trump implies you're just desperate to have him on the show for the ratings boost.

Berny Sanders for example said in on of the debates that America is the richest country on earth. There are countries with a richer per capita GDP but that's besides the point that Sanders made for the debate.

Which was? I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "America is the richest country on earth therefore we can afford to adopt <my stupid economic policies>".

Comment author: ChristianKl 14 August 2017 08:54:53PM 0 points [-]

I'm sorry, I good the name wrong. I meant to say John Oliver and got the last name wrong. I referencing information from one of his videos on Trump. I think Last Week Tonight generally follows at least Karl Roves 100% truth test.

Pieces of trivia make good examples because they are less politically charged. If you read "politics is the mindkiller" and understand it than you make effort in choicing nonpolitical examples to be able to think more rational.

Rationally analyzing a person like Trump isn't easy and looking at examples that are in that trivia reference class instead of looking at highly charged political examples is much better if your goal is to understand the kind of person that Trump happens to be.

Which was? I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "America is the richest country on earth therefore we can afford to adopt <my stupid economic policies>".

I think it was something about how America has more people who suffer in poverty than many European countries.

Comment author: lmn 15 August 2017 12:49:58AM *  1 point [-]

I'm sorry, I good the name wrong. I meant to say John Oliver and got the last name wrong.

This doesn't exactly inspire me to trust your memory about other details of the story.

I referencing information from one of his videos on Trump.

Specifically, he appears to have made a joke that could reasonably be interpreted as an invitation to Trump (specifically inviting an alias Trump once used), then said "that was only a joke" when Trump called him on it.

I think Last Week Tonight generally follows at least Karl Roves 100% truth test.

I admittedly haven't watched it, but isn't that the show that perfected the "laugh track in place of counter-argument without other breaks so viewers don't have time to rationally process what's being said" format.

Comment author: ChristianKl 15 August 2017 02:46:36AM *  1 point [-]

This doesn't exactly inspire me to trust

The goal of my post isn't to convince you. There's a bunch of politics involved and additionally, it's about the distinction of states for which I believe jimmy to which I have replied to have mental models, but where there's a good chance that you don't. The best way to explain those to you would likely to talk about hypnosis in a nonpolitical context and I don't want to get into that at this point.

Comment author: lmn 17 August 2017 07:45:46PM 2 points [-]

There's a bunch of politics involved and additionally, it's about the distinction of states for which I believe jimmy to which I have replied to have mental models

And why does this discussion of psychological states depend no you asserting false statements about contemporary politics?

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 August 2017 04:39:30AM 0 points [-]

I don't think that it depends on them. The fact that you think it does, indicates that the context of politics puts you into a defense way of approaching this conversation and that's a state in which it's unlikely that it's easy to complicate a complex subject, and there's no real reason for me to put in that work.

Comment author: lmn 19 August 2017 06:07:32AM 0 points [-]

I don't think that it depends on them.

Then why are you asserting them?

Comment author: jimmy 15 August 2017 05:58:11PM 0 points [-]

You don’t think it’s the same thing as what Trump is doing, or the same thing that Scott Adams is referring to when he says trump is doing it?

There are a bunch of things that are getting mixed up here. Clearly Trump tells lies that lead to people believing simple factual falsehoods. That much doesn’t even contradict that main thesis here, and it also applies to anyone that believed Bernie when he said that America is the richest country on earth.

I think what you meant is probably that Trump says things that lead people to be mislead on the things that actually matter (as judged by you) and that he’s not actually a great example of saying the “truest” things, in this strange but important sense. I actually agree with you there too, though I think I blame Trump less for this than you do because I think he’s legitimately bad at figuring out what is true and so when he might say something about vaccines causing autism, for example, it’s more about him being genuinely wrong than knowing the right answer and maliciously lying about it. Hanlon’s razor, basically.

Additionally, I think you’d argue that Trump isn’t doesn’t seem to care enough about the truth and is reckless in that way, and I’d probably agree with you there too. None of this challenges Adam’s main point here though, which is that Trump’s messages, despite being easily fact-checked as false, contain (other) things which Trump does not actively disbelieve and are evaluated as both important and true by his followers - even if Christian (or Jimmy, or anyone else) thinks that those things are false as well.

It’s important to look at how people respond to proof that his statements don’t pass the fact checks. If they feel betrayed by trump or if there’s cognitive disonnance induced, then your criticism is valid and it’s simple lying and pandering to wishful thinking. If, on the other hand, you get “lol, don’t care” then you’re missing the point and aren’t actually addressing what they think is important and true. I see both in Trump’s followers, but the interesting part is that I see far more of the latter than I have with any other politician. In other words, I think Adams has a point.

Comment author: lmn 16 August 2017 03:28:21AM 1 point [-]

Clearly Trump tells lies that lead to people believing simple factual falsehoods.

I don't think this is clear at all. At least the statements of his that people object to the loudest aren't lies.

Comment author: ChristianKl 15 August 2017 08:10:09PM 0 points [-]

I think what you meant is probably that Trump says things that lead people to be mislead on the things that actually matter (as judged by you) and that he’s not actually a great example of saying the “truest” things, in this strange but important sense.

I don't think the issue of whether or not Trump was invited by Last Week Tonight is an issue that "actually matters".

But lets go to an issue that matters. "Do vaccines cause autism" It's factually wrong but I also think that a majority of Trump followers don't. The demographics of vaccine denailism is not equivalent with Trumps supporters.

If you take a Trump belief like "exercise is bad for your health" it's even more clear. That's not the kind of lie that someone who simply wants to do persuasion tells. It's also a very strange lie to tell for a person who learned their persuasion skills from Tony Robbins.

Comment author: jimmy 15 August 2017 08:40:12PM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure I follow all the details of what you're saying, but it seems like your main point is along the lines of "That's no the kind of lie that someone who simply wants to do persuasion tells", and with that I completely agree.

Comment author: ChristianKl 15 August 2017 08:50:41PM 0 points [-]

That seems to be a reasonable reading and I think we are in agreement.

Comment author: Bound_up 13 August 2017 01:17:55AM 0 points [-]

Some of what Trump says is both emotionally and empirically wrong. The concept of "emotional truth" isn't a carte blanche to claim that anything you want is "true in some way;" it's a different way of communicating, and can be used to deceive as well as inform.

Some things Trump says are empirically wrong, but emotionally true, and those I have some measure of sympathy for.

Comment author: lmn 15 August 2017 12:55:25AM *  1 point [-]

Honestly, I'm not sure how much Scott Adams even believes what he says. I suspect part of it is that his target audience is people for whom "don't worry Trump doesn't actually believe these things, he's just saying them to hypnotize the masses" is less threatening then "actually these things Trump says are true". If you want the latter, I recommend Steve Sailer.

Comment author: ChristianKl 14 August 2017 08:39:59PM *  0 points [-]

I'm at the moment at my 7th seminar of Chris Mulzer who's trained by Richard Bandler. Scott Adams suggest that Trump learned hypnosis from Tony Robbins who was also trained by Richard Bandler.

I understand the kind of lie that Bandler and his students tell and the intellectual groundwork behind them and what those people want to communicate. To me Trump doesn't pattern match with that. It rather pattern matches with psychopath based on a model I build from people who actually have a clinical diagnosis in psychopathy.

I'm trying to pinpoint that difference. Unfortunately, that isn't easy. Especially with an audience that's doesn't have a good mental model about how a hypnotist like Richard Bandler lies.

Comment author: jimmy 15 August 2017 06:09:12PM 0 points [-]

I totally agree that he doesn't look like "trained hypnotist that thinks things through and has a nuanced plan for what he's trying to communicate". Looking at Trump and concluding "don't worry guys, get him in a private room and he'll drop the act and explain exactly how this all makes sense" would be a mistake.

At the same time, what he's doing is effective, and largely for similar reasons. The important difference is that you can't really trust him to be doing anything other than emotional gradient following, and he's a reason to get serious and step up your game to make sure that important things aren't underrepresented, rather than to sit back and trust that things are in the hands of an expert.

Comment author: Bound_up 15 August 2017 12:49:18AM 0 points [-]

I'm actually just starting to look into hypnosis a bit. I found a blog by an LW person at https://cognitiveengineer.blogspot.com/

You have any recommendations? I'm getting enough to tell there's something interesting being described, but not enough to get it quite down pat.

Comment author: ChristianKl 15 August 2017 06:31:34PM 1 point [-]

an LW person

Not just "an person" the author is jimmy towards whom I replied above.

For myself reading literature and hearing audio books didn't give my any skills in the subject. I learned the largest chunk of my skills from Chris Mulzer. I also went to other people and read afterwards about the subject but I'm not an autodidact in it. jimmy on the other hand is an autodidact. In http://lesswrong.com/lw/pbt/social_insight_when_a_lie_is_not_a_lie_when_a/dw9g?context=3 , both I and jimmy consider the strategy of getting Reality Is Plastic: The Art of Impromptu Hypnosis and doing the exercises in it with a willing subject to be a good starting point for developing actual skill.

At the moment there's an idea in my head that it would be possible to create a better course for this learning hypnosis from the beginning than what's out there. If you find someone who wants to practice with you hypnosis in person, I would be willing to do more specific guidance about what to do. Maybe jimmy also wants to pitch in and we can create a kind of course together.

I don't think reading blog posts or forum posts is enough to develop actual skill but if your goal is just information there's the forum http://www.uncommonforum.com/viewforum.php?f=16 where jimmy, myself and a bunch of other people had a few long discussions about hypnosis in the past.

Comment author: jimmy 15 August 2017 06:11:02PM 0 points [-]

After this post of yours I think you might be really interesting to talk to on the subject. Let me know if you want to chat sometime (I'm that LW person mentioned).