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Comment author: bgrah449 27 March 2010 02:55:26PM 0 points [-]

This argument would have to apply to people who were born completely blind, or completely deaf. Just imagine that all humans are echolocation-deaf/blind.

Comment author: Alicorn 24 February 2010 06:07:13PM 2 points [-]

I think this may have to do with liking the object at all, rather than thinking it's cute in particular. If you insulted a painting that I liked (addressing it directly) which I thought was pretty but not cute - "you, painting, have no practical value whatsoever and are too overpriced to justify the space you'd take up on a wall!" - or spoke to a bowl of soup in a restaurant, which I thought was tasty but not cute - "you are too cold, and have too high a potato-to-clam ratio!" - I think that might bother me in the same way it would if you told a cute saltshaker that it was too small to be useful. Expressing harsh opinions of a liked object is seen as hostile.

Comment author: bgrah449 24 February 2010 07:21:06PM 5 points [-]

I'll have to take your word on how it would bother you, but I think a crucial difference is that in the instance of the cute salt shaker, the instinct is to protect - notice that the word used, "cruel," is dependent upon how it's received by the anthropomorphized salt shaker. If I tell the soup, "You're too cold and have too high a potato-to-clam ratio!" - is it seen as cruel or mean? It seems more like it's seen as, like you said, hostile - a statement more about my feelings in intent than the "feelings" of the salt shaker in consequence.

I also understand that I may be putting too much emphasis on your particular words, inferring precision where none was intended, so if that's the case, let me know. But I think in the case of the cute object, I would be seen as a "bully," whereas in the case of the soup or the painting, I'd be seen as generally unpleasant and critical. To the extent that there's a victim with the un-cute objects, it's the person who values them - I have insulted their taste. This is as opposed to the cute object, where the victim is the object itself.

Comment author: Alicorn 24 February 2010 05:17:49PM 1 point [-]

This could have more to do with a reaction to you than to the object. There's no real motivation to love and protect a cute tiny salt shaker, but surely there's also no call to be or simulate being cruel to it. I mean, it can't hear you. If you address it and say nasty things to it, what are the possible motivations for that? Mightn't it make sense on some psychological level to object and work to prevent the outlet of nastiness due to its perceived meaning about and effects on you rather than the saltshaker?

Comment author: bgrah449 24 February 2010 05:33:39PM 3 points [-]

My point is that it's perceived as nasty and cruel at all, rather than bizarre or slightly rude or honest. Imagine it was an excessively large salt shaker - say, several feet tall. And faced it and said, "You're worthless because you're too large to be useful." People would give me a quizzical look, like, what's wrong with this guy? But the instinct wouldn't be to protect the large salt shaker.

Comment author: Blueberry 24 February 2010 09:00:28AM 1 point [-]

My responses: negative emotional response for all the humans, except the baby. Especially negative responses for both the old men. Neutral for the TV, baby, bunny, hyena, and shampoo. Did people seriously feel defensive or protective of inanimate objects?

Comment author: bgrah449 24 February 2010 03:40:21PM 7 points [-]

I actually included that because of exactly that response from various girls about objects like hotel shampoo bottles, Japanese candies, a very small salt-shaker, a tiny spoon, etc. It usually goes something like, "Look at that salt shaker; it's so cute." And then I look at the salt shaker and say, "You're worthless because you're too small to be useful." And the girl will go, "Don't say that!" and then immediately grabs the salt shaker.

One time I drew pictures on a piece of scratchpaper in such a way that when a Japanese candy was placed in the middle of it, it looked like I had the candy strung up by chains and was being tortured via electric shock. My co-worker snatched the candy and still hasn't eaten it; it's still in her desk.

Comment author: Blueberry 24 February 2010 02:54:50AM 4 points [-]

I was asked to clarify and expand this comment, so:

The original post was about a particular feeling that humans often have in certain situations, a feeling that is often triggered by looking at young animals. This feeling is something that exists in the real world (the territory).

We use the word "cute" (among others) to describe something triggering this experience. This is part of our map of the world. However, no word unambiguously refers to just one thing in the real world. That's just not how language works. As it happens, the word "cute" is commonly used to refer to lots of other things as well. Targets of sexual attraction may be said to be "cute", but in a different way than bunnies or kitties, though these may be related. Using the word "cute" sarcastically is a very different use of the word with a completely different meaning. My original point was that if something is described as "cute", that may be a similarity on the map but not the territory.

I may use the same word for a sexually attractive human, a kitten, a small fork, an old man, and a sarcastic comment (map similarity). But for each one, I may mean something completely different, and I may have a completely different response with a separate type of explanation (territory difference).

Comment author: bgrah449 24 February 2010 05:05:51AM 3 points [-]

tl;dr: Cuteness is the word that we use when we want something to experience a feeling of safety or otherwise be more confident than we think they would feel without special effort to make them feel that way.

Thanks for expanding. I want to throw out a warning that we're treading dangerously close to the foul line, but I think we're still in-bounds.

Using the word "cute" sarcastically is a very different use of the word with a completely different meaning.

I understand the general point that words can have different meanings, and I'm open to the possibility that I'm falling victim to the typical mind fallacy. I don't have any alternate meanings suggested yet, so I'm going to try to preemptively defend my definition below.

I want to test this hypothesis with a visualization experiment. I don't expect it will take longer than about 2 minutes to do all of the visualizations. This is the scene I want you to imagine: the person, animal, or object is standing or sitting, whichever can be expected of it. If it's a person, he or she has a blank, unsmiling, neutral, unaggressive facial expression. If it's an animal, its face is similarly at rest. It's facing either Data or Spock (take your pick). Imagine Data or Spock saying the sentence out loud to the person, animal, or object.

  • 52" plasma television set - It's flipping through many channels, previewing each one for about a second; someone is channel-surfing. "You will be replaced by better, cheaper technology in less than a year."

  • Baby - "You would test very low on an IQ test. You will continue to be a net resource drain for several years."

  • Sexiest person alive - Doesn't matter who or what gender - this person is desired greatly, and desired primarily for their ability to satisfy you, personally, sexually. Take a minute and picture this person facing Data or Spock. "Your opinion isn't respected in virtually any matter; people agree with it out of hope they'll be able to sleep with you."

  • Bunny - "In a year's time, you will be harvested and your muscles will be cooked in a soup."

  • Cute boy or girl - Crucially, "cute" describes a particular type of attractive person. Imagine a person you would describe as cute, but not a person who is attractive who could not be described as cute. For me (and some others), "attractive but not cute" is a category that includes "hot," for example. If the word "cute" is a synoynm for "attractive" with perfect overlap, skip this question and note it below. If you imagined a girl: "You are valued for your womb and your abilities as a nanny. Men will want you for a wife but will consistently lust after other women for their sexual satisfaction." If you imagined a boy: "Women will tolerate your lovemaking, but you will be valued for your patience and because your timidity makes women around you feel outgoing, bold, and charismatic."

  • Hyena - "You will never have the opportunity to reproduce."

  • Tiny shampoo bottle - Imagine a small carnation-pink shampoo bottle, perhaps 2 inches tall. It has a white, spherical cap. The spherical cap has a very small, intricate, carnation-pink ribbon affixed atop it, as if it were a Christmas gift. "Throw this bottle away; its small volume makes it effectively worthless as a shampoo container."

  • An old man - Imagine an old man who could be perceived as "cute." Perhaps an old man, short, 90 years old, who walks very slowly, bringing his elderly wife, of roughly the same build, a plate with a sandwich on it, and he's torn the crust off the sandwich because he knows his wife doesn't like it. His hair is combed impeccably over his bald spot. His pants aren't long enough for his legs; they're "highwaters." After he sits next to her, he pats her knee. Now imagine this old man facing Data or Spock. "Your wife is still hiding love letters in her closet from her boyfriend before you, who left her. She still reads them and has never been as satisfied since marrying you."

  • A creepy old man - Leering, sexually active. "You give women the creeps, so you won't have sex again between now and when you die."

Did some of these statements seem meaner than others? Did any of these make you want to say to Data or Spock, "Don't say that!" or "You're going to hurt his/its feelings"? If so, which?

My hypothesis is that the following visualizations will incite, in the typical person, either slight anger at Data or Spock, an instinct to reassure the object at which the unpretty truth is directed, or in some other way some protective behavior, such as an urge to refute the hypothesis especially emphatically for that particular visualization, more than the others: baby, bunny, cute boy/girl, tiny shampoo bottle, old man. My hypothesis is that the following incited either zero emotional response or a non-negative emotional response: TV, sexy person, hyena, creepy old man.

Comment author: bgrah449 24 February 2010 03:03:04AM 1 point [-]

I just failed the Wason selection task. Does anyone know any other similarly devilish problems?

Comment author: Alicorn 22 February 2010 09:01:20PM *  2 points [-]


My name is not Allison. "Alicorn" is not my real name, related to my real name, derived from my real name, similar to my real name, or otherwise indicative on any level of my real name.

Even if it were, I prefer not to disseminate my real name in most online contexts. For this reason SIAI-house-inhabiting persons have continued to refer to me as Alicorn, to avoid leakage of their knowledge of my real name. So even if you knew my real name, you should not use it.

Comment author: bgrah449 22 February 2010 09:11:32PM 1 point [-]

Her real name is Carmen Sandiego.

Comment author: bgrah449 22 February 2010 03:46:46PM *  9 points [-]

It seems very oversimplified to say, "We think babies are cute because we have to." "Cuteness" casts a pretty wide net when you start thinking of all the things we say are "cute." A sample list of things I've heard described as cute:

  • Babies
  • Bunnies
  • Targets of sexual attraction
  • Small consumer goods, such as tiny containers of shampoo, small forks, etc.
  • Some old men
  • Targets of sarcastic comments ("That's real cute, but .. ")

It seems like we reserve the word for "things that are vulnerable/harmless/ineffective and don't realize it, which then triggers an urge to keep the thing's inaccurate self-perceptions about its own effectiveness intact."

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 February 2010 11:41:31PM 2 points [-]

You can't countersignal humility.

Comment author: bgrah449 20 February 2010 12:30:11AM 0 points [-]

You can barely signal humility, though.

Study: Making decisions makes you tired

25 bgrah449 19 February 2010 08:27PM

Related to: Willpower Hax #487: Execute by Default, The Physiology of Willpower

Making your own decisions makes you procrastinate more and quit sooner than when you're following orders:

Key quote:

Making choices led to reduced self-control (i.e., less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure, more procrastination, and less quality and quantity of arithmetic calculations). A field study then found that reduced self-control was predicted by shoppers' self-reported degree of previous active decision making. Further studies suggested that choosing is more depleting than merely deliberating and forming preferences about options and more depleting than implementing choices made by someone else and that anticipating the choice task as enjoyable can reduce the depleting effect for the first choices but not for many choices.

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