10 Mar The True Nature of Reality: Valuation – Part 27
The Fourth Component of Conceptualization
The fourth and final component of conceptualization is Valuation.
Valuation: The act or process of making a judgment about the value of something. Values can be positive, negative, or neutral.
In our last journaling exercise, we contemplated on how our personal interaction with an object affects the way we view it. While a dog is an animal that possesses several distinct characteristics, it is our education and personal experience that affect the way we view and feel about a dog. This Relational Experience triggers the last component of conceptualization, the act of forming a value judgment of the object.
In the example of the young boy holding a puppy at a pet store, this experience will most likely lead to a positive conceptualization of a dog. The child who was attacked by a dog will likely form a negative view of a dog. These four pieces then, Labeling, Attribution, Relational Experience, and Valuation help us form our ideas about every object we interact with during our lifetime.
The final judgment of how we view an object is strongly based on an evolutionary decision-making process.
The Evolution of Decision Making
We make decisions when there are choices or estimations to be made about something. This assumes a right and wrong answer, or, at least, answers which are better or worse. As a rule of thumb, most people generally try to make good decisions in relation to some goal they are trying to attain.
While making a great decision is desirable, one thing we are hardwired to do is to avoid making errors that are a threat to our survival. During our early history, we evolved to make the best decisions that would keep us alive, even if this meant getting the answer wrong.
In the psychology of human decision making, there are Type I and Type II errors. These errors are defined in relation to how they affect our survival.
Let us suppose you are an early human roaming the plains of Africa, and as you are walking through the high brush, your eye catches a glimpse of the tall grass moving in front of you. There is a critical decision to be made. Was the movement caused by a lion hiding in the grass, or just by the wind blowing? This problem has two possible errors you can make in judgment. You can assume the movement is the wind. If you are right you are safe to keep moving forward, but if you are wrong (Type I Error), you are going to be eaten alive. This mistake will cost your life.
If you assume the movement is a lion and decide to move away from the area towards safety, then if you are right, you will save your life. If, however, you are wrong (Type II Error), you will have only wasted your time after being diverted from your intended course of travel. This mistake will not kill you. So, when we speak of errors, a Type I error gets you killed, while a Type II error is a mistake, but one that allows you to live. Humans evolved to make Type II errors, where our brain favors incorrect decisions that keep us alive over correct decisions that do not. Our brains are less concerned with being right and more concerned about being alive.
What does conceptualization have to do with making decisions?
Type II errors, incorrect presuppositions that keep us alive, are based on the concepts we form about our world. Furthermore, while human beings have the ability to reason, we have an override switch that stifles our ability to think, and when this switch flips, it triggers us into a Type II error instead of risking a more thoughtful and intelligent assumption that risks a Type I error (in most cases).
Roaming through the plains of Africa, seeing the tall grass move in front of us, we have the intelligence to go investigate the movement and to determine if it was caused by the wind or a hidden lion. Doing so, however, would be too high of a risk, so the switch that overrides reason and logic kicks in and causes us to move away from the unknown area. This is one of the reasons we may fear the unknown as we evolved to avoid the unknown and stick to things which were more familiar.
What is this override switch?
The switch that overrides reason is Emotion.
Emotion is a complicated subject that warrants more words than we will discuss here. For example, many psychologists differentiate Emotions, such as fear and anger, from Feelings, like being calm or grounded. Some emotions and feelings can be hard to distinguish, especially when we are experiencing them simultaneously. Passion might be classified as an emotion while love is considered a feeling, two experiences we often view as the same thing.
For our exercise today, let’s assume the emotion triggered by the moving grass is fear. This emotion will set off a long list of physiological changes in the body, all designed to keep us alive through the preprogrammed survival responses of fight, flight, or freeze. These responses occur without conscious thought while under great stress.
Back to Conceptualization
So how are the decisions we make, whether cognitive or emotional, tied to the concepts we form? They are directly tied to the value we give an object.
Think back to the little boys we talked about, one with the experience of holding a cute puppy and the other with the experience of being attacked by a dog. Now let us say the boys are walking together in a neighborhood and see a dog off in the distance walking towards them.
One boy is going to see the dog with excitement and curiosity (both emotional links) while the other child is going to see the dog with fear and terror (also emotional links). The reason this all matters is because the same object in this example (the dog) triggers completely opposite concepts of what the dog represents (Valuation), with opposite emotions overriding cognitive decisions for the boys to act. The boy who is happy to see the dog will feel no fear, but might get bit if he approaches the dog, while the other child will avoid the dog, but he might also miss out on a positive experience with a friendly dog.
I think most adults would agree that neither boy is living the ideal life. We don’t want to walk haphazardly into a dangerous situation just because we have had pleasant past experiences, and we do not want to go through life terrified of things that are not going to hurt us because of past negative experiences.
Living the ideal life, then, would involve us taking back control of our cognitive decisions and stopping strong emotions from overriding sound judgment.
One Last Thing
While taking back control of our ability to reason is important, there is a larger lesson to be gleaned here. Our personal experience is largely random, and while we have some influence over ourselves, others, and our environment, we pass through much of reality randomly. Because this experience shapes the way view the world, the value we give to different entities or ideas, and because this process of valuation goes on to influence our decisions, then we must realize one important truth of the reality inside the human mind.
We are driven by our experiences, and although experience can come in the form of education, it also comes in the form of willful ignorance. This willful ignorance occurs when we take a largely random experience and believe it is non-random, chosen truth, blinding ourselves from the reality, freedom, and scariness of multiple possible outcomes of every future experience.
Write your thoughts and feelings about the value you have assigned to each of the following concepts: dog, father, milk, blue
Write about a situation in your life where two different people feel very differently about the same object / subject.
Write about a poor choice you have made.
Write about a Type I error that ended up putting you in harm’s way,
Write about a Type II error in which you made the wrong decision, but were still kept out of harm’s way.
Write about an incident you witnessed (in person or on television) that showed someone making an irrational decision because they were overtaken with emotion.
What negative emotion do you struggle with most?
Write about a situation in which the human emotion of fear caused you to do or say something unreasonable.
Write about a situation in which the human emotion of anger caused you to do or say something unreasonable.
Write about a stressful situation that caused you or someone you know to experience a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.
Name one important decision you have made that was based on random influences.