RATIONAL vs INTUITIVE RANKING & PREFERENCES

RATIONAL vs INTUITIVE RANKING & PREFERENCES

RATIONALE

The personal phenomena reported below has led Larry to propose a few propositions and speculate on their consequences. This may seem a small contribution to our major concerns and initially may appear not very relevant. Yet, the cWrld of nuet, hosted in Larry, has hundreds of such bits which in synergy support the potentially viable conceptual schemes he calls Societal Metamorphosis and UPLIFT.

Two classical learning/teaching styles were called “deductive” and “inductive” in analogy to the two logical processes. “Deductive” learning/teaching starts with concise statements of what is to be learned (a proposition), then followed with evidence and arguments in support. “Inductive” learning/teaching starts with exploring a number of concepts (initially not appearing related), leading to a synthesis of these components occurring in the mind/brains of learners and resulting in acceptance of a proposition. Gregory Bateson was explicit to his audiences that he was using the “inductive” approach. Individuals have preferences and some conceptual schemes may be best taught with a given approach.

It appears Larry’s creative style is “inductive”, while his communication style has been “deductive”. The conceptual schemes of Societal Metamorphosis and UPLIFT are “presented” in summary (often long), followed by some evidence and argument. These conceptual schemes emerged in nuet as the result of interaction of many component concepts. Each new concept involved a significant variation from existing concepts, using the same term. These variations “tuned” each other, so as to better “fit” as components of the larger, emergent conceptual schemes.

This causes great difficulty in learning by the “deductive” approach, where these component concepts are first introduced by their words/labels, which are taken by learners as having their traditional meanings, not the variations. Each argument for a variation must confront the established meaning, where the intention of the process was usually unclear. Concept variations often involved sharper distinctions, usually represented by using terms with more specific definitions, when the terms were traditionally synonymous. Another language change was to use sets of words (e.g., mind/brain/body or support/enable/augment/facilitate=seaf ) in an attempt to block use of the narrow meaning resulting from using just one term. These subtle language changes appeared critical (to Larry) in efficiently representing the variations in basic concepts. Unfortunately, processing these language changes proved very difficult – especially as the reason for them was not explained.

This language issue needs explicating in greater depth. This essay is an attempt to begin using the “inductive” approach. Here I introduce variations in my use of the concepts labeled by “ranking”, “preferences”, “measurement”, “distributions”, and “norms”.. These are not Larry’s variations, but aspects of some limitations on these terms accepted by those most knowledgeable about them, but often not recognized and applied by most users of those concepts.

 

PERSONAL PHENOMENA

Larry has never been able to identify cars of different makes and years, as others can do with considerable accuracy. This disability applies to observing differences between members of ANY category. Present two members of a category side by side and Larry can begin to seek differences, a childhood exercise in many publications for children in his time. Even when differences are obvious, Larry has great difficulty remembering their names – except for the most extreme cases of very frequent experiences.

Larry often has no basis to rank or give preference to variations of an item. Coffee is the exemplar – each cup of coffee may be experienced differently, but there is never a preference unless the variation is extreme – moving it outside the category of “just coffee”. Lacking sensory memory, Larry is unable to compare the current taste with a remembrance of a taste. This disability applies to ALL items perceived with any of the senses.

Based on the knowledge of these phenomena, and his conceptual remembrance of conclusions from reading a book on measurement sometime in his distant academic past, Larry is very sensitive to the misuse of ranking common today, even in the sciences. He has no detailed remembrance of the book’s content, title or author, and would have to reconstruct his conclusions.

  • A strange association is that the author may be Australian. Let’s see if it checks out. Also, the paper cover may be light blue – but this is not by visualizing it as mental imagery. The conceptual idea that it was blue just popped to consciousness.
  • The book is in storage to be searched for soon. A search of Amazon books for “theory of measurement” didn’t reveal the book.

In summary. Probably due to his lack of mental imagery, Larry cannot rank or have preferences for most categories, which others seem to do so readily. Of course, were he in a forced choice test he would have to chose, but without conscious reasons. Research might show an unconscious preference – at each moment.

 

        GROKED FEATURES OF GROUND

The term “grok” is taken from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, being used by some to label a vague sensation of a presence, but what is present is not in consciousness – but some if its feature may be conscious.

Larry “groks” distributions as real; as real as their concrete members. Human attribution of concrete vs abstract is a feature of human mammalian perception and should not be attributed to a reality independent of humans. This makes Larry sensitive to the misuse of averages and norms in human discourse.

  • The use of “the” instead of “a” is a popular fallacy. THE economy, THE people. EVERYONE knows.
  • Lacking mental imagery, Larry has great difficulty “imagining” how others experience their Wrlds. He is sensitive to the great diversity of Wrlds (specifically the great variety of mental imagery competencies and styles), but is also cautious that he sometimes lumps them into a single category of “with mental imagery” to be contrasted with his personal “lack of mental imagery”.

 

PROPOSITIONS

 

        MANY DIMENSION FALLACY – ONE DIMENSIONAL LIMITATION

We can only rank items one dimension at a time.

My example is ranking persons as to “size”, with the two dimensions of weight and height. We can plot individuals on a graph of weight vs height. The data points don’t fall neatly on a curve we might call “size”. “Size” can be any arbitrary curve drawn through the distribution of data points or a curve using “best fit” criteria.

There are very few items we rank that have only one dimension. Most ranking is done by subconsciously choosing one dimension.

A variation of this is persons claiming “superiority” for themselves or their causes. Persons and causes are multi-dimensional so ranking is invalid. Personally I am hyper sensitive to the common practice of this fallacy.

All attempts to rank items with multiple dimensions requires arbitrary assignment of “weights” to each dimension. Arguments for “weighing” often are given; but this makes the ranking dependent on the theories supporting the arguments. This makes the ranking theory dependent (while theories are culture dependent). My exemplar as been IQ. Each separate exercise in an IQ test is a new dimension – even when exercises are sorted into categories.

Weighted ranking can have pragmatic utility. We seek a “measure” to be used as a tool to provide first order category identification. The MMPI test for psychiatric categories is an example of a test so designed. Each question is a probe to reveal differences. The coordination of different responses to sets of questions is mapped on psychiatric categories derived from other means (usually long term clinical observation).

 

        STATISTICAL AVERAGES ARE VALID ONLY WHEN MEASUREMENTS ARE GIVEN IN A INTERVAL SCALE

For an average to be mathematically valid, the numbers averaged must fall on an interval scale. This means that the difference of measured variable, say between 75 and 80 (on a scale of 100) is the same as any other 5 point difference, such as between 60 and 65.

This implies that teacher practice of averaging scores of individual items on a test or averaging test scores over a semester is not mathematically valid. Single test scores to represent achievement also suffers from violation of the many dimension fallacy.

Pragmatic utility of averaging practice needs independent verification. This issue is never considered in the debate about testing in education.

 

        DISTRIBUTIONS vs NORMS or AVERAGES

When items in a population vary in many dimensions and each dimension may have a wide range of values; then the whole set of distributions must be the “entity” considered and should not be represented by a simple set of averages with statistical variations. The metaphor of reality consisting of entities with single values is significantly different from a reality viewed with entity DIVERSITY being the primary feature.

Mammalian survival may have favored using norms. The factors today threatening survival are more “global” and “long term”, no longer “local” and “immediate”.

Education about statistical reality (not necessarily presented with high mathematics) is essential for human sustainability, for both adults and children. Visuals to complement numbers are needed, as well as an acceptance of this need.

 

REALITY ISN’T WHAT OUR SENSES TELL US

This statement points to a set of issues well beyond this essay, but the POINTER is important here.

Humans, as mammals, slowly evolved a rapid/intuitive/emotional means of assessing momentary situations along survival/thrival attributes. The local reality we share through gestures of agreement, coupled with naming and verbal description dominates our behavior and conscious sense of what is “real”. We can call this our sensory or visible reality. It is natural to attempt to extend the attributes of this local & visual reality to the very small and very large and to other domains that are not directly observable – such as societal systems (of which we observe only a part and infer there is a whole).

For over a century humankind has scientifically explored the invisible world of the very small. Microscopes brought forms just below natural visibility into the visible range. For the much “smaller” entities of particle physics the “visible” became the reading of scientific instruments and displays of empirical data (often massaged) either as arrays of numbers or graphs. The success of Quantum Physics depended on the abandonment of attempts to project features in our sensory reality on the phenomena of the very, very small. Even the metaphor of the Bohr atom, analogous to a solar system, had to be explicitly abandoned before the emergence of Quantum Physics in 1926 was possible. Also, the metaphor of “spin” had to be abandoned before the discrete value variables could be properly comprehended. This resulted in the acceptance of “quantum weirdness” for this large domain of invisible reality. Unfortunately, educational and lay presentations still feature the solar system atom and spinning particles. The many anomalies in studies of the cosmological universe may be hinting about a coming shift in the reality of the very large and a Cosmological Weirdness.

It is my speculation that this abandonment of projecting features of sensory reality must be applied to the equally invisible domains of the societal and global. The “social” observed directly in our sensory spaces with humans interacting with each other must be seen as radically different from our inferred belief in societal organizations (corporations, governments, agencies, political parties, etc.) interacting like “objects in our sensory environments”. We might discover a “societal weirdness” as strange as the quantum weirdness of quantum reality. This reflects my distinct uses of “social” and “societal”.

  • Yet, the ontology/epistemology of operators, state functions, and collapse in quantum physics is not restricted to particle physics – and could be tested with societal reality.
  • My recent work on these issues was catalyzed by Bruno Latour’s idea of “phantoms”.
  • The “laws” governing humankind may well be quite different from those governing our immediate sensory realities. We cannot wait on a new theory of the societal before we begin to abandon questionable assumptions generalizing from the “social” to the “societal”.
  •         A new narrative of the discovery/creation of quantum reality of the invisible for the non scientist emphasizing how the visible and intuitive have limitations, is needed. Many non scientists are fascinated by reality weirdness, often making invalid generalizations based on inaccurate knowledge of quantum weirdness – but who may be motivated to learn of this new narrative and how it may be applied to better comprehending the societal and our Crisis-of-Crises.

 

 

POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES

Larry has more freedom to explore alternatives because of his lack of ability to assign preferences or ranking.

It can be hypothesized that those human persons with useable mental imagery have a mammalian tendency to rank and develop strong preferences. Once ranking and preferences are set, they are resistant to change – especially resistant to conceptual argument.

Those with strong preferences and ranking severely restrict the scope of their Wrlds. There is probably also a tendency to view their Wrlds as more “objective” than those whose reality is more a statistical/probabilistic field of alternative Wrlds.

This may contribute to Larry’s difficulty of sharing his major conceptual schemes, but not the only factor.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.