Sunday, May 20, 2012

Survivalist social exclusion

There is a psychological theory that has been tested out well enough that you can probably put it down as being factual: at least in its general sense.

The simplified version of the theory is that we all have certain reserves of willpower: some of us more than others.  This reserve of willpower is not static.  It varies with circumstances.  One of these circumstances is that the very usage of this willpower tends to deplete it - at least for a given amount of time.

So, the very act of resisting some chocolate chip cookies, will make it harder for you to keep on working on a difficult problem that you face just a few minutes later.  It is an odd phenomena, but tested out true multiples of times.

One tangential aspect of this theory that also has been tested out, is that sociability is part of this willpower pool. 

Ego Depletion
David McRaney, You Are Not So Smart, 17 April 2012

[M]uch of what we call prosocial behavior involves the sort of things that deplete the ego. The results of the social exclusion study suggest that when you’ve been rejected by society it’s as if somewhere deep inside you ask, “Why keep regulating my behavior if no one cares what I do?”
You may have felt the urge to shut down your computer, shed your clothes, and walk naked into the woods, but you don’t do it. With differing motivations, many people have famously exited society to be alone: Ted Kaczynski, Henry David Thoreau, Christopher McCandless to name a few. As with these three, most don’t go so far as to shed all remnants of the tools and trappings of modern living. You may decide one day to throw middle fingers at the material world and head into the wild, but you’ll probably keep your shoes on and take a pocket knife at the very least. Just in case of, you know, bears. It’s a compelling idea nonetheless – leaving society with no company. You enjoy watching shows like Survivorman and Man vs. Wild. You revisit tales like Castaway and Robinson Crusoe and Life of Pi. It’s in our shared experience, a curiosity and a fear, the idea of total expulsion from the rest of your kin.
Ostracism is a potent and painful experience. The word comes from a form of serious punishment in ancient Athens and other large cities
Getting along with others requires effort, and thus much of what we call prosocial behavior involves the sort of things that deplete the ego. The results of the social exclusion study suggest that when you’ve been rejected by society it’s as if somewhere deep inside you ask, “Why keep regulating my behavior if no one cares what I do?”
You may have felt the urge to shut down your computer, shed your clothes, and walk naked into the woods, but you don’t do it. With differing motivations, many people have famously exited society to be alone: Ted Kaczynski, Henry David Thoreau, Christopher McCandless to name a few. As with these three, most don’t go so far as to shed all remnants of the tools and trappings of modern living. You may decide one day to throw middle fingers at the material world and head into the wild, but you’ll probably keep your shoes on and take a pocket knife at the very least. Just in case of, you know, bears. It’s a compelling idea nonetheless – leaving society with no company. You enjoy watching shows like Survivorman and Man vs. Wild. You revisit tales like Castaway and Robinson Crusoe and Life of Pi. It’s in our shared experience, a curiosity and a fear, the idea of total expulsion from the rest of your kin.
Ostracism is a potent and painful experience. The word comes from a form of serious punishment in ancient Athens and other large cities. The Greeks often expelled those who broke the trust of their society. Shards of pottery, ostracon, were used as voting tokens when a person’s fate was on the ballot. Primates like you survive and thrive because they stick together and form groups, keeping up with those prickly social variables like status and alliance, temperament and skill, political affiliation and sexual disposition prevent ostracism. For a primate, banishment is death. Even among your cousins the chimps, banishment is rare. The only lone chimps are usually ex-alpha males defeated in power takeovers. Chimpanzees will stop hanging out, stop grooming, but they rarely banish. It is likely this has been true of your kind going back for many millennia. A person on their own usually doesn’t make it very long. Your ancestors probably survived not only by keeping away from spiders, snakes, and lions, but also by making friends and not rocking the boat too much back at the village. It makes sense then that you feel an intense, deep pain when rejected socially. You have an innate system for considering that which might get you ostracized. When you get down to it, most of what you know others will consider socially unacceptable are behaviors that would demonstrate selfishness. People who are unreliable, who don’t pitch in, or share, or consider the feelings of others get pushed to the fringe. In the big picture, stealing, raping, murdering, fraud and so on harm others while sating some selfish desire of an individual or a splinter group. Baumeister and his group wrote in the social exclusion paper that being part of society means accepting a bargain between you and others. If you will self-regulate and not be selfish then you get to stay and enjoy the rewards of having a circle of friends and society as a whole, but if you break that bargain society will break its promise and reject you. Your friend groups will stop inviting you to parties, unfollow you on Twitter. If you are too selfish in your larger social group, it might reject you by sending you to jail or worse...
The researchers in the “no one chose you” study proposed that since self-regulation is required to be prosocial, you expect some sort of reward for regulating your behavior. People in the unwanted group felt the sting of ostracism, and that reframed their self-regulation as being wasteful. It was as if they thought, “Why play by the rules if no one cares?”
So this brings up the obvious question.

If you have a group of people, who have voluntarily disassociated themselves from society in the sense that they have made efforts to live beyond that societies' life span,  would you expect them to be less sociable people?

Now in the title of this post I used the word "survivalist" because it brings up the image of people waiting out nuclear Armageddon in their cave bunker in Oregon.  The term that preceded "survivalist", was  "retreater",  and does not bring up any better images.

But the new preferred self-describing term is "prepper."  One of the obvious advantages to the term is that it is less absolute, and less exclusionary.  Lots of people make preparations for all sorts of things.  And given the less absolute -at least compared to a full Soviet versu U.S.A nuclear exchange- nature of the catastrophes prepared for allow for less isolationist possibilities.

On top of that the survivalist - prepper crowd, since the 1970s seems to consistently have been an older crowd.  When you check the demographics of the more popular "prep" sites, their audience is tends toward males (even for female bloggers) and tends to be 50+.  The typical viewer "has some college."

This is of course a recipe for a disaffected group within our current economic/social paradigm which would indicate that some aspects of these preparations are motivated by a feeling of exclusion.

None of which really proves a point.  But it is always a good idea to know where some of your motivation, and some of the motivation of others is coming from.  Truth is often inconvenient.  If your truths are becoming too convenient, too comfortable, than you might want to look at some of your assumptions and see which ones are driven by reality, and which ones are driven by desire.

3 comments:

dennis said...

All of which gives a sweet twist to the term "sheeple".

Degringolade said...

You may have hit the nail on the head here. Might be why I stopped blogging and am now attempting to limit my reading.

The retreater/survivalist/prepper thing has always been a touch odd. It has always had appeal to folks who are, well, less than appealing.

I am making a greater effort to talk to my neighbors and friends and spend less time with folks on the other end of a internet connection.

Though I will keep reading this.

russell1200 said...

Dennis: I guess you could take it that way. But we all live with blinders, and since there is very little that is truely new under the sun, we all do at least a little following. I am not a big fan of the easy use of the word sheeple.

Degringlade: I think it does a goes a long way toward explaining why ALL fringe groups have an over abundance of the antisocial. If the people didn't start that way, their exclusion tends to drive them in that direction.

But there are an awful lot of nice people on line. And I tend to get a bit cranky myself sometimes.

I already know my neighbors. I think they are tired of me. LOL

The biggest advantage of the online community is that you can find people who are interested in the same specifics as yourself. Sometimes it just takes more looking.

Thanks for reading.