Our book The Elephant in the Brain argues that there are often big differences between the motives by which we sincerely explain our behavior, and the motives that more drive and shape that behavior. But even if this claim seems plausible to you in the abstract, you might still not feel fully persuaded, if you find it hard to see this contrast clearly in a specific example.
I find studies that control for almost all aspects of life to be unreliable. Once we artificially normalize human existence so that stay at home mothers and young single men of different races, incomes, and locations are the same, then income rank is predictive. Ok. But let us put that aside.
And per the study, the large effect in life satisfaction is that a 10% increase in rank (going from 40/200 to 20/200) is worth ~1.8% increase in satisfaction.
Almost all of happiness is not explained by income competition. So why is the status game the only thing that drives all our seemingly pro-social behavior? Why should I think my problems describing Utopia, if I have them, are fundamentally me being hypocritical about zero-sum status games?
Isn't the study listed is direct evidence for the claim? People are directly saying how satisfied they are, and then you can look at what variables are the most predictive of the satisfaction they claim. If those other variables are more predictive than what people say is predictive, then that is pretty strong evidence. Concrete data, concrete prediction, easy to falsify (e.g. if absolute wealth explained satisfaction more than rank, etc.)
This then helps explain why you can't get agreement on utopia: because the status elements are zero-sum regardless of material well-being.
I've heard of him, but not yet read him.
I don't recall your mention of Rene Girard, but many of your posts seem to align with his theories. Thoughts?
I keep getting this feeling that the Hanson claim isn't falsifiable. And I didn't find this concrete example concrete at all. It is the same old argument, "you don't really want X because you really want Y. And if you say you don't want Y, well...that is just what a person who really wants Y would say!"
His book is still on my to-read list so perhaps I'll understand after reading it.
But there are just so many problems with the specific Utopia example that it leaves me less convinced of the thesis if this is the best one that could be come up with.
Yes. I don't mean I don't do it, but over the decades I become more and more aware of those impulses in myself, and to actively oppose that tendency, so at the very least I notice it more frequently than I did and, I suppose, more frequently than most people do.
I imagine it isn't surprising that someone doing extensive self-reflection tends to reduce the near/far gap in oneself. In fact, from your posts I'd suspect your own gap is quite small.
It seems plausible to me that this explanation applies in a large fraction of utopia-consideration scenarios.
Not sure this clinches the case against Robin's explanation, though. Are underclass folks (many of whom may think they'll lose a social-rank contest regardless) likelier on the whole to embrace utopian visions in both far and near mode?
It would be interesting to consider examples in which exactly one of the proposed reasons for near-mode recoil (namely, 'reduced scope for status competition' and 'details seen as unworkable') applies.
I don't deny the data, but I think it's because utopias can only seem utopian when vaguely described. Any discussion of details reveals the unacceptable price we pay for any specific utopia, and we rightly recoil.
Yes, I posit different cues are used for the different purposes.
This matches my experience. It also explains a lot of procrastination where we seem to think that a thing should be beneficial in the abstract, but we find ourselves postponing it.
You talk about a utopia or other social construct, but I wonder whether the mechanism is more general, and we prefer to think and communicate about abstract things of any kind.
There are some interesting special cases:
* When there is common knowledge that many people support near action in support of far goals, near and far get aligned. This can be observed in the small in mass demonstrations and spectator sports and in the large in nation-states that succeeded in mobilizing large parts of the society e.g., national socialism.
* Abstract occupations like math, science, and some types of art, where our preferred near tasks are abstract and very complex.
This link says our status detection works by absolute wealth, but your quote above says life satisfaction works by wealth rank. There seems to be some cotradiction there.
This could apply to society as a whole without applying to a majority of people. For example, if the manager class (your "Elite") behaved like this then most individuals might well be less compeitive and less hypocritical than you say but society still dominated by hypocrisy.
Is there a measure of how hypocritical individuals are in this sense and how that correlates with social position?
I presume you realize that seeing yourself as a rare exception is an easy and common way to avoid seeing common hypocrises in yourself.
This description fits most of humanity for certain, but there are long tails, and I'm kind of happy to be in one of them, I guess. IMHO, it'd be interesting to control such studies also by psychological tools, in particular Big Five or HEXACO traits, MBTI types (maybe), WAIS-measured IQs, and Piagetian developmental typologies such as Piaget's own, and Kolhberg's and Fowler's. Results might show the kind of person for whom near and far thinking are actually closely aligned, and among these, the ones for whom far thinking has precedence and orders their near behavior.
How can the demographic economic paradox, which shows a robust inverse correlation between wealth and fertility within and between nations, be reconciled with the claim that evolutionary pressure drives an interest in income rank?