Saturday, January 24, 2009

Observing Behavior

There are two tricks for making sure that an observation is "scientific": there has to be a consensus among a group of observers that the observation falls into the same category; and each observation has to be of a pair of behavioral events, a stimulus by the environment and a response by the subject. The figure represents the process. In this case we make the peer review specific by having the observation made by a peergroup of observers.

The result is a matrix whose elements are the relative probability of getting a particular response when the subject is given a particular stimulus. Determining this matrix is facilitated by representing the stimulus and response by a vector whose elements are the behavioral events we know how to observe.

When we talk about the behavior of interacting individuals it is useful to take the matrix elements in a specific linear order and treat that as a vector. Then the behavior of the subject is  represented by a point in a vector space. In that space conformism is represented by a group of points that are attracted to one another and an ideological group is attracted to a fixed point in the vector space.

The more typical situation in contemporary developed countries is idiosyncracy, where it is realized that no simple ideology matches all experiences, so a "workaround" ideology is patched up from fragmented myths and superstitions. This creates a lot of anxieties because one's life doesn't have a simply understood "meaning". That is called an "Age of Anxiety".

An autonomous person (like a Zen Master or a Gnostic Pneumatic) doesn't define his or her behavior by a simple ideology or patched-up fragments of ideology because he or she has transcended the Oedipus Complex that requires ideology.

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