Knowingly Subjective

bubblewrap
All the world as seen through the lens of a crystalline polythene grid of air pockets

“Of course one always has the same theme. Everyone has her theme. She should move around in that theme.”

So claims Austrian author Thomas Bernhard. Similarly, artist Lucian Freud was reported to have said, “Everything is autobiographical, everything is a portrait, even if it’s only a chair.”

One last example, and a memorable one: Willem de Kooning, suffering from dementia at the end of his life, continued to paint in that de Kooning signatory style. Brain dysfunction be damned, his work was coming up from somewhere deeper. Or different.

Be like me. See the world through my eyes. It is an elemental aspect of an artist’s consciousness. And the edge between objective and subjective is often an invisible boundary. Can we ever see it, that line where our own proclivities end?

After all, there is a long list of behavorial biases that can alter our ability to see/understand/perceive/comprehend with clarity. Here’s just a few from Psy-Fi’s much longer list:

Ambiguity Aversion: we don’t mind risk but we hate uncertainty
Babe Ruth Effect: winning big but rarely beats winning often and small
Bias Blind Spot: we agree that everyone else is biased, but not ourselves
Confirmation Bias: we interpret evidence to support our prior beliefs and, if all else fails, we ignore evidence that contradicts it
Familiarity Effect: being familiar with something makes you favour it
Fundamental Attribution Error: we attribute success to our own skill and failure to everyone else’s lack of it
Galatea Effect: some people succeed simply because they think they should
Hindsight Bias: we’re unable to stop ourselves thinking we predicted events, even though we’re woefully bad at predicting the future
Inter-group Bias: we evaluate people within our own group more favorably than those outside of it
Introspection Illusion: we value information gleaned from introspection more than we value our actions
Sharpshooter Effect: beware experts painting targets around bullet holes
Survivorship Bias: this is an error that comes from focusing only on the examples that survive some particular situation
Titanic Effect: if it can’t sink you don’t need lifeboats
Tragedy of the Commons: we overuse common resources because it not in any individual’s interests to conserve them

During the last few months I have been tunneling deeply through a massive project. An intensity of focus has been needed to get it done, but it comes at a cost. During times like these, my ability to parse the world in general becomes impaired.

I’ve been in that place before. When I had my first child, the world outside my home ceased to exist. If you didn’t wear a diaper and weren’t sleeping in the crib in the room next door, you just didn’t get any air time. I am grateful for the remembrance—and reassurance—that normalcy does return. Eventually.

  • Share on Tumblr

Tags: , , , ,

5 comments

  1. Maureen’s avatar

    Well, I couldn’t resist playing with those behavioral biases:

    Imagine yourself experiencing
    the Galatea Effect. No Introspection Illusion
    will create a Bias Blind Spot.

    Your Familiarity Effect will increase
    the power of Hindsight Bias.

    To avoid the Titanic Effect, you must
    have a Survivorship Bias.

    The Babe Ruth Effect makes
    the point of Ambiguity Aversion clear.

    Our Inter-group Bias was to avoid
    the Sharpshooter Effect.

    His own Confirmation Bias
    stems from a Fundamental Attribution Error.

    1. Deborah Barlow’s avatar

      Fabulous Maureen! You can’t be helped, you do it automatically…words as your medium. Thanks for this.

  2. Robert Hanlon’s avatar

    Wonderful, Deborah! And not at all “Tribal”.

    1. Deborah Barlow’s avatar

      Tribal? Please elaborate RH.

      1. Robert Hanlon’s avatar

        I’m being naughty and unnecessarily provocative and referring to your words to me on Facebook last month, where you put us in different “tribes”. See “confirmation bias” above…

Comments are now closed.

%d bloggers like this: