4696RE: [evol-psych] Video gaming as an adaptation
- Jun 1, 2000Rennie's reply to my posting indicates that it is harder than one might think to "get across" some things about the integration of emotion and cognition in human social behavior. But two things are essential:
FIRST, in prior evolution, very young children normally have NOT received a very large proportion of their "socialization" by looking at a machine that produces a pseudo-social stimulus. Many children today are watching TV for 3 to 5 hours per day from the age of 1 to 5. Questions of PROPORTION always matter. Despite Rennie's point, I don't think going to the theatre or opera is a normal experience for very young children (at least, it wasn't for me).
SECOND, it is (from my limited by real experience) FALSE that the actor(s) are NOT influenced by audience reactions. To be sure, where it happens in this case it is a GROUP reaction (laughter, applause, tears, shifting in seats as a lack of attention, etc.). Homo sapiens is a social species, and if you are in a room of people who are smiling, or ANGRY, or sleeping, you are aware of this. AT my last class yesterday, I was quite aware that one young man (Todd by name) fell asleep).
The eseential point. The field of primate ethology has developed specific methods for the observation and study of social behavior and the developmental processes involved in the emergence of the normal social repertoire. The issue of "body language" was first introduced by theorists who knew and applied this literature (Ekman, et al.). The name of our "list" is "evolutionary psychology." This means we need to be AWARE of the differences between the methodologies of the field and of conventional social psychology.
Sorry to sound upset, but experiences with real live children these days are revealing a SERIOUS problem, at least in the U.S., with an apparent lack of capacity to intuit, predict, or adjust to the likely behavior of others. Shootings in schoolyards are really NOT the worst example, but they are EXTREME illustrations. AND this is, in my view, what you are "missing."
On John Caulfield's rejoinder, the crucial question is what cognitive neuroscience tells us about the role of emotion in learning and attitude formation. (Cut the links between the neocortex and the amygdala, and learning STOPS). As for "commensurability," that is a matter of approximation by experimental methodology -- and such approximation is the basis of experimental research on social behavior (whether in ethology or psychology not to mention evolutionary biology). It is easy to get a number of people to quantify their subjective responses to a video or audio-tape of behavior. On 0-10 scales, if you take a video of Ronald Reagan that has an average rating of: Happy = 8 and Angry 2; and another video of Reagan rated by the same group as: Happy 2 and Angry 8, you can then insert them as silent images in two coies of the same TV newscast about Reagan. If you compare the ratings of Reagan on any cognitive scales before and after viewing one or the other of these videos, you will normally see that the ratings IMPROVE after the first of the videos, and GET WORSE after the second one. It should be mysterious to talk about this type of method. AND it is very useful for professors and teachers at all levels to remember that the tone of voice used when communicating to students has a very important role in what they learn.
Finally, Jay Feierman's posting is very important and useful. We found, consistent with his remark on the utility of studying a printed version of the verbal message, that exposure to ONLY this part of the communicative act produces a different response. The responses to written messages are, of course, not without emotion, as I was trying to illustrate with my message (and clearly succeeded, since it attracted some reactions that included an emotional element as replies.)
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Despite the apparent intensity of his feelings, I feel I am missing something in Roger's mailing. Certainly, TV, books, comics, films, computer/video games do not react to the emotional expressions or responses of the child. Neither for that matter do live performances on stages with footlights, as the audience is not visible to the players. The point I was trying to make is that in my experience, children often access computer/video games in social groups. They then react to one another's emotional expression and responses and weave these responses into their verbal commentary on their playing of the games. In addition, when discussing these games, children attribute subtleties of feeling to characters which do not appear to be portrayed by the crude graphics in which they are presented on screen. I cannot comment on Roger's material in respect of adults. It is not my field.
Stephen Rennie, Leeds Metropolitan University
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