TED Conversations

Samuel Fructuoso

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Are we that special?

So this is my belief: Not only our perception of reality is socially constructed by an intermittent interaction between ourselves and the environment, but also reality itself is built up because of our behavior. So, although we do have a “common reality” (I mean, a shared context that we all take for granted) everyone of us has his own reality built upon beliefs that are justified by that individual-environmental context. We just don’t seem to care too much about that. You know, Psychology studies something like that (behaviorism, radical behaviorism, gestalt etc.), Biology studies that (with stuffs like cognitive biology and behavioral genetics), but we, in our daily lives, don’t. But I think we should, and I’ll try to explain why with a simple example: when we think about pets living in harmony with men we almost inevitably end up think about dogs. They were, probably, the first and most successful case of taming. But the domestication of animals wasn’t and isolated event, but rather a complex process in which natural selection and human intervention acted together , and the physics and behavioral changes that best suit were perpetuated. This is how wolves became dogs. And I’d like to ask you guys: can the inherent characteristics of our social group be considered a taming instrument, and, because of that, makes us more likely to consume in a certain way? Or are we that special that, unlikely other animals, aren’t affected by our environment and consequently didn’t affect the environment itself with our consumption behaviors? I’d really like to hear you guys!

Edited after Fritzie points out a bad choice of word.


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    Feb 21 2013: "although we do have a 'common reality' "
    "everyone of us has his own reality"

    these are two contradictory statements. reconcile.
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      Feb 21 2013: Hi Krisztián! Thanks for your reply man! They're not contradictory at all. In fact, they summarize the whole concept I’m trying to talk here (yet I must admit that it might be a little confusing). Let me try to explain it with a simple example: Imagine that you’re an atheist and I’m a religious guy, okay? We’re neighbors and we work at the same place doing the same thing. While we share a lot of things (and, of course, it’s our common reality) you and I may take different kinds of interpretations and actions on something because of our religious background. So although we share a common reality, the way we internalize it is based on our own constructed understanding of our reality. And it has a lot of implications when we try to understand human behavior, in my opinion.
      You know, I’m a professor. And I really like what I do. But you know what I think it’s the most difficult thing about my profession? Well, it’s not to explain things, but rather to build – socially with my student – a shared, context-based reality. My students have different backgrounds and beliefs and it will affect how they consume knowledge and create their own, and yet I still have to make sure that, in my classes and as much as it is possible, we are not a bunch of people gathered together, but one single body that have a collective sense of identity and objectives.
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        Feb 21 2013: i think we are talking about reality vs mental models. it is indeed an interesting topic how can one help someone else building capable mental models, especially if we have topics totally inhumane, like modern physics, evolution or even many aspects of economics.

        what is your approach to ensure that they build the mental model that is capable of modeling reality? what is your field?

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