Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Overlearning

What Is Overlearning

Overlearning is a broad topic. Let's start first of all with just what is overlearning. Basically, it's conditioned stimulus-response pairs. It's when you've learned something so profoundly that you can't set it aside easily. When it takes real conscious effort in order to set it aside at all.

The simplest example of overlearning is reading. You don't need to put any effort to read something. The translation from lines and angles straight to letters and words is automatic. And it takes real effort to avoid reading a word, to see it in its individual letters, let alone to see the lines and angles that make up the letters themselves.

As proof, you only need note that if a person is flashed a picture of a green square with the word BLUE written on it and then asked what colour it was, they're likely to answer Blue. The connection from lines and angles to letters to words is so strong, so solid, so automatic, that it's capable of displacing the perception of colour.

In the case of reading, overlearning it is beneficial. The benefits are high, the drawbacks are few and esoteric. And in any case, it's unavoidable since written language is omnipresent in an average modern person's life. You can't avoid overlearning reading without becoming a primitive throwback so you might as well suck it up as part and parcel of civilization.

In fact, the association of literacy to civilization is so strong that illiterate nations were considered barbaric savages in earlier centuries.

Neurosis and Psychosis

But reading is hardly the only thing that can be overlearned. Lots of things can be overlearned. Steven Pinker explains quite lucidly in this essay why swearing is overlearned. Disgust which comes from fear of mortality seems to be an overlearned reaction which it is difficult to get past without understanding its basis.

In earlier times, fear, awe and reverence were overlearned. This was called Sacredness and Holiness. Sacred were those things towards which fear was overlearned. Just think of sacred bears and sacred jaguars, both murderous. And holy were those things towards which awe was overlearned. As Julian Jaynes points out in The Origin Of Consciousness, the past couple of millenia have seen the profaning of the sacred. That is, the rise of consciousness and its erosion of all things anti-conscious such as insanity and religiosity.

Speaking of insanity, neuroses are automatic reactions that spring up for no good reason and override rationality. They are typically caused by overlearning in childhood. Neuroses can encompass anything up to and including hatred of one's own body manifesting as a very strong nudity taboo. Neuroses are inflicted by childhood abuse, often euphemistically called poor childrearing. Americans have almost universally poor childrearing. Good childrearing is rare on this planet and mostly restricted to Scandinavia.

When neuroses are so numerous and overwhelming that they impede basic functioning and a person's sense of reality then we speak of psychoses. Religious experiences are psychotic in nature. The Jerusalem Syndrome is commonly known among psychologists. As are Conversion Experiences, when a person is subjected to such a barrage of extreme stimuli, often with emotional content, that their sense of reality (often including their sense of self) distorts and breaks.

Pedophilia

Pedophilia is pretty funny, just not haha funny. Most people can tell you that pedophilia is wrong but people being idiots, they can't tell you why it's wrong. Worse, people aren't logical enough to either accept that there's nothing wrong with pedophilia or to gather evidence of its being wrong. Fortunately, I do know what's wrong with pedophilia and will explain it to you, so you don't have to act like a retard if the issue ever comes up.

Yeah, you probably guessed it has something to do with overlearning. And if you're smart, you may even have guessed pedophilia is wrong because it causes overlearning. Which it does. It causes overlearning of sex. It causes children to become sexualized and to learn to behave sexually even when they don't desire anyone (which they don't since they're children) or they aren't sexually aroused (which they may or may not be). The typical result of pedophilia is sexual compulsion. And since compulsion undermines conscious control of oneself, it is almost automatically evil.

Incidentally, the sexual compulsion produced by pedophilia is the reason why humans were universally pedophilic way back when before consciousness arose. It was easily demonstrated in the case of feral children (incapable of consciousness or language) that they are incapable of completing the sexual act. So yeah, way back then pedophilia was necessary for the continuation of the species. It isn't anymore, and it's harmful now, but it's necessary to keep in mind why we have it today at all. It's a relic of the past. Millenia in the past. And contemporary with widespread infanticide.

Stimulus Response

After this cursory survey of the different kinds of overlearning, we are in a position to judge the claims of behaviourists. Their claims being that all learning by human beings is mere stimulus-response. That consciousness does not exist to stand in the way of the automatic stimulus-response associations. The only conclusion a rational person can come to is that behaviourists are vile mindless people who are opposed to all the psychological advances humans have gained in the last millenium.

Humans are not mindless animals, humans are not rats or dogs, humans have complex inner states consisting of expectations and anticipation, not merely memories and feelings like animals do. Stimulus-Response is broadly, with a few exceptions such as reading, pretty evil. And anyone who denies this, anyone who tries to reduce humans to mere animals, is against the great human project and a bitter enemy of humanity.

And hey, if behaviourists want to claim that humans don't have minds then they can't complain when theirs are stripped from them, can they? It would be merely justice if behaviourists were tortured until their minds snap. The best kind of justice even, the poetic kind.

I remain appalled at the number of people who wish they could throw away their consciousness. Behaviourists, Religionists (Christian and Buddhist), Gaians, Primitivists. Even Zombies who claim they don't have any subjective mind at all, let alone consciousness. I will eagerly welcome a day when our technology allows these people to experience their fondest wish.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You had me right up to the last 4 paragraphs when the vile insecure Richard who can't help but insult others made his appearance; ruined the whole article, which was quite good up to that point.

Anonymous said...

Two behaviorists have sex. Afterwards one says to the other, "That was great for you! How was it for me?"