Make it work

If you see a suffering animal with an open wound you’ll probably feel both disgust and empathy. Arielle Duhaime-Ross looked into the sources of both.

But with conflicting signals from empathy and disgust flooding our brains, how does one emotion prevail over the other? “We are full of conflicting desires, that is the nature of human beings,” Curtis observes.  “At any one time we have to weigh different motives and make a decision what to do based on circumstances, so people may simultaneously want to comfort a sick animal and recoil from its open wound.” What you choose to do, she says, “depends on the strength of your disgust and the strength of your desire to care.”

That’s one reason people who want to hate X or Xs tend to work up a lot of disgust at X or Xs. That, in turn, is a reason to be wary of the habit of working up disgust at people, whether individuals or groups.

H/t Brony.


  1. says

    Just to recap,

    *The ‘pitters like to hold group bonding sessions using disgust as a mechanism to reinforce group emotional ties.
    *These sessions include literally made up facts and associations that deliberately appeal to culturally extreme examples of imagery and assertions about people personal appearance. It would be fair to say that the more disgusting the better.
    *These made up tales of shared disgust may be intended to suppress empathy as a group. I repeat, they may (hell I actually believe it but I do like being precise) be engaging in instinctual behavior meant to make it harder to see another persons point of view.
    *Any new person joining their group would get a good dose of “poisoned well”.
    *As research into cognitive debiasing shows, in order to make more rational decisions one should reduce affect bias, not enhance it.

    In short these people are though their choices actually risking becoming less rational and logical and are more likely to miss apply any skeptical filters that they may have. They are pretenders to the role of rationalist and logical thinker because they let their emotions rule them instead of the other way around. You can’t have rationality, logic, and skepticism without emotion so the only real solution is to learn to control them and not the other way around. Otherwise all one ends up being is an adult child.

    They are as close to “religious atheists” as I have seen yet given the parallels to, well read for yourself.
    Culture matters. Implicit memory processes indicate that the people we choose to associate with will be a part of us whether we like it or not. All it takes is time and exposure and before you know it you can be a racist, a sexist, and more too. It’s no wonder the instincts of disgust can be aroused so easily. It’s too bad they are not aiming the instincts at a more productive location. Their shamelessly sadistic peers.

    And just to get it out of the way:
    *I don’t give a shit about anything else going on in the pit. Mentioning other things is a cowardly abdication of one’s duty to actually address someones real argument. We are talking about specific behavior.
    *I don’t give a shit about what someone else might be doing somewhere else, I deal with the wrongdoing in front of me right now. If someone were getting mugged in front of you, you don’t fail to act because some other person is also doing something bad somewhere else. If you are going to be a moral coward and refuse to call out that sort of behavior are you seriously going to expect me to listen to what you have to say about moral conduct?

  2. hjhornbeck says

    Brony @1:

    I’ve spent a year or so observing and arguing against the Slyme Pit, and I think you’ve nailed it. You’ve sketched out the primary mechanisms that sustain and reinforce the hatred they practice over there.

    And once you know the mechanism, you know where to jam the monkey wrench. Knowing what sustains the hate is to know what will stop it.

  3. says


    I’m glad I can be of service. I try to make sure the years that I have spent studying my own madness is more universally useful to others. I have a natural feel for affect bias (how the emotions alter our biases),
    …and the shape to the passions that I fight all the time have correlates in others that I can’t help but notice maybe because my head is always an emotional storm that I have always had to fight to control (while folks like them just let their emotions run wild).

    I’ve spent a year or so observing and arguing against the Slyme Pit, and I think you’ve nailed it. You’ve sketched out the primary mechanisms that sustain and reinforce the hatred they practice over there.

    There will undoubtedly be other mechanisms. I tend to mentally model irrational disagreement as a system with many nodes representing illogical biases and a “catharsis level” that forces introspection. This would be one node and while it would be nice if it were all it took to fight irrational people like in Ms. Bensons other post, I would not count on it. But if one set of behaviors become less useful, the new ones can also be vivisected out.

    The funny part is that this is only a distillation of what I absorbed from staring at 4chan and trying to help organize another community among other things. They are not special snowflakes but instead are only common juvenile thugs that define part of what many complain about when it comes to interactions on the internet.

    And once you know the mechanism, you know where to jam the monkey wrench. Knowing what sustains the hate is to know what will stop it.

    Knowing the reasons for the behavior and precisely what to do to counter it are different. I’m sure there are many rhetorical choices and that is where the power of the community here can benefit everyone. Once a form of primate troop tactic has been identified many can collaborate on coming up with logically and rhetorically effective responses and strategies. I just use a few but

    *I take the tactic of demonstrating that they are taking on the behavior of religion in a redirection of the disgust back to them.
    *I also point out that for people supposedly interested in rational disagreement they are allowing behavior direct antithetical to such a goal (and reinforcing that connection with references to how implicit memory intersects with social processes allowing for their individual self-corruption). I connect to that point a reference to how the behavior allows the existence of a massive example of the poisoned well fallacy for new members, farther eroding the illusion of them being about rational disagreement.
    *I wrap it up by proactively addressing common responses designed to distract from the examples folks like Ms. Benson bring up.

    I think of it as primate chess except that science is still discovering what the pieces and moves look like. They are mostly hidden in literature and history otherwise. Disguised in so many different ways at different times.

  4. hjhornbeck says

    I still want to reply to this, but I haven’t had the time for the good, long comment it deserves. In the meantime, here’s something I realized a year ago, which in turn led me to start daydreaming about how to end the ‘Pit, which led to a cunning plan, which I abandoned after a specific incident that happened shortly thereafter.

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