Venting pique yields Asch

From Tom Bourbon [931119.1419]

[From: Bruce Nevin (Fri 931119 11:32:36 EST)]

Dan Miller (931118.1430) --

What are we doing when we
vent our pique (or our rage, or ...)? Venting, I would gather, is a
metaphor relating to letting off steam, depressurizing, or deflating.
In this sense are we bringing ourself back into some balance after
holding something in? I vent, you vent, we all do. What is it?

The metaphor was lively in the days when specific perceptions of steam
engines were familiar. . . .

A nice post on the origins of "venting" in the phrase, "venting pique,"
Bruce. It brought back childhood memories of being "down by the station,
early in the morning" and seeing "the little puffer-bellies all in a row."

The need for reaffirmation of reality is pretty basic. I recently have
read some summaries of experiments with noncontingent rewards in the book
by Paul Watzlawick that I quoted yesterday (_How real is real_). For
example (in work of Solomon Asch at Penn), a handful of subjects are
asked to compare a single line in one field with three various-sized
lines in another field and say which of the latter three is the same size
as the first. For a few trials all agree rapidly and settle in to yet
another boring experiment. Then on the next trial all but one of the
subjects agrees. The holdout double-checks, and reaffirms his view
somewhat diffidently. The same on subsequent trials. The dissenter
becomes increasingly disturbed. In successive experiments with different
subjects, a high proportion begin to deny their perceptions and go along
with the majority, who are of course all accomplices of the experimentor.

   If only one member of the group contradicted him, the subject had
   little difficulty maintaining his independence. As soon as the
   opposition was increased to two persons, ... 13.6 percent [of
   subjects went along with the majority]. With three opponents, the
   failure curve went up to 31.8 percent, whereupon it flattened out,
   and any further increase in the number of opponents raised the
   percentage only to 36.8 percent.

   Conversely, the presence of a supporting partner was a powerful help
   in opposing the group pressure [sic]; under these conditions the
   incorrect responses of the subject dropped to one fourth of the error
   rate mentioned above.

It is amazing how different Asch's results were from the mythological
descriptions in most psychology textbooks. The conventional story has it
that when a normal person is confronted with stooges who respond incorrectly
in the Asch experiment, the normal feels distress and changes her or his
report to match that of the stooge. In fact, under the most extreme
condition, 83% of the normals held their ground; only 37% "went along." And
when another person "held out" against the stooges, only 9% of the subjects
capitulated. This is a far cry (another interesting phrase) from the
conventional idea that people can't resist the social pressure from the
stooges! I guess that puts a few qualifiers on the empirical evvidence for
a "basic need for reaffirmation of reality," doesn't it? Just another of
those pervasive abuses of poor data, resulting in more psycho-mythology.

Until later,

Tom

From Tom Bourbon [931122.0838]

[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 931122 08:58:26 EST)]

Tom Bourbon [931119.1419] --

It is amazing how different Asch's results were from the mythological
descriptions in most psychology textbooks. The conventional story has it
that when a normal person is confronted with stooges who respond incorrectly
in the Asch experiment, the normal feels distress and changes her or his
report to match that of the stooge. In fact, under the most extreme
condition, 83% of the normals held their ground; only 37% "went along."

There was a typo in my original reply: under the most extreme condition,
63% held their ground. The change does not affect my argument.

And
when another person "held out" against the stooges, only 9% of the subjects
capitulated. This is a far cry (another interesting phrase) from the
conventional idea that people can't resist the social pressure from the
stooges! I guess that puts a few qualifiers on the empirical evidence for
a "basic need for reaffirmation of reality," doesn't it? Just another of
those pervasive abuses of poor data, resulting in more psycho-mythology.

Your point is well taken, Tom, as far as it goes, but it should perhaps
be taken a bit farther. The tacit qualifier on your phrase "the most
extreme condition" is that the experiment was not representative of the
more extreme conditions that are typical in naturally occurring social
situations, namely, where the "stooges" are known to the subject, where
the subject places a high value on cooperation with them and on being
perceived by them as a reliable member of "us", where the subject even
typically perceives himself as dependent upon them, and (arguably the
prototypical case) where the subject is a child and the stooges are older
family members.

No, Bruce. The phrase,"the most extreme condition" meant just what it said.
The conditions in the experiment were unlike most others I can imagine. No
one can say, with any degree of certainty, whether the conditions in the Asch
study have anything at all to do with the other circumstances you
described. Can you say anything specific about how the college-student
subjects in the study were like children in a family, and the stooges were
like older family members? In which ways did the task of reporting the
length of a line resemble the dynamics of family life, especially in light
of the brevity of encounters between subjects, exprimenters and stooges?

This is difficult to replicate in an experiment. In
naturally occurring family and group dynamics, the stooges almost always
are unaware of their role or that they are ignoring some of their own
perceptions.

This difficulty in replication is a rather significant difference and is yet
another reason I see very little transfer from the data in Asch's study to
the dynamics of family life. Anyone interested in replicating the Asch
studies, or in relying on the data from those studies, might profit from
reading Phil Runkel's, _Casting Nets and Testing Specimens_.

This is why grown children often move far away, beyond emotional barriers
if not physically, and why many people prefer the anonymity of urban
life.

*Which* is the reason why some grown children do the things you describe?
What does Asch tell us about that?

Given that the beast was defanged, I'd say 37% (9% with a supporting
partner!) is a pretty impressive result. Why should anyone want to deny
their own easily tested perceptions in a simple line comparison task?
Remember that 100% felt at least some confusion and embarrassment and
either apologized or made statements justifying their view that it WAS
line B that was the same length, darn it!

Keep in mind the circumstances under which they said they felt at least some
confusion. Imagine being a subject; knowing only what you were told, and
expecting the things you might expect given that you were participating in a
"psychological" experiment. Did people deny their own perceptions?

In my opinion, this is why learning a second language and/or culture is
so hard for most adults. It brings back states of confusion and being
wrong (existentially wrong, not merely factually wrong) that have been
forgotten for a long time, and that we do not want to relive.

You lost me. What does Asch have to say about this?

The notion that cultural patterning is related to hypnosis is not a new
one; it is the reason for my interest in a PCT-based understanding of
hypnosis.

Hypnosis? Cultural patterning?

Scientia longa, vita brevis.

Agreed!

Tom

[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 931122 08:58:26 EST)]

Tom Bourbon [931119.1419] --

It is amazing how different Asch's results were from the mythological
descriptions in most psychology textbooks. The conventional story has it
that when a normal person is confronted with stooges who respond incorrectly
in the Asch experiment, the normal feels distress and changes her or his
report to match that of the stooge. In fact, under the most extreme
condition, 83% of the normals held their ground; only 37% "went along." And
when another person "held out" against the stooges, only 9% of the subjects
capitulated. This is a far cry (another interesting phrase) from the
conventional idea that people can't resist the social pressure from the
stooges! I guess that puts a few qualifiers on the empirical evidence for
a "basic need for reaffirmation of reality," doesn't it? Just another of
those pervasive abuses of poor data, resulting in more psycho-mythology.

Your point is well taken, Tom, as far as it goes, but it should perhaps
be taken a bit farther. The tacit qualifier on your phrase "the most
extreme condition" is that the experiment was not representative of the
more extreme conditions that are typical in naturally occurring social
situations, namely, where the "stooges" are known to the subject, where
the subject places a high value on cooperation with them and on being
perceived by them as a reliable member of "us", where the subject even
typically perceives himself as dependent upon them, and (arguably the
prototypical case) where the subject is a child and the stooges are older
family members. This is difficult to replicate in an experiment. In
naturally occurring family and group dynamics, the stooges almost always
are unaware of their role or that they are ignoring some of their own
perceptions.

This is why grown children often move far away, beyond emotional barriers
if not physically, and why many people prefer the anonymity of urban
life.

Given that the beast was defanged, I'd say 37% (9% with a supporting
partner!) is a pretty impressive result. Why should anyone want to deny
their own easily tested perceptions in a simple line comparison task?
Remember that 100% felt at least some confusion and embarrassment and
either apologized or made statements justifying their view that it WAS
line B that was the same length, darn it!

In my opinion, this is why learning a second language and/or culture is
so hard for most adults. It brings back states of confusion and being
wrong (existentially wrong, not merely factually wrong) that have been
forgotten for a long time, and that we do not want to relive.

The notion that cultural patterning is related to hypnosis is not a new
one; it is the reason for my interest in a PCT-based understanding of
hypnosis. Scientia longa, vita brevis.

    Bruce
    bn@bbn.com (moving in 2-3 weeks)