Supplementary Matter to
The Tyranny of Ambiguity
being an account of the development of the system of behaviour analysis called
This page is for notes, incidental anecdotes and some items which were omitted from The Tyranny of Ambiguity for reasons of space.
|Humbert Humbert visits to view lodgings and his eyes alight on the delectable Lolita. No wonder he took the room!|
One interesting incident which didn’t make it into TOA was a pun on the Open Legs signal. On the Wibautstraat in Amsterdam were a couple of large bridges which were often raised to allow ships through. Some bright spark in the City Council had the idea of having a painted mural on the underside of one of the bridges for motorists to look at while waiting for the ship to pass, rather than a large boring mass of grey-green metal and a sign saying “Motor Af!” A painting of a lower female torso was commissioned, fully dressed but with legs open in an obvious Open Legs signal. If I remember correctly the painting featured a short skirt and white knickers. It was a pun between the open bridge and a woman’s open legs and a rather good joke on Amsterdam’s sexual permissiveness.
The local feminists did not like it however, and with the aid of a boat one night crudely obliterated the offending parts with black paint.
The obvious question was: Why should the militant feminists object to this mural? They had no such objections to the many advertisments employing sexual connotations, if not blatant pornography, with which Amsterdam was replete. Why had they been so incensed by this pun as to go out in a boat in the middle of the night and obliterate it?
Applying the theory then, the painting of the Open Legs signal weakened (i.e. reduced the significance of) a sexual signal, which is the masculine instinct. The female instinct is to increase the significance of sexual signals, and this was accomplished in this instance by attacking the attempt to weaken one.
The “normal” advertisments employing sexual connotations served the female interest by bringing sex constantly to the fore, raising the value (and hence the costs which can be imposed) of sex. This was to the female advantage and thus was not a target.
There is also an associated issue of the humour involved. The role of humour is to release tension and distribute information. Releasing tension alleviates neurosis and it is in the female interest to maintain males in as neurotic a state as possible, because the confused and neurotic male is easier to manipulate.
Another, nearby incident can also be recounted. There was a large hoarding advertising the Dutch Army which, being politically correct, featured women soldiers and several ethnic groups. In other words, the Dutch Army, in this presentation at least, was being about as feminine as could be imagined. The local feminists were so desperate for something to serve as a masculine target for their rage against “evil men” that they paint-bombed the advertisment.
It may be significant that both of these incidents took place not far away from one of the main buildings of the University of Amsterdam (the part housing the Psychology Department).
The old brain cogs have been creaking over the various forms of displacement. Here are two examples:
This is Response Displacement. It also occurs when a male says something to a female (makes an Approach) and she replies not to him but talks to someone else instead, typically someone neutral working behind a bar.
This is probably Approach Displacement. A female perceives that a male is attracted to her and instead of saying something to him she speaks to someone else, typically a female friend. In fact, in this circumstance, the female would only have to look directly or smile at the male and he would approach.
Once in Amsterdam I made a friendly comment to a young girl walking a dog who obviously lived nearby. She actually put her hand over her mouth to stop herself responding.
Neurotic Suspension appears to be an advanced state in which displacement is wholly or partially inhibited. The individual (or, particularly efficiently, a group) becomes “frozen” in the neurotic state.
References are made in these pages to Tit For Tat (TFT) and Generous Tit For Tat (GTFT). Readers of TOA and others already familiar with basic Game Theory will appreciate what I am talking about, but others may not. Hence I give a short, informal summary of these strategies again here.
By TFT is meant ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ Only do something for something in return.
By GTFT is meant ‘Doing things for others with a prospect of a return, but allowing for the possibility that there may not be one.’
The working hypothesis which developed during these investigations was that females tend to play TFT while males tend to play GTFT, according to the definitions given above.
We may take this further to a more detailed examination of these two strategies, in accord with existing notions. The formal definition of TFT is quite simple: the Protagonist, who starts the game, cooperates on the first move and thereafter each player does what the other player last did. The problem with TFT is that if one of the players defects the result is a continual sequence of non-cooperation. The game also ends if one player defects unintentionally, or erroneously perceives a defection by the other player, or something similar goes wrong. TFT is unforgiving; if anything goes wrong that’s the end of the game.
GTFT is capable of overcoming this shortcoming. One definition has GTFT being similar to TFT but with a certain probability of cooperation after a defection. A more realistic definition of GTFT I think (looking beyond computer simulations etc.) is that GTFT is really a set of strategies which are based on TFT but have a “generous” component. For example, a GTFT strategy might overlook a single defection but not two consecutive ones; hence it is more robust than TFT (it is capable of resuming the game in the event of a mistake). However, rigidly defining the “generous” component leads to exploitation by the other player. If a single defection is invariably overlooked, the other player would maximize his payoff by alternately cooperating and defecting. (This strategy has been defined as ‘Tit for Two Tats’ or TF2T.)
Returning to the definition of GTFT first given however, ‘Doing things for others with a prospect of a return, but allowing for the possibility that there may not be one,’ an important component of GTFT is starting a game with only a minimal possibility of a payoff. An example would be starting ten different business ventures knowing or expecting nine to fail, and lose money, in the hope that one succeeds and provides an income for many years ahead. Or maintaining relations with several females in the hope that one eventually reciprocates. GTFT is appropriate if a player wishes to try the game with several different players but really only needs a successful game with one (which might sound familiar).
Living in Amsterdam one cannot have helped but notice the various ethnic groups which, according to the street hoardings, contributed to its rich and vibrant culture. There was the Surinamese, now colonizing the other way around, the Muslims, whose womenfolk were breeding prolifically (I was told that even the arch-politically correct Dutch government had stopped paying child benefits for this reason), the South Americans, the African Negroes, you name it, all went to Amsterdam to “let it all hang out” as only they knew how. But it struck me very forcibly later, by this time living in England, that the one group I did not notice was the Jews. Between the Anne Frank House, the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam, and the diamond factories, perhaps the most lucrative industry there, this particular group had the city in their pocket. Inevitably I knew some Jews, and retrospectively denoted them as such in the accounts when I discovered its significance, but in almost ten years of living there I don’t remember ever noticing the Jews as a distinct group; not once.
The following was nearly added in a footnote, but omitted from TOA as being “off-topic” (since the Jewish question is not dealt with in the book). That Jews are the racial equivalent of Base and Spoiled Female: Any involvement with them will be to our detriment. For it to be otherwise will require inordinate skill and dexterity.
This rating of egos was expunged from a late draft of TOA because the book was threatening to become encyclopedic. Nevertheless, I have had cause to refer to it several times subsequently. Egos are summarized in a music business context, because this may be the environment in which the behaviours are most overtly expressed. Of course an entertainer (like a political leader) must have a strong (big) ego to command an audience, the issue under consideration here is not its size but its quality.
4TH-RATE EGO. A musician who has no prospect of success but believes he has.
3RD-RATE EGO. The 3rd-rate ego displays disruptive behaviour either before they become famous or on the verge of it. (Such emotional outbursts are known as ‘throwing a wobbler’ in London music business terminology.) They cannot release control of any aspect of their work and suddenly make unreasonable demands or claims, attempting to maximize all available opportunities for control. The resulting power struggles destroy any chance they have of success.
2ND-RATE EGO. The 2nd-rate ego may achieve fame but displays 3RE behaviour some time later, and although by this time they would normally be so bound up in contracts that the damage is limited, nonetheless the behaviour can still be disruptive. They attempt to gather control of all aspects of the recording and publishing process.
1ST-RATE EGO. The 1st-rate ego is the artist who realizes that although he may be the figurehead he is still just a cog in a machine, and must suppress his ego to allow others to perform their roles for that machine to work properly. An individual with a 1st-rate ego gives credit to the supporting crew, allowing them complete control in their own roles.
|‘Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful’|
|George Orwell, Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, vol. 3|