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Are You a Fiction-Thinker? - Scott Adams' Blog

Are You a Fiction-Thinker?

If every new idea you encounter reminds you of a movie, song, or novel that you have consumed in the past, it might be holding you back.

Movies and books form a mental structure in your head of what is possible and what is not. But these are artificial structures based on the rules of fiction. They do not necessarily represent what is practical or possible in the real world.

As you know, all people are irrational. We make decisions and then we rationalize them after the fact and create false memories of why we did what we did. (Science supports that statement, by the way.) Consumers of fiction are not unique in being irrational. But they do have more fictional stories in their subconscious to influence how they make decisions. And I have to think that biases a consumer of fiction toward strategies that worked out well in books and movies.

My hypothesis is that fiction-thinkers conflate fiction with reality more often than other people.

I’m not a reader of fiction. For me, reading fiction is like being in a sensory deprivation chamber. Life isn’t happening for me when I am forced to read someone else’s brain drizzle in fiction form. (I consume lots of non-fiction because it is useful.)

The downside of avoiding fiction, in my case, is that I produce a lot of ideas that have already been explored by others and I am not aware of the similarities. Nearly everything I blog about generates email responses and comments saying some form of… 

“Obviously you just finished reading the works of Gustov Blickelstein. Nice plagiarizing, cartoon-boy." 

Our brains like to force things into familiar boxes. If you have the world’s greatest idea to feed the poor, but it reminds people of The Hunger Games, you can count on folks saying it won’t work. Our brains run to the nearest analogy and stick to it like glue. That might be a problem if the nearest analogy is based on fiction.

I would like to see a study of decision-making based on how much fiction one consumes. My hypothesis is that consumers of fiction will draw their "experience” in part from fiction and it will warp their understanding of what is practical or possible in the real world.

When I was a teen, adults started yapping about how our hippy music was warping our minds. We laughed at how stupid that was. But as an educated adult I can see that music rewires our brains, just as any other experience does. So listening to angry music should, according to everything we understand about human behavior and the brain, rewire a kid to be more like the people singing the songs. Influence of that sort only requires a combination of identification with the singer’s message, repetition, and emotion; Popular music provide that in abundance.

My hypothesis is that reading anything raises your intelligence in a variety of ways, as one might imagine. But I think exposure to fiction makes you less grounded in the real world (subconsciously) and more likely to make decisions the way the captain of the Enterprise would have done it, for example.

And I also think music is reprogramming the brains of kids in unpredictable and potentially dangerous ways. To believe otherwise is to believe that music is somehow the one thing in our environment that does not rewire us through repetition and emotion.

I think you all agree that our environment influences us in small ways all the time. Everything you see and learn rewires your brain. If you think fiction and music have only trivial impacts on us, you probably have a different frame of reference from me. As a trained hobbyist-hypnotist I have a unique impression of how easily we moist robots can be rewired. And as a cartoonist/blogger I see a huge volume of human reactions to what I produce; that’s how I noticed a fiction-thinking pattern, or so I think.

This isn’t an opinion piece. I’m just offering a hypothesis that fiction and music are reprogramming us to the point of influencing our happiness and our decisions. And we let that rewiring happen according to our cravings for entertainment, not our intelligence.

My guess is that on a scale from 1 to 10, you think this negative impact of fiction and music is closer to a 2, and not something to worry about in a free society. My vantage point on this topic is different from that of most of you, and my observation is that the problem is closer to an 8.

Personally, I stopped consuming angry, violent, or unhappy fiction long ago. My anecdotal observation is that it makes a gigantic difference in my mental state. But everyone is different.

My question of the day is whether you choose your fiction and music based on how it will rewire your mood and your mind, or do you select it based on its entertainment value. To put it another way, do you let your environment program you any way it wants, or do you try to manage that process?

Scott

@ScottAdamsSays

And check out the great topics my writing partners just posted.

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Start-up makes a Stethoscope that works over the Internet so you can play doctor at home.


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My book on success: “…the best business book I have read in the last decade.” (Amazon 5-star review Feb 26, 2015)