Abstraction may reduce specificity and decrease awareness of the contradicting information between concepts.
Abstraction helps us find meaning in the world. Sometimes abstraction is linked to intelligence, as if intelligence boosts one’s ability to abstract, or that abstraction aides in intellectual tasks. Mathematics seems to be pure abstraction for the most part, and has aided much of our science and technological progress. Language, at its core, is very abstract, which is why the development of language has been theorized to arise from our meaning-detection. Meaning, itself, requires abstraction, since we cannot replicate an exact copy of reality, in our brain. We reduce our senses into packets that can be expressed as short sounds/language.
Abstraction allows us to reduce an event or object into qualities that are generalizable across different events and objects, and this facilitates pattern recognition.
Let’s say, you go to a bar with a friend, and both of you agree that the experience is amazing. But the experience you both agree upon is not the same experience. Making it illogical to agree upon. You may enjoy the music and the people while your friend may enjoy the food and the alcohol. And somehow you are both convinced that you agree on some mutual fact. Reducing our awareness of this level of logic, benefits group-think, and benefits openness. This is an aspect I think is critical to the concept of domestication and submission.
This can be abstracted into:
Two people have experience A.
Experience A is comprised of x and y.
Person 1 enjoys x but dislikes y. Person 2 enjoys y but dislikes x.
Person 1 and person 2 both concede that experience A is enjoyable.
Experience A does not exist in reality, but x and y both exist in reality.
Person 1 and person 2 do not concede on reality but do concede on an abstract nonreality.
This demonstrates that abstraction facilitates agreement. Agreeability would lead to sociability which aides in the development of language and information sharing. Information sharing is shown to surpass the ability of intelligence, very obviously, in the case of feral children, who’s intelligence does not take them further than books and information sharing, and information sharing does not even facilitate accuracy of judgment, and in fact reduces accuracy as a trade-off for communication and agreeableness.
A reduction of specificity would make sharing information easier as well, since information is being reduced into more abstracted forms. This is not necessarily beneficial to individual cognition, because it leads to misuse of logic and contradictions as shown in the example above. It is beneficial to communication because less information is required to communicate, and information sharing is more useful to our species and societal growth than is individual correctness.
A disturbing implication of this is that it may be that our sense of empathy and theory of mind is very often falsely rationalized, and in some sense, delusional.
This example of ‘the experience’ is a psychological strategy that emerges from abstraction that we can call, truthful dishonesty. It allows one to truthfully agree with another human, in abstraction, but in reality, the facts differ, and no such agreement is true. The agreement is an illusion, an accident, an error in processing the details of reality.
I strongly suspect that abstraction is basically the most critical aspect of forming communication within a species, especially via language. In my research attempts, I did not find much on this topic, but this may be due to lack of thoroughness, as the concept seems very familiar to me. In the above example of ‘the experience’, we see that abstraction can aide in agreeableness and possibly even reduce aggression within-species due to this.
An excerpt from this awesome paper:
Here is an example for how non-abstraction would really hinder communication: A dog is a symbol for a commonly understood concept. Now imagine that you looked at each dog as individual, and no longer categorized it as an entire object, instead scrutinizing each detail, each hair, each quality, to its maximum degree. Instead of the concept dog, you might describe the 1.5 million-haired-brown-yellow-pink-black-white-almostwhite-1.5 foot-creature-standing in position x:1.092390230, y:2.092375389. Just to give an example of just how uncommunicative this can really be.
Sophistry is really just weaponized abstraction.
Dishonest agreeability is another possibility via abstraction. In the same way that accidental agreement occurs, as in the example provided above, there is also a major possibility that parts of our brain tend to lean towards dishonest abstraction, for the purpose of manipulating one’s social environment for their advantage. Our species even seems to weaponize abstraction in the form of logical fallacies, where something like a strawman arguments seems to cherry-pick all of the weakest, but true, aspects of the opponents argument, hoping that the opponent and/or audience will be persuaded due to this concept of dishonest agreeability.
One problem with abstraction being a measurement of intelligence is that it leads to errors in truth. Without abstraction, one may understand that ‘the experience’ does not exist in reality, and that only the sub-parts, music and food, exist in reality. Not only is the concession of the quality of ‘the experience’ totally false, but it allows for you to claim that it is still in fact, a truth. The problem is that the abstraction doesn’t exist in actuality, and that we are allowed to appeal to this experience as if it did exist. This is a false sense of understanding.
If we extend this false sense of understanding to our worldview, how much of what we know is in fact false, and maybe even opposite?
Abstraction allows us to sort of raise the level of concepts into a meta-realm. This realm permits continual further abstraction, and we, as humans, may have a bias to seek the lowest state of dissonance, both socially and generally. This bias would result in abstracting until you find a layer that becomes truthful, and perhaps emotionally desirable, to cope with problems we face. As an example, disagreement at the bar, may reduce the quality of the experience, so reducing the quality of perception about the experience, helps each person reduce any sense of contradiction or conflict.
The problem with intelligence is that it may be partially determined by reaching a state of lower conflict or contradiction. Abstraction may help us find what appears to be true, by definition, but not true, in reality.
The most clear example of this would be knowing a cause for an effect, where ‘something caused this’ is a sufficient explanation that remains to be true. Religion exemplifies this very well. Where science and detailed explanation seems to be turned over for the more abstract, ‘God did this by using his ability to do this.’ We can further reduce the meaningfulness of that statement and say, ‘this happened for a reason.’ Replacing this assertion of God, with physics, the same problem remains, and those who think of science this way, are not exploring science, they are following scientism.
Another problem with abstraction is that it is a reduction in information. Consider the previous example of the abstract notion, ‘dog’. This is highly communicable, and our definition for what a dog is, pertains to something loose enough to be true more easily. My argument is that the more truly intelligent answer to what the creature is, is the seemingly absurd 1.5 million-haired-brown-yellow-pink-black-white-almostwhite-1.5 foot-creature-standing in position x:1.092390230, y:2.092375389. This answer portrays much more information, but is much harder to communicate effectively.
If you’ve read my Case For Animal Cognition, you know that communication wins over intelligence. Especially in the case of ants, where their socieites have surpassed chimp societies.
SCHIZOPHRENIA AND DOMESTICATION
One of the features in schizophrenia is that their brains seem to undergo excessive pruning. This is commonly thought to be a byproduct of the physical aspects of their illness,
but I posit a new idea:
Hypothesis: Schizophrenic pruning occurs as a result of the way they use their minds, which is due to pharmacological factors, leading them to repeat thoughts less frequently, or use their brain in ways that cause differences in memory compared with the general population. The lack of repeated exposure to common thoughts would inhibit the formation of memories to the details of their thoughts, and instead promote memory for the repeated patterns between different thoughts.
Here is an example that shows this idea well, from my post on Creativity:
Try out this thought experiment that reveals how intuitive and creative thinking develops. Imagine you are taking a path to some destination A. You can take the same path every time for efficiency. Due to repeated exposure, you will memorize details of this path. With this scenario, the path becomes learned and environmental consciousness slowly fades out for autopilot because a pattern has been learned. While in automatic mode, the consciousness may rest or act leisurely and freely. This is why we dissociate when driving our commutes. But what if you took a novel path each time? Then you could not stay in this automatic state. Consciousness is required to sort out novel data for it to become habituated as well. You would not have exposure to the details of the same path each time. Instead, the only repeated details you are exposed to are the ones that are common among novel paths. This means you will learn how navigate novel paths by noticing patterns between novel paths due to memory of the repeated details among these paths. This is the basis for pattern recognition. This means that pattern recognition is not some special inherent trait, but moreso novelty-seeking, and thus also risk-taking, since novelty is inherently more risky.
Imagine that this were talking about thoughts instead of driving paths, and imagine that your thoughts are so tangential that you would end up discovering patterns between thoughts that result in epiphanies, which reinforce the habit of thought-exploration.
‘Use it or lose it’ is a really good metaphor here for the pruning hypothesis for schizophrenia.
Eventually, this lack of details would force one into a world of abstractions, due to the lack of memory for details that distinguish differences between concepts and objects. The worldview here may be logical, but too far reduced to relate to the general population. I would argue that the general population is more schizophrenic than chimpanzees, which is the argument made in my animal cognition post.
There must be an interconnectedness of neurons that begins to occur as more and more patterns are found, and thus more relatedness between concepts. I think the executive function issues in schizophrenia may be partially due to recalling lots of irrelevant information and over-consuming working memory limitations, since one concept may insight many other related concepts and their details might insight more connections and epiphanies. This may cause the common language problems of schizophrenia. The type of errors that schizophrenics make with language also exemplify the core issue of patterns and abstractions. Commonly rhyming, excessive metaphor, using words too synonymously, and other errors that usually involve a problem with concepts being too synonymous or having patterns with each other.
Imagine if every time you attempted to recall the word that is most appropriate for a distinct context, your brain had to sort through a list of relatable words that eventually consumed your mind and you forgot the initial context or reason you wished to use such a word. Context-appropriateness is very much about forming an awareness for how concepts differ, and eliminating words from those massive lists.
In this sense, abstraction and distinction could be opposites.
Distinction might promote disagreement and highly subjective perspectives, while abstraction may allow many of our experiences to appear similar and relatable, validating, and comforting. Distinction would promote conflict between individuals of a species, and abstraction would promote agreeableness.
A mind-blowing video by Veritasium that is relevant
This concept that our sense of truth is an illusion, is making the same point that my argument against abstraction as a factor of intelligence is making. It also suggests correlations that validate a lot of the ideas in this post. For example, creativity and cognitive ease, critical thinking and cognitive strain, these are both the idea of abstraction and distinction that were presented earlier.
Another interesting factor is that schizophrenics appear to find more meaningfulness in data than non-schizophrenics. There is also evidence that domestication leads to the traits that schizophrenia represents. Agreeableness, and possibly abstract thinking, is the trait that domestication may select for. There is also an amazing list of schizophrenia hypotheses on Wikipedia, to which many suggest social theories, such as agreeableness/tameness and self-domestication.
Being low in distinction may be a byproduct of forgetting the less repeated details of experiences and not having awareness that those details contradict other details. Since humans have undergone self-domestication, it is highly likely that we are lower in distinction-awareness compared to other less domesticated animals, such as a chimpanzee.
Schizophrenia may be a byproduct of the evolution of language as well as sociability, because abstraction facilitates language, and schizophrenia appears to have heavy links to abstraction, and agreeability. A disorder of decreasing distinction, and increasing abstraction.
One day, humanity will realize that animals can’t understand humanity because humans are far more schizophrenic than the non-human animals, and also humans will stop judging schizophrenics for being more human than them.