Things That Are Difficult To Measure

We all know that States Of Mind (SOM) are real – because we have all experienced them. And we all know that SOM occur in varying degrees, because we have all experienced them, as well. For example, the inner sense of love can be mild or medium or intense. Unfortunately, there is no clear way to compare the intensity level of any given SOM between one person and another.

Change is coming

But technology may be changing that. This link describes a computerized tool that measures a person’s sincerity in their self-reported pain-level. The system works by comparing baseline facial dynamics of people who are experiencing real pain with purposefully faked expressions of pain. It turns out that humans are only about 50% accurate in distinguishing a sincere expression of pain from an insincere expression of pain. But the computerized system is 85% accurate.  Let that sink in.

The reason for including this post here at Get Help Get Active is that there is a clear connection to the question of Reasonable Self-Exertion (RSE). We all know (again, from our own internal experience) that self-exertion occurs in varying degrees.  Similarly to the case of the inner SOM of pain, the inner SOM of exertion tends to manifest itself in a person’s face in a generally discernible expression. But again, as is true in the case of pain, the expression that normally goes with the inner SOM of exertion can also be faked.

Sincerity 2.0

What this new research shows, is that things which were once considered to be safely in the category of the “un-measurable”, may be heading over towards the “measurable” category.

Now, here’s the question: Could a machine that measures the sincerity of a person’s expression of pain be adapted to measure the sincerity of a person’s expression of self-exertion?

One of the foundational premises of Get Help Get Active is that we believe that, for a very small fraction of the poor in the United States (perhaps 1 in 300 adults), their poverty is partially (or even primarily) caused by a Mind-Based Habit of Low Self-Exertion (MBH-LSE.)  MBH-LSE can be thought of as a long-term SOM in which (by a client’s own self-appraisal) his exertion level is significantly below what he, himself, would consider RSE.

Note that we use the term “Mind-Based” to distinguish between LSE that is caused by a mind-based habit versus low self-exertion that is caused by either a physical or mental illness.  Also, we rely entirely upon self-reporting to identify clients – which is how we have come up with the 1 in 300 number.

Three kinds of pretending

We all know what it is like to exert ourselves, and we all know what it is like to just pretend to exert ourselves.  And the act of “pretending to exert” can occur in a variety of different contexts.

First, there is the act of pretending to produce RSE in the present moment.   Years ago I was a soldier.  We used to march in formation and sing songs.  The drill sergeants expected that we would sing at a sincerely loud volume.  Of course, though, that was kind of difficult to maintain.  Especially when the march, itself, was becoming tiresome.   So, from time to time, I just faked it (to take a rest.)  In other words, I still opened my mouth to follow the words.  And I added in an appropriate facial expression to match what you would expect to see from an enthusiastic singer.   (I feel kind of guilty about it now.)  At the time, I wondered if other soldiers might have been doing the same thing?

Did you study last night?

And then there is the act of pretending to have produced RSE in the past.  This happens when the teacher asks the student: “Well, did you study for the test last night?”  If the student did, indeed, study (with RSE) then the answer is easy:  “Yes.”  But if, as is sometimes the case (I am, again, drawing on my personal experience), the student has not made a RSE effort to study, then they might be tempted to lie.  Student:  “Oh, yes, I really did study a lot – but the test was so hard …”  Translation: “I did not make much of an effort to study.  But I would like for you (my teacher) to believe that I really tried.”

Many different motives might compel a student to lie about whether or not he made a reasonable effort to study.  For example, the student might be thinking:

  • Hopefully, if you, (my teacher), believe that I really did try to study hard, then you will be more inclined to show me a little mercy when you grade the test.
  • Also, I would be ashamed to directly admit that I did not make a reasonable effort to study.  Therefore, by lying, and claiming that I did make a reasonable effort, I will spare myself from experiencing the shame that would come to me from me knowing that you (the teacher) know that we both know that I am lazy …
  • Oddly enough, there is also another type of shame that comes to me from me, myself – which is me, personally, knowing that I did not make a reasonable effort to study.  But that doesn’t bother me very much.
  • Also, I suppose that there is a bit of shame that comes to me as I realize that I am lying to you (the teacher).  But, again, that doesn’t bother me very much.

Its as if a multi-layered charade is more important than the truth.

For what it’s worth, one good lesson that I learned from the Army is that, whenever you are faced with a situation like this, the best thing to do is to just say: “I have no excuse.”

Blurred lines

And then there is the case of pretending to have produced RSE in the past, and then lying about it so many times that the lines become blurred between a) what actually happened and b) what we want others to believe happened and c) what we ourselves believe actually happened.

One philosophy of professional acting holds to the idea that, by believing something to be true in his own mind, then an actor will become better able to convince his audience that the thing that he is portraying is actually true.

Of course, the danger is that, when a person relies upon this technique to “amplify” their credibility in getting others to believe that RSE was indeed applied in a given situation, then they put themselves at risk of believing their own lies.

The end of an era?

In any case, this whole field of  “pretending”, as fruitful as it may have been throughout the course of human history, may be coming to an end as an art-form.  This will happen due to the new technology, i.e., a computerized tool that will measure an individual’s sincerity when it comes to self-reporting their own inner SOM of self-exertion.   And the result may very well be, as the preliminary Get Help Get Active data seems to indicate, that a huge swath (again, perhaps 1 in 300) of the adult population in America will be discovered (some might say “exposed”) to be suffering from MBH-LSE-induced poverty.

Get Help Get Active

RSE is a good example of a difficult to measure SOM.  That is, it is difficult to scientifically compare the inner sense of self-exertion in one person to the inner sense of self-exertion in another.  And perhaps it is even more difficult to (again, scientifically) compare a single individual’s inner sense of what they themselves believe should be their own inner standard of RSE against what, again, they themselves perceive to be their own current level of self-exertion.

But as hard as it may (currently) be for science to prove or disprove things about the human mind, when we ourselves quietly reflect, the answers are usually obvious.  In fact that is how we can, ourselves, know true love when we experience it in our own hearts.

So how about you?  Are you at a place that you are comfortable with when it comes to your own RSE?  Or do you see yourself more in the MBH-LSE category?

If you find yourself over in the MBH-LSE area and, simultaneously, you are struggling to make ends meet, then please remember that free and confidential help is available.  You can even get paid just for participating.  While there is life, there is hope.  Get help and get active!

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5 Responses to Things That Are Difficult To Measure

  1. NHS says:

    What would have helped me back in the old days?

    If someone would have been willing to talk with me about my laziness? And pay me for my time? That wld have been really cool. I wld have wanted to help them to move the research forward. Plus your going to pay me? Wow! Thank you for trying to help me. I need encouragement to stay on track. I watch too much tv. Ug. I procrastinate on my homework. Ug. I think a lot of it revolves around me not sleeping on a regular schedule. How can I make that change? I am already pretty far behind. :-p. I hate myself for it. I have caused my own problems. I probably wld deserve to fail again this semester. I am wasting time and money with Blasteroids. And drinking (back in the old days.). This is too good to be true. Thank you sir for trying to help me. Just don’t be a prick about it though. Dont be condescending, plz.

  2. PAL says:

    An Act Of Exasperation

    People sometimes respond to the presence of things that are difficult to measure by claiming (incorrectly) that they are non-factors. But this usually occurs only as an act of exasperation. We know that, in fact, difficult to measure things are actually very important – for example love, loyalty, trustworthiness, friendliness. These are all extremely important and they occur in varying degrees and these varying degrees are roughly measurable.

    Editor’s Note: Blocked paragraph borders.

  3. PAL says:

    Cartoon: Two panels: A person claiming to have 10/10 pain is being observed by a doctor. The Dr thinks: “I am only able to tell if people are sincere 50% of the time.” Second panel: The computer is observing the same person and “thinks” “I can tell if they are sincere 85% of the time.”

  4. PAL says:

    Does Everyone Love Their Children Equally?

    I read an article about a young person who was shot by the police. The police claimed that they were justified in shooting the young person. The parents claimed that the police were not justified.

    It turned out that the parents were divorced and that they both had criminal records. So the suggestion was put out (in a blog comment) that the child’s behavior (which the police claimed justified the shooting of the child) was partly due to his parent’s non-involvement in his (the child’s) life.

    I don’t know what may have happened in the case in question. But it raised an intriguing idea to me: Do all parents love their children with equal intensity?

    I think that the obvious answer is: No.

    Of course, this is very difficult to measure. But it stands to reason that it should be the case, since each of us knows, from our personal inner experience, that the sense of love that we feel toward other people does vary from time to time and from person (object of love) to person. So why should it not be that the same thing happens with parents loving their children?

    A New Tool

    Now lets suppose that a new invention came into being. The invention is able to measure the strength of your feeling of love toward another person. So you could measure the strength of your love for many different people – whether child, parent, sibling, neighbor, etc.

    I think that we all know that it would reveal some very embarrassing truths.

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