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[personal profile] proximoception
There must be a term for running warm and cold as a way to alter others' behaviours. May just fall under the "random interval reinforcement schedule" umbrella, but at least in art this has a different effect than (e.g) border guards only having to search every fiftieth car to make everyone else behave. It's seen in abusers a lot, obviously, and in conmen, but also fits those pickup artist manuals that to some extent, in among the bullshit, do record what actual men - and women - have been doing forever, in their various long or short up-picking projects.

Goodbye Columbus had a great example I've never seen discussed in criticism, where the main girl keeps embracing and then drifting away from the main boy in a swimming pool, in a way where he feels she might leave him. We're to understand she's near-unconsciously doing this, as a sort of man-catching tactic her social sphere has subtly corralled her into finding natural to do and unnatural to not do. The gist is that if someone is ambivalent about doing what you want them to, you're very sweet to them so as to show them how nice it might be to please you, and then as immediately as naturalistic behaviour permits you find some way to withdraw that niceness, even replace it with anger, or some more affect-free threat of forever removing the chance for more niceness (or less harm).

Repeating this cycle seems to be key - or maybe just narratively is for your audience to feel/see it's happening. Walking Dead's doing a version right now, and Westworld wasn't far off, is why I'm wondering. You present a world where things seem okay for a second, then, before skepticism or apathy flood back in to contextualize that initial impression you cut the moment off sharply and harshly so its loss is over-felt. Takes advantage of how the present is necessarily the one thing real to us, the owner of the mental U.N., with the past and non-imminent-future both having to make do with representatives (memories, worries, guesses) that require processing resources easily divertible during apparent emergencies. (E.g) cocaine innocently replicate this process - it frees more or the less the same types and amounts of neurotransmitters as legal amphetamine doses, just much faster and all at once, so that all your awareness is filled with this novel cocaine-state, which goes away almost immediately since it's constructed by contrast. A gradual high isn't a high at all - it's driving from Illinois to Colorado, rather than from San Francisco straight inland.

Anyway, narratively this creates two possibility-worlds, neither of which is quite true - or at least not the one existing in your head prior to being run hot and cold on. It replaces the set of choices you thought you faced with another's rewrite. This interests me because it's probably close to the spell of fiction itself, which replaces your world with its own in some sense. When the replacement is a juster model of reality than your default (conventional, undercaffeinated, forgetful or otherwise mistaken) take then that's good art, or anyway art that might be good for you, but propaganda's fiction's conjoined twin. It's true we're both in and out of fiction, but maybe in a similar way to how we're both in and out of our relationships and political alliances. State dependent memory is powerful, so just bring back the right set of cues, the pegs and tent poles, and your mark will supply (and light and paint) the canvas.

Probably explains, in part, how fiction can do so much with such sketchy amounts of detail (compared to its rival, reality's), why it's so reliant on preestablished modes of response (maybe helping explain both how genre and literary influence work (and perhaps become increasingly inescapable), and why it's so amazing and valuable to some of us when the mode changes - suggests we're now in another world, perhaps even, at last, the real one (given the obvious cracks failures of our native model of it). Suggests also that (and maybe how) a world-sense can be modified, which seems like a valuable skill even when you don't wish to con or gaslight people. If I'm congenitally mistaken talking myself into seeing the truth may be the same process as gaslighting.

And the hot and cold thing can be part of it - think how essential threats are to fiction, and how we at least feel they are when admonishing ourselves to change our ways. A lot of exaggeration can feel justified when you fear the truth will be worse than any exaggeration - perhaps because your mind is too present-oriented to recognize what more than one moment of misery is like. So you try to represent all the countries of misery in one imagined second. They'll laugh at you, rip your clothes off, smear you in filth and throw you in the sea. Or, more likely, audit you. Which is worse?

Date: 2016-12-08 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I thought that was Trump you were talking about.

I've been thinking (and writing) about this as part of what contributes to fictional reward:–end_rule

Date: 2016-12-08 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe I'm selling him short, deviltry-wise, but his strikes me as more of a "butter up everyone who has something you want, go cold on everyone you're supposed to pay" thing. Much less clever than emotional roller-coaster conditioning, but can work about as well since it's difficult to believe someone would be that selfish - sometimes even if you've seen it happen again and again. Really only requires fooling yourself, since others will then tend to find you authentic. Fooling yourself or actually being like that - feeling vaguely warm toward anyone who might listen to or help you, hating and dehumanizing anyone who might take your things. It's a kick-ass shortgame if you can sell it, but repeat it and eventually everyone hates you forever, which is more or less my prediction for his presidency.

Date: 2016-12-08 07:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Re. peak-end rule: I don't think it's the term I'm looking for but it's probably closely related.

What I'm talking about seems more the start of a narrative, or anyway of a new one. Maybe the repetitions, which via elongation make this sort of scene (a la "making a scene") seem more like a traditional narrative than a mere trauma, are aimed at making sure the desired message stays active through both the peak and end-points of the "gaslighting" experience. (Anyway it's like gaslighting in that a new reality is being imposed; very unlike it in that the imposition is immediately plausible - a con, though the versions I'm interested in wouldn't take place in stranger-stranger relationships but ongoing ones.)

I guess you could say this technique creates a sudden peak powerful enough to serve as the start of something new, such that the person being worked on opts for an end (the decision to change one's behavior so as to resolve the episode and prevent future ones like it). That person didn't even know a narration was happening - tell was camouflaged as show. Though in one's memories of the event the worst thing that happened and how it was all stopped probably function as the respective peak and end, burying all collateral memories, so maybe the technique's entirely reliant on the rule.

Might bring it very close to warning narratives, like didactic children's lit, which are pretty much supposed to traumatize. Closer still to the cruelest tv ads, I'd think - sunlit world, all happy, oh no a stain, clouds gather, stain-wearer is stricken and socially shattered, rich/attractive/confident/wise-looking friend tells them what they use, wonderful world returns still more wonderful. Though on the other hand the fables et al. tend to make room for repetition and commercials never have time to.

Fictional reward for whom? Protagonist, reader, both?


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