Take Aim

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Goal directed [Selective] attention

One's currently active goal drives what one attends to in the busy real world.

An active goal (e.g., to find something to eat) caused the mental representations relevant to attaining the goal (e.g., restaurants, bodegas) to become somewhat more active than usual and thus more ready to become activated by corresponding stimuli in the environment.

Selective attention is a powerful tool in the reduction of the often overwhelming abundance of information available in the current environment.

It is sometimes quite striking how powerful this selective attention process is in reducing what 'gets through' to influence us; the phenomenon of 'inattentional blindness' being a dramatic example.

In one study, for example, participants involved in a computer-simulated three person 'ball toss' game very often did not notice - and were surprised to find out later - when a large gorilla walked right through the game across the middle of the screen.

[John A. Bargh]
'What have we been priming all these years? On the development, mechanisms, and ecology of nonconscious social behaviour' published in European Journal of Social Psychology, Jan 2006, p.158, 159


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From a self-organizing systems perspective, goals [...] operate as the attractors around which human behavior is organized (Carver & Scheier, 2002) […] 

[…] the entropy experienced by a goal-directed system is inversely related to the amount of perceptual and behavioral constraint provided by a goal. 

Poorly defined or vague goals are therefore less likely to provide effective uncertainty-reducing effects, as they are incapable of sufficiently narrowing the range of potentially relevant affordances [...] In such cases, it becomes impossible to specify the motivational significance of any given event, as there will be no clear reference value by which to judge the experience. 

While the natural tendency of all information systems is to return to a state of dissolution and energy dispersal, behavioral plans help organisms to minimize their overall entropy levels (i.e., strengthening their coherence as a functional entity) by providing clear and specific strategies for acquiring needed resources in the face of uncertainty and determining the appropriate way to interpret and respond to environmental input.

Calculating the appropriate response without [a high level] goal becomes extremely difficult, as the number of potential options grows exponentially and the distribution of possible actions and perceptions extends beyond the individual’s computational capacities.

Effective plans are thus essential tools for combating the inevitable thermodynamic dissolution that comes with time, as they help to maintain the structural integrity of complex biobehavioral systems.

The work that is required during goal pursuit can be considered in terms of the path length to goal attainment. In some cases, the path length is relatively short, requiring minimal effort, few steps, or transformations of state to achieve the goal and typifying an efficient low-entropy situation of high stability.

Behaviors that appear to provide the optimal (i.e., most efficient) path to a goal in any given moment thus come to be weighted more heavily in the distribution of possible actions.

Psychological entropy appears inversely related to the integrity of an individual’s existence in the world, as reflected in his or her ability to successfully perform work and obtain rewards through goal-directed perception and action. Much of our lives is spent trying to reduce and manage the uncertainty that we encounter.

[Jacob B. Hirsh, Raymond A. Mar, and Jordan B. Peterson]

'Psychological Entropy: A Framework for Understanding Uncertainty-Related Anxiety'


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Guiding Fiction
Walk a Straight Line 

1 comment:

  1. When we are hungry we may notice more places where we can eat, and in doing so not notice other things. Our drives can greatly influence our perception of the world, and define our experience.

    It's a simple truth, but one worth remembering; you can't stop to smell the roses when you don't even see any roses in the first place.

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