[B]ecause our senses point outward, we can observe other people's actions but not our own. [B]ecause mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves — but that the opposite will be true of other people's reasons and other people's punches. …
[In an experiment in which two volunteers were asked to respond to touches from each other with equal force, here's what actually happened.] Although volunteers tried to respond to each other’s touches with equal force, they typically responded with about 40 percent more force than they had just experienced. Each time a volunteer was touched, he touched back harder, which led the other volunteer to touch back even harder. What began as a game of soft touches quickly became a game of moderate pokes and then hard prods, even though both volunteers were doing their level best to respond in kind. …
Research teaches us that our reasons and our pains are more palpable, more obvious and real, than are the reasons and pains of others. This leads to the escalation of mutual harm, to the illusion that others are solely responsible for it and to the belief that our actions are justifiable responses to theirs.
Monday, July 24, 2006
"He hit me first.” “But he hit me harder.”
In an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times Daniel Gilbert talks about the asymmetry between action and experience.