White people like writing as ‘experts’ on non-white cultures.

Stuff White People Like’s #20 Being an expert on YOUR culture is about pretentious white liberals and leftists who consider themselves “experts” on non-white cultures. Unfortunately, whites who self-identify as “antiracist” may still write as “experts” on non-white cultures, and believe that such writings are “antiracist”. At least one white antiracist believes that he has direct access to the mental states of non-white people, as well as unique insights about non-white cultures.

How psychologists accessed the thoughts of others

One problem within the history of psychology has been the problem of how a psychologist can access the mental processes of other individuals. Originally, psychologists used introspection, i.e., they asked subjects to self-report their own mental processes. However, during the behavioral revolution in psychology, introspection as a method of psychological investigation was considered unreliable and unscientific.* During the behavioral revolution in psychology, mainstream psychologists studied only human behaviour and considered the concept of “mental processes” as extraneous and irrelevant. After the behavioral revolution in psychology was the cognitive revolution, however, and now psychologists are interested in mental processes again, in addition to behaviour. However, psychologists use more advanced experimental methods to investigate mental processes, and they generally consider introspection unreliable as “direct access” to human thought.

Basically, accessing the thoughts of another individual, and drawing conclusions about what she is thinking and how she thinks, is a non-trivial task. Although it is already ignorant for a person to make psychological observations about another person without any background in psychology, it is both profoundly ignorant and oppressive for a person to make psychological observations about an entire race of people.

When this person is white, and this white person is making psychological observations about non-white people in general, it an instance of racism. Such a situation would be a continuation of the white-supremacist assumption that white people are more objective than non-white people, and know better about non-white people than non-white people know about themselves. That is, under this white-supremacist framework, the white person’s assessment of the non-white person’s mind is given higher priority and more validity than the non-white person’s assessment of her own mind or mental state. (Although a person’s introspection is still unreliable, a person interpreting another person’s introspection adds another layer of unreliability.) If a white person believes that he has obvious and direct access to the mind of a non-white person, he is under the assumption that he is objective, omniscient, and completely free of any cognitive biases that human beings have.

How anthropologists studied the cultures of others

The fields of cultural anthropology and social anthropology study human culture and human society, respectively. Socio-cultural anthropology has a history of racism, as it originated from European colonialism and the colonial project of managing and pacifying non-white societies (usually colonies or potential colonies).

In early socio-cultural anthropology, white intellectuals made generalizations about non-white cultures and societies using what is now referred to as “armchair anthropology”. Basically, these white people sat around in armchairs—literally or figuratively—and theorized about non-white people based on the personal anecdotes and travel diaries of white explorers, white traders, white Christian missionaries, and white colonial officials. The white intellectuals who “studied” non-white cultures and societies never visited the places or met the people that they studied, relying on the ostensibly “objective” reports of the white observers who did. When social anthropologist James George Frazer was asked if he had met any of the non-white people he had studied, he replied, “God forbid!”

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Why College Men May Hear ‘Yes’ When Women Mean ‘No’

When women suggest indirectly to stop or slow down sexual intimacy, men interpret these messages as requests to escalate sexual intimacy. This is due to men’s faulty introspection, according to a University of California study.

If she says, “It’s getting late,” he interprets this to mean “Let’s speed things up,” because that is what he would mean if he said it. (This research “does not address rape or other situations in which a man indeed understands ‘no’ but ignores it,” according to the news release.)

In one study, Motley gave 30 female and 60 male UC Davis undergraduates a multiple-choice questionnaire that asked about 16 common “female resistance messages.” The messages ranged from very direct — “Let’s stop this” — to very indirect — “I’m seeing someone else.” Four potential interpretations were listed for each message; only one was “stop.”

For “I’m seeing someone else,” for example, the following four interpretations were listed:

a) You want to go further but you want him to know that it doesn’t mean that you’re committed to him;

b) You want to go further but you want him to be discreet, so that the other guy doesn’t find out;

c) You want to go further but you want him to realize, in case you end up “going together,” that you may do this with someone else while you’re seeing him;

d) You don’t want to go further.

The women in the study were asked to recall a time when they used one of the messages, and to choose the answer that best matched what they meant when they said it. Half of the men were asked to recall a time when they were with a woman who communicated each message, and to choose the interpretation that best matched what they thought the woman meant when she said it. The other 30 men were instructed to choose the interpretation that best matched what they would mean if they were to communicate the messages.

By the way, for the average woman, her intended meaning is d) You don’t want to go further.

The questionnaire study showed that men were accurate at interpreting direct resistance messages like “Let’s stop this.” But they were as apt to interpret “Let’s be friends” to mean “keep going” as to mean “stop.” And few of them would mean “stop” if they were to deliver any of the indirect messages themselves.

This is amusing in a horrible way. What is fascinating about this is that there are multiple interpretations of “I’m seeing someone else,” and “Let’s be friends,” and that the male-centric interpretations assume that wanting casual sex and cheating is more likely that wanting to stop/slow down sexual intimacy.

In related studies, Motley has also shown that most women use indirect messages out of concern that men will be offended or angered by direct messages — but that most men actually accept direct resistance messages easily and without negative reactions.

This is even more intriguing. It is probably the case that women experience street harassment and find that rejecting sexual advances often results in anger/offense and being called a “bitch,” or in extreme cases, results in threats of death or rape. These studies that show men accept direct resistance messages “easily and without negative reactions” should be investigated for more details.

Motley’s book also offers practical recommendations for dealing with this type of miscommunication:

  • Men need to be aware of the many ways that women may say “stop” without using the word “stop.”
  • When a man asks himself during intimacy, “Why did she say that?” he should not try to answer the question by imagining what he would mean if he said the same thing.
  • When in doubt, ask. “So it’s getting late; does that mean we should stop?”
  • Women should use direct messages.
  • A woman who cannot be direct should at least work a direct message into the indirect one: “It’s getting late, so I’d like to stop.”

Women should definitely use direct messages, as should men and genderqueer people. Both direct and indirect communication are important skills that must be cultivated, but explicit statements can be understood by a wider range of people and are less culturally dependent.

References:

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