Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mixed stereotypes

You have surely noticed that I'm a big fan of explaining erratic human behavior in WoW and IRL with psychology, especially with "ape subrutines", remaining atavistic mental schemes from early ages.

I've found a real gem that explains lot of actions in WoW and especially in the blogosphere. This is Susan Fiske's mixed stereotype theory. If you are more interested in the topic, read all 25 pages of her article.

While rampart racist/sexists/whateverist people openly state that the other groups are worse than them in all fields, most people - who claim to be nice and tolerant - have a two dimensional stereotyping system. They judge the other groups by competence (strength) and warmth (friendlyness, niceness, helpfulness). Obviously only one group score high in both fields: themselves and their own group (and maybe the cultural middle class).

On this two dimensional system, there are four ideal-types and dominant feelings towards them:
  • Strong and good (themselves): high self esteem and often feeling of being chosen to lead
  • Strong and evil: envy
  • Weak and good: pity and paternalistic domination
  • Weak and evil: contempt
The reason for these categories are ape-subroutines: it had evolutional advantage to know the other one's intent towards us (warmth) and ability to carry out his decision (competence). These categories remained with us, although they lost their original usefulness long ago.

This system allows the person to have stereotypes while claiming to have none. He claims that he has both good and bad opinions about the group equally. Therefore he keeps on preaching his stereotypes without shame and rejects any blame to be racist/sexist/whateverist. However the distribution of these "opinions" are quite systematic allowing him to be whateverist.

Towards the "strong and evil" groups there are envious stereotypes. While he has good opinions about their intelligence, strength and overall abilities to handle themselves, he also has bad opinion about the intentions and moral about these people. Typical targets of such stereotypes are the businessmen, the Jews and the Asians.

Towards the "weak and good" groups there are paternalistic stereotypes. While he "loves" them for their niceness, good hearth and clean moral, he also believes that these beings need his "guidance and help" since they are weak and silly. Typical targets of such stereotypes are the women who live by the "women roles", the elderly, and the young. Sometimes other ethnics also go to this group.

The person's own connection to these group determines these stereotypes. Compliant subordinates, like housewife who serve her husband, the "good child" or the "hard working black" are perceived with paternalistic stereotypes. Successful competitors like Asians, Jews or hardcore players are perceived with envious stereotypes. It's that simple: if I obey you, I'm good but weak therefore should keep on obeying. If I'm successful and not doing what you say, I'm strong, but "obviously" evil.

In the article (and referenced ones) they collected lot of data by questioning people about different traits of other groups. The traits gathered into groups (if someone considered X helpful, he also considered him honest, moral, ethical) and there were two groups of traits: the mentioned warmth and competence. The average results of the several groups are displayed on the picture, forming the mentioned four clusters. The only difference from the "pure" theory is that the "middle class" was placed to the center and not into the "strong and good" corner. Other data shown bit different but very similar clusterisation.

Why this study is important? Because it reveals a simple way for people to dismiss and ignore their opponents by placing them to the "strong and evil" cluster. It's quite typical on blog and forum discussion that instead of answering the idea, the writer of the idea is labeled as asshole, selfish, immature, irresponsible, "do not have enough love", "hates the good people" and so on. By doing so the commenter tries to activate the other people's built-in stereotypizing system, just like the reductio-ad-hitlerum users.

It is also typical in guilds that M&S is considered a "good friend" and unsuccessful guilds are considered "socials" or "casuals with lot of IRL obligations". Such claims try to activate the "weak and good" stereotypes, allowing one to "rightfully" rule these people, giving them gear but not teaching them anything.

What everyone must keep in mind that these classifications are based on one and only one condition: your connection to them. If they are competitors they are viewed as "cold", if they are allies or subordinates, they are considered "warm". You will automatically have such opinions about other groups (ape subroutines in work), and you must do mental effort to reject these automatic ideas.

Please notice that "warmth" is not a scientific term, you cannot measure it by any device or even by some consensual opinion survey. While goo is considered "disgusting" by all, the perceived "warmth" of people is different for all. For example Asians are considered cold in the USA (lot of highly performing Asian students) but warm in Europe (always smiling vendors of Chinese restaurants and cheap-clothing shops).

The "warmth" dimension is useless, pointless and good for one thing only: to let people remain a dumb sexist/racist/whateverist.

17 comments:

Owen said...

This post makes some interesting points. I must admit, I have caught myself categorising people in a similar fashion.

However, I disagree with the final point made.

"The "warmth" dimension is useless, pointless and good for one thing only: to let people remain a dumb sexist/racist/whateverist."

"Warmth" definitely has its uses, even purely goblin uses, despite the fact it is not scientifically quantifiable.

"Asians are considered cold in the USA (lot of highly performing Asian students) but warm in Europe (always smiling vendors of Chinese restaurants and cheap-clothing shops)."

I think it would be fair to say that the european smiling vendors are going to reap some rewards if they perpetuate a community perception of "warmth". Happier customers lead to repeat business, word of mouth promotion, and greater profits.

If the customer considers the vendor to be "weak and good" that's a favourable classifcation. It could be argued that that'd be the best classification for the vendor - he is able to exploit these ape sub-routines for profit.

One of the blizzard tips goes something like: "Being polite and friendly is more likely to get you invited back to a group." I think that's true. Consider the following example:

You find yourself in a PuG with a player who has below average dps. However they consistently ask politely before rolling for loot, or provide the casters with drinks, or even crack jokes that make you laugh. You are much less likely to kick them, based on their dps performance* - you might even add them to your firends list. *Unless of course Gevlon has lead! But I think Gevlon would be the first to admit - he is an exception to the rule.

Personally, I find myself enjoying the "warm fuzzy" moments in WoW much more than the economically favourable moments. Having said that, I try to put myself in position to have both as often as I can.

Anonymous said...

I've seen you use the term "M&S" frequently. Could you clarify what you mean by that?

*vlad* said...

Interesting stuff.
Dare I say that you have 2 groups in your own world view and not two?
Specifically, the Goblin subset, and the Losers subsetp.

Also the goblin subset could be further divided into the Winner and Loser Goblins.

This is not a rant by the way, so don't take it as such.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: M&S: morons and slackers

@vlad: I have only one scale, the competence. I respect those who are effective, even if I don't see any profit from it, or even if I lose profit because of them. On the other hand I have no pity for the incompetent, just contempt.

Sydera said...

This is actually pretty interesting--and I spend a lot of my work time researching cultural stereotypes (from medieval Europe, however, so I don't get to use pop psychology). The one thing I wonder about is why you think top guilds are supposed to "teach" the next tier (casuals, etc) anything. Even I don't put this burden on myself, outside my blog posts anyway. Even with my new recruits to the guild, I try to make sure they come in with a skill set.

In any case, "casuals" in WoW aren't a social class or an ethnicity. It's a fluid term that people occupy for some period of time. Most of what I would call casuals could actually learn. But I've found the exact same thing with the casual raider that I get with my language students. No one learns until he or she starts putting in adequate effort. In the case of language learning, some of my students don't see the point of learning the difference between verb endings for the first and third person. In the language I teach, this makes a HUGE difference. In connection, many casual raiders don't see the point of something like learning to turn with the mouse. Over my years as a language instructor I have learned not to attach any personal feelings--neither contempt nor pity--to this situation where someone, for some reason, fails to perform. I'm a whole lot happier that way. I appreciate my students as people and give them the grades their (lack of) accuracy earns without feeling one way or the other about it. In fact, I usually don't remember what grade they got. All this is to say--that the opt-in categories don't work the same way as class and race. As social creatures we have deep-seated prejudices about these categories. It takes years of work to overcome the contempt/pity feelings, but it can be done, and it takes a lot of self-examination. The feelings might be similar, but I really don't see WoW categories of "competence" as the same type of monolithic identifiers as race.

B&K said...

Gevlon said,

"It is also typical in guilds that M&S is considered a "good friend" and unsuccessful guilds are considered "socials" or "casuals with lot of IRL obligations". Such claims try to activate the "weak and good" stereotypes, allowing one to "rightfully" rule these people, giving them gear but not teaching them anything"

He claims that unsuccessful guilds (in wow terms that would seem to mean guilds that are not at te forefront or PVE or PVP)are labeled casual or friends guilds only out of an ape subroutine.

But he is forgetting something very important here.

Some guilds ARE actually casual guilds or friends guilds. That is their entire function, the reason they were made, and thus they ARE successful.

The weakness of Gev's post and classifying things in this way is that "success" is defined by the individual, and an third party cannot hope to ever classify if another person is successful or not.

spinksville said...

So the question is, why would people choose to act in a warm manner if there's no point to it?

And I think this comes down to jostling for social status -- in some social circles you earn social capital by being seen as a helpful person, and some guilds are just like that. So if people want to gain prestige in that guild, they have to act warm. And also some people like to help others because it makes them feel good/ useful.

If you look up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, it also explains why people like Lum care about the status of their job even though any job works as a vehicle for earning money. Different people have different needs.

Superconqui said...

@ B&K,

I think that anyone that plays WOW, even if they dont want to admit it, would like to progress in any one of the ways the game is designed to measure success. No one joins WOW, just to talk to their friends, or least plays lvl 80 content just to talk to their friends (if that is the main goal then you can call someone on the phone). So I think that measuring competence based on in game achievement is good. the lvl of achievement can be different for people, but how well you are able to obtain those goals without someone else carrying you is what this post is about. I dont think that in WOW you can say, its cool I enjoy wiping on heroics over and over agian as long as my friends are here, rather I am happy just doing heroics with my friends and activily getting better at them and maybe even getting all the heroic achievements done.
This is how WOW tries to have some lvl of play for everyone, by having measurable achievements ( and attainable ones) for almost all players.

B&K said...

@ Superconqui said...

"
I think that anyone that plays WOW, even if they dont want to admit it, would like to progress in any one of the ways the game is designed to measure success. No one joins WOW, just to talk to their friends, or least plays lvl 80 content just to talk to their friends (if that is the main goal then you can call someone on the phone)."

You are correct that everyone who plays tries to progress through one or more of the types of content. However, again, much like the word success, progress is a debatable term that each person interprets differently. A hardcore raider doesn't see karazhan as progress. But a casual player might see a level 20 dungeon as progress.

So to say that a casual guild is a failure because they are not endgame is a laughable statement.

The truth is that the majority of wow players are not raiders or hardcore arena players. Most people do play for fun, for social interaction, etc. That is the reason they play, their goal so to speak. So in that they are successful. They just have a different goal, so judging them on their (lack of) success is pointless.

Gevlon said...

@Sydera: I've never told that pro *guilds* should teach M&S. I'm talking about those pro *players* who are in M&S guilds and boost them, although they could get into better guilds.

@B&K: Your opinion is the perfect example of the paternalistic stereotype. "They play for fun and social interaction" is exactly the "warmth". They are "good social" people (and obviously incompetent).

B&K said...

Gevlon

that is where you are wrong. Understanding that different people play for different reasons is not "warmth" it is simply rational objective thinking.

My outlook here is not the paternalistic one. I am just intelligent enough to realize that just because someone isn't achieving the same goal that I am focused on, it doesn't mean that they are not achieving their own goal, and thus are not incompetent.

The fact that someone has a different goal then you does not make them incompetent. If someone has a different goal then you and is failing on THAT goal, then that person is incompetent.

There is a huge difference.

Gevlon said...

@B&K: that reasoning allows the person to be "winner" merely by lowering his aims enough. If my only objective is staying alive, than my life is a continuous victory march. There must be some kind of objective standards. In school, it's SAT, in business it's money gained, in WoW it's bosses killed or arena rating.

B&K said...

@B&K: that reasoning allows the person to be "winner" merely by lowering his aims enough. If my only objective is staying alive, than my life is a continuous victory march. There must be some kind of objective standards. In school, it's SAT, in business it's money gained, in WoW it's bosses killed or arena rating.


That is where you are wrong. most things in life have no objective standards.

People all define success in different ways for different things. Just because someone has a differnt goal then you does not mean they lowered their aims, it means they aimed at something else.

Even some of your examples are false, or incomplete. Take business for example. My boss owns his own company. He has 2 employees. Me and one other guy. He makes enough money to live a VERY comfortable life and to pay his two employees (one being me) a much higher then average salary then others in the business we are in, and give us huge annual bonuses. We work only in very high end homes and are the premier best of the best shop in town in our industry.We also refuse a lot of "dirty, heavy, crappy" work.

That said.... we COULD do a lot more work then we currently do. We could expand, hire more people, accept the dirty heavy crappy jobs we turn down and yes the company and the boss would make more money then he does now. It is 100% possible. However... it would also mean having to work longer harder hours, have less free time, have more stress, and be less happy because we would be doing things we do not like.

So... Is my boss successful because he is doing exactly what he wants and making the kind of money he wants? Or is he a failure because he could be making more money?

Gevlon said...

B&K: your boss surely makes more money than most of your countryman. I guess he is in the top 10% income group. So he is successful. He could be MORE successful by taking the dirty work (like be in the top 1%), but he is successful enough, by the objective standard of "which income group he belongs".

Your boss is like the raider who did everything except Sarth+3. He could be more successful but he is already in the top.

Pzychotix said...

@B&K:

So, in your mind, a person has found a way to make much more money than you for the same amount of work is no more successful than you, because you set the bar much lower?

That makes very little sense, if at all.

B&K said...

Pzychotix said...

@B&K:

So, in your mind, a person has found a way to make much more money than you for the same amount of work is no more successful than you, because you set the bar much lower?

That makes very little sense, if at all.

No.. I never said that.

I said someone who meets their own personal goal is successful in doing that goal.

In my business goal, I would say my boss is successful because he is making the kind of money he wants [b]and working only as much as he wants. [/b]

If what gev says is true and there is only one single definition in business for success then my boss would not be successful because he isn't making the most money he could be making.


In your example you are setting the same intent or goal (making money) with the same criteria (same hours of work) and the same measure of success (money). so of coarse the guy making more money on the same work is more successful.

However if you changed your example and made the goal of said person to work less hours and still have enough to support his family, you cannot compare him to another guy who's goal is to work as much as he can to make as much money as he can. In this type of example the two people are not chasing the same goal so judging them both on the same measure of success is pointless and flawed.


To make this a WoW example... no you should not tolerate M+S in your raid guild just because their goal is to play for friendship... that would be stupid because they don't have the same goal as your guild (killing bosses). However, it does mean that judging a social guild (that doesn't want to raid) as unsuccessful because they haven't killed any raid bosses is stupid. They are not trying to.

Russell said...

I think you have some interesting ideas in this post, but you end up being entirely too reductionist. Any model of human behavior has to be more inclusive than your 2-axis diagram, or you end up saying things like this:

"Please notice that "warmth" is not a scientific term, you cannot measure it by any device or even by some consensual opinion survey. While goo is considered "disgusting" by all, the perceived "warmth" of people is different for all. For example Asians are considered cold in the USA (lot of highly performing Asian students) but warm in Europe (always smiling vendors of Chinese restaurants and cheap-clothing shops).

The "warmth" dimension is useless, pointless and good for one thing only: to let people remain a dumb sexist/racist/whateverist."


Utterly preposterous. First of all, psychology is unequivocally the least empirically grounded of the major sciences. In fact, many "hard" scientists (like Richard Feynman) speak of psychology with unmitigated scorn, and believe that it has yet to graduate to the level of a real science.

The reason for this is simple--where biology is built on chemistry is built on physics, there is a massive gap in between biology and psychology. One cannot yet "derive from first principles," as it were. One ends up relying on a pile of nebulous BS out of necessity. So any psychological characteristic that is dismissed out of hand for being insufficiently scientific should be reexamined.

Second, you seem to forget that primates are social animals. Another one of our "ape subroutines" was an evolutionary environment of a tribal group. Most primates today live in such groups, as it is in their distinct personal advantage to band together for the common defense. Thus we developed personal connections, to assist in making these groups more tightly-knit, and as a process of weeding out those who would not contribute to the common good. This is pretty much simple game theory.

Now, one can read too much into this--half the reason that chimps band together, for example, is to go out and cannibalize other chimps--but there is a vast body of knowledge you're discarding through that simple sentence above. Warmth has a nontrival benefit for the individual and the group.