Thursday 4 November 2010

Influential Information Flow

”He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
Friedrich Nietzsche
When you want to convey thoughts to someone you translate it into speech or body language. The latter might even happen unconsciously and most of the time you do not have to concentrate on getting a message out unless you are learning a new language. Usually some of these signals and sounds you make will be picked up by another person through his/her different senses. Spoken language will be received by hearing, while body language might be picked up through sight or touch. These signals will be interpreted by the other person and translated into thought again.

Communication is seldom (if ever) perfect, as we can se from all the misunderstandings around us. Languages are too inexact to describe what we mean sometimes. We also make mistakes and try to interpret things from our own view. Another thing that is very important when we convey information is context. The speaker might know something that the listener does not know, which makes the recipient of the message interpret something differently than he was meant to. Speaking different languages is an extreme example of this, where you can only rely on trying to get your message across through body language or some common words.

Another thing that affects communication is when the listener filters the information. An emotion, like anger, could act like a filter and make us less willing to receive whatever is being said. Being tired or not being interested in the topic will also act as filters. Filters might not stop all communication, but a lot more information gets lost on the way or even misinterpreted because of different mental states.

All communication works this way, sending thoughts between people. Sometimes (e.g. when watching television) the thoughts go only in one direction, but most of the time thoughts flow back and forth between people all the time.

Not only communication gets interpreted by the brain. In fact everything that our senses pick up is input. Because everything we feel gets translated into thoughts, our thought patterns get affected by what happens around us. From this we can also draw the conclusion that if there are people around us we will also be affected by them. Because their actions are a result of their thoughts, this would mean that we are influenced by other people's thoughts indirectly. This is not as frightening as it seems most of the time, as you would also influence them back at the same time (except in the case of one-way communication). The filters also come into play—we are more susceptible to influence from people we like for example.

What would happen if these filters were removed? Would thoughts then flow freely between everyone? One could theorize that in that case two different personalities would slowly change towards each-other and converge on a single point. It would be more complex in a huge population and you would get background noise in the form of environmental input, but our filters could actually be what creates our individuality.

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