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Reference Points

I just spent some time reading Thomas Schelling's "Choice and Consequences" and I heartily recommend it. Here's a Google books link to the chapter I was reading, "The Intimate Contest for Self Command."

It's fascinating, and if you like LessWrong, rationality, understanding things, decision theories, figuring people and the world out - well, then I think you'd like Schelling. Actually, you'll probably be amazed with how much of his stuff you're already familiar with - he really established a heck of a lot modern thinking on game theory.

Allow me to depart from Schelling a moment, and talk of Sam Snyder. He's a very intelligent guy who has lots of intelligent thoughts. Here's a link to his website - there's massive amounts of data and references there, so I'd recommend you just skim his site if you go visit until you find something interesting. You'll probably find something interesting pretty quickly.

I got a chance to have a conversation with him a while back, and we covered immense amounts of ground. He introduced me to a concept I've been thinking about nonstop since learning it from him - reference points.

Now, he explained it very eloquently, and I'm afraid I'm going to mangle and not do justice to his explanation. But to make a long story really short, your reference points affect your motivation a lot.

Most internet trolls are mentally ill?

I just had a brilliant conversation with Sam Snyder - extremely smart guy.

We talked about a lot of things, and a few stood out to me - he clued me into the notion that many internet trolls might actually be mentally ill.

It's like, how bad off do you have to be to get satisfaction out of blogs, social news sites, and discussion forums? Pretty bad. As Sam put it, "Bad enough that you can't even get satisfaction out of playing video games."

More interesting, though, is that Sam introduced me to the concept of "emotional contagion" - by getting exposure to others' emotions, you frequently start to feel those emotions too.

So when you deal with people who are hostile and off-balance, it can make you a little more hostile and off-balance yourself. Scary stuff.

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