Solipsism is explained in Encyclopedia Britannica as a concept in philosophy describing “an extreme form of subjective idealism that denies that the human mind has any valid ground for believing in the existence of anything but itself.” In an article titled, The Psychology of Solipsism: Our Own Private Consciousness, Psychology Today writer Kaja Pernia pointed out that while our own internal experience is the only thing we can possibly be certain about, most of us don’t actually operate this way. Instead, we are driven to understand the minds of others.
He went on to explain that we do this using a process called “mentalizing,” a complex computation requiring our brains to instantaneously pick up nuanced cues, social norms, and background information in order to model another person’s conscious experience. It is a capability that develops further with experience and maturity. The writer demonstrates this through a description of a study in which adults displayed a greater ability than children did, to recognize which of a set of similar objects their partner intended for them to grab based on considering what their partner could see while giving instructions. The children’s choices were based solely on their own perceptions and experiences, while those of the adults were based on their assessment of those of their partners, who were blocked from seeing some of the objects.
Dr. Pernia pointed out that the findings from the study suggest that the ability to mentalize is predicated on the ability to suppress our own egocentricity, or to suppress our solipsism.
I recently remembered this article when reading a Mama Mia post I ran across because it was linked in the comments under a post in the gold digger subreddit, /r/femaledatingstrategy.
The original poster was looking for advice on how to leave her fiance, who she had decided had “changed” from a high value man to a low value man because, per her description, she had begun to nag him. She described how she’s nagging him, but didn’t say anything that indicated her nagging was justified. One commenter suggested she read the article “I asked my husband to take on the mental load of feeding his dog. Here’s how it’s going.” The OP wasn’t very long and the comments were kind of dull, so I decided to check that article out.
I expected it to be horrible, irrational, and stupid, but hoo, boy, did I underestimate. It also provides a window into some feminine mentalities and passive-aggressive behaviors that we absolutely have to talk about.
This week, HBR Talk will read about a woman’s solipsistic foray into marital self-sabotage, and discuss… and if we have time maybe we’ll look at some comments, as well. You can find viewing and listening options for the livestream on honeybadgerbrigade.com.
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