thin-slicing (DUO)

I made many quick decisions based on brief encounters during this conference – about people’s character, ambitions, and intentions. Reciprocally, many of the people I met made similar judgments about me, particularly in regard to “being blogged.” This was “thin-slicing” in action.
One of the examples used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink, on the ways our unconscious makes rapid decisions based upon accumulated experience is the fist produced by Morse Code telegraph operators. ”’Fist” refers to the individual style in which a ham operator transmits Morse code.’ Gladwell relies on mathematical modeling from John M Gottman (“The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models“), who describes two
possible states
in a relationship: positive emotion override or negative emotion override.
I haven’t come across anything yet that addresses cultural constructions of emotion, and marital relationships are obviously not the same as those between friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. I do wonder, however, at the extendability of the basic dichotomy (and hierarchy) Gottman poses of five “positive” to one “negative” emotions for a successful relationship.
There was a great deal of affection evident among various groupings of people at the Dialogue under Occupation conference, and a few serious splits. Some people’s “fists” became evident as the conference unfolded into the second, third, and fourth day. I’m extending the metaphor of the Morse Code fist to refer to ways I witnessed certain emotional reactions when ideas were questioned, disagreed with, or challenged. In other words, how did scholar/activists manage conflictual discourse among ourselves? What kind of dialogue was enacted under the terms of our own ‘occupations’?
I am wondering if the splits I observed can be mediated by choosing discursive strategies indicative of positive emotion override. I don’t mean bullshit hypocrisy (which I did not witness), but rather a ‘positive’ valuing of discursive engagement with those who hold counter-view, perspectives, and experiences than our own. The ’emotion’ triggered by these differences might be ‘negative’ on its surface (or even its depth), e.g., anger, pain, perhaps even threat or fear (which I did not sense personally directed but seemed omnipresent in a vague way). Can a ‘positive’ overlay transform initial gut ‘negative’ reactions? Is there value in examining those ‘blink’ moments of unconscious thin-slicing?
Can we develop a discourse of critical engagement premised upon interrogating our own accumulated experiences? I propose that by doing so we can collaboratively tease out some of those instant thin-sliced convictions based on environmental conditioning and move more productively into a joint ethics that can be more effective in promoting the large-scale institutional changes many of us hope to effect.
(That is a mouthful!)
[Tangent: Pavements as Embodiments of Meaning for a Fractal Mind]

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