In this series, I lay out some “bones” for thinking about the way — the why and the how — the people we depend on for our survival, delectation, and companionship (our peeps) help us navigate the world. And we them. You might pick up these bones, if you find them interesting, and bring them back to your peeps for inspection. The collection and inspection of information is one of the things we do as members of peepdoms, Hey, did you see/hear/know…what do you think, here’s what I think…you should read/listen to…oh, don’t listen to him…I wonder if…etc….

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“Our social set consists of those who figure as people in the phrase “people are saying”; they are the people whose approval matters most intimately to us.” (27)

Walter Lippmann. Public Opinion.Dover Publications, 2004. (Original: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.) 

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“We only care what opinion is held of us because of the people who form that opinion…the people before whom we feel shame are those whose opinion of us matters to us.” (Ch. 6, p 73 & 74)

Aristotle. Rhetoric. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts. Dover Publications, 2004.

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“As early as their first years of life–far earlier than, until recently, most psychologists would have thought possible–human babies exhibit concern with what someone else not only thinks but thinks about them. For example, babies obviously bask in what can only be described as personal pride when they sense that they are approved of, and they act shamed or embarrassed when they sense that something they have done is not okay with their caregivers.” (116 & 117)

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Mothers and Others: the evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2009.

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My thoughts. Aren’t we often ashamed when we are caught in a lie? Especially when we value the trust and affection of the person who now might think a little less of us for doing so. And isn’t it so that the people who know us most intimately are liable to know when something “doesn’t seem right” with us, and vice versa? In virtue of our familiarity with each other, we often pick up on cues when one of our peeps lacks confidence or conviction in what she has said. What is curious is why we have this ‘correct information detection system’, by which I mean the correct information for a particular purpose, be it true or not, what role our peeps play in this system, and how this system works. I suggest the following simplified hypothesis which some will view as a gross banality, others a heresy. I’ve met with both reactions. (Among other more nuanced reactions.)

There are internal and external mechanisms at play in humans and in human peepdoms that constrain the information (e.g. the kinds of information) that flows back and forth between its members, perhaps analogous to a voltage regulator. I think this analogy apt given that for the survival of a group organism, the information will ideally maintain a certain amount of equilibrium in the peepdom. Hence information that poses an incorrigible threat to this equilibrium is not only more likely to be rejected by members of the peepdom, but also more likely to never be admitted to the peepdom for consideration in the first place.

Note and note well that I am not claiming that peepdoms are echo chambers where peeps agree on every little thing. Disagreeing with one’s peeps not only often makes for great fun, but is also one way peeps help each other vet information as candidates for belief, i.e. decide what to believe, how likely something is true, and so on. Yet disagreements can go terribly wrong. Sharing an article that challenges the gender wage gap is a sure way to be disinvited to some dinner parties. But it might ensure an invitation to some others. We tend to know tacitly the ‘don’t go there’ information we ought to avoid as indexed to a particular group. And most reliably indexed to those we call our peeps since its they who matter most for our survival, delectation, and companionship.

Who are your peeps? Name them. They’re with you all the time, patterned into billions of your brain cells.

What’s in a Name? A face, a voice, laughter, habits …. Series. 5.1.

The names of the people we love are like beads on a Rosary, well-worn worry stones oft-fondled for comfort and reassurance. Pam. 2019.

I would know you anywhere, dear one. I even know your shadow.

See also, Just a thought.11.

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