I don't think there's anything wrong with comparing 1 and 3. Yes, Reaction 1 is defined by an ideal, Reaction 2 is defined by a goal, and Reaction 3 is defined by an evolutionary impulse (whatever that means), but that does not make these things incomparable. If you have a goal in mind, you can determine the relationship between these three Reactions to the goal, and you can hope to come up with some ordering of Reactions with respect to that goal. For example, if you want to judge these reactions in terms of how well they indicate an individual's strive towards a goal that the reactor would consider worthwhile, I'd argue that Reaction 3 is, with high likelihood, a stupid option.

Regarding your sudden doubt in your own perspective, the problem here is that you didn't define a goal. By not defining a goal, your implicit goal was allowed to become something you didn't understand, and the reasoning behind your judgement was allowed to become highly subjective and non-conveyable. You can fix this particular issue by making sure to always think of "goodness" and "badness" in relation to explicitly specified goals. The more general issue is that you don't have a basis for recognizing when you believe things are reasonably comparable. You can fix this more general issue by studying more math, specifically category theory.

Regarding your actual question, try redefining your three reactions in terms of each of the three properties you used to define them: reaction from ideal, reaction from goal, reaction from evolutionary impulse (whatever that means). Under what ideal is it correct to ignore the mismatch and carry on the conversation? (I think korin43 answered most of this question.) Under what ideal is it correct to display anger? Towards what ends is it good to Google the unknown reference before responding? Towards what ends is it good to get angry?

As a side note, I've never seen evolutionary anything used as a concrete justification for a phenomenon where it couldn't equally well be used to justify the lack of the same phenomenon. More often than not, I see it as an attempt to hand-wave away a complex behavior because thinking is hard.

Mismatched Vocabularies

by Error 1 min read21st Nov 201613 comments


Sometimes I'll be speaking to someone and use an obscure word or concept they're unfamiliar with. There's a few different reactions, and, well, I understand mine and do not understand the ones that are not mine. I spent five minutes thinking about it, trying to model why people are crazy and the world is mad, and came up with these more-common reactions and my hypotheses:

  1. Google the unknown reference, get the definition or wikipedia summary, then respond ("understanding is necessary to communication and now I've learned something new").
  2. Ignore it and carry on the conversation as best possible anyway ("doesn't matter what it meant, I'm just here for the social contact").
  3. Get angry at the ostentatious erudition ("you have just made an implied status grab and I'm slapping you down").

If it's not obvious, #1 is my knee-jerk reaction to unknown references; #2 seems to be the way most people deal with it; and I have a lot of difficulty dealing with #3 even remotely charitabl--STOP.


I don't get to use a verbal justification of #1 and compare it to an evopsych historical-cause of #3. That's a type error, or something, and also hypocrisy: by making the comparison, I'm setting myself above those poor adaptation-executing sheep, i.e. I'm doing exactly what (I think) they're getting angry at me about. Despite my uncharitable framing, their implied complaint is absolutely correct!

This bothers me, and I suddenly don't trust my own perspective, so I'm farming it out: what's really going on here? What do #2 and #3 feel like from the inside, and what's the symmetric explanation of #1?