I haven't read "Games Trainers Play", but from the online descriptions, it seems to contain icebreakers and fun activities. To avoid possible misunderstanding, "Games People Play" is not like that.

Berne uses the word "game" to mean -- I'll use my own words here -- an insincere human interaction, where people pretend that they try to achieve X as an outcome of the interaction, but they actually want to achieve Y (and they arrange things so that Y actually happens). This insincerity is driven by not fully conscious forces; people may have these kinds of interactions for years without fully realizing what is going on. Sometimes the games are cooperative: both players pretend to want X, both want to achieve the same Y; both can win by playing the game. Sometimes the games are adversarial: one player pretends to want X but works to get Y, the other player either honestly wants X or they want some different Z; one player wins by making the other one lose. Sometimes the games are relatively harmless, sometimes they can ruin lives. The value of the book is describing some frequently played "games", and explaining what the X, Y and Z are for each of them. So next time you find yourself in such situation, you may have a better model of what is really happening.

Now I wonder, which of these "games" may frequently apply to wannabe rationalists...

"Ain’t It Awful" -- instead of optimizing for their goals, people complain about how the world is irrational. The pretended goal is to optimize the world. The real emotional goal is to create a sense of togetherness, and the feeling that we are better than the rest of the world.

"Blemish" -- instead of using the useful resources, people try to find fault at everything. (LessWrong is cultish; Eliezer is not fit; Gleb's articles are only read by stupid people.) The pretended goal is to make sure that things are really good before we start to rely on them. The real emotional goal is to show that everything is faulty, so we can comfortably focus on other people's imperfections instead of thinking about our own.

"Schlemiel" -- sometimes you find them at a LessWrong meetup. They don't have time to even look at the Sequences, but they have their own special theory of consciousness or quantum physics or whatever, which is based on confused thinking and pseudoscientific videos on youtube, and they will spend half of the meetup explaining the theory, while everyone who has read the Sequences is facepalming since the first few sentences. Yet you will let them speak and invite them again, because both sides are dishonest here. The pretended goal is to have a rational debate, and to be willing to hear also the minority opinions. The real emotional goal is (for the speaker) to enjoy ostentatiously breaking the social norms of the group with impunity, and (for the group) to feel superior because of how incredibly tolerant they are even in situations where it is obviously undeserved by the target.

You're entirely right, 'Games Trainers Play' is not at all like Games People Play, but it is a useful book in terms of practical applications of applied human psychology. The amount of value I've observed added to newly-formed teams and temporary groups through the contents - in terms of near-immediate cohesion, bonding, and comfortable introductions to group dynamic discussions - has been tremendous.

If I were going to retitle the two, GPP would become "Communicative Dark Arts and How To Spot Them", whereas GTP would be "Communicative Light ... (read more)

Open Thread, Dec. 28 - Jan. 3, 2016

by [anonymous] 1 min read27th Dec 2015145 comments


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