I don't understand how using friendly behavior to reinforce people visiting one's desk precludes that behavior being genuine. You seem to be dismissing the possibility that the person in question feels real affection, and is smiling because they are in fact happy that their desk is being visited. Just because they are using their (real) positive response to coworkers visiting their desk as positive reinforcement doesn't mean that their behavior is "fake" in any way.
Just like a woman who feels a surge of affection towards her husband when he puts away the laundry, and kisses or praises him.
Yes, it's positive reinforcement, but it's also a genuine response.
If A means not B, then selecting for A is only the same thing as selecting against B IF A doesn't also mean other things, besides not B.
In the dating example, a (straight) woman might employ positive selection to choose men who are particularly decent people. This would also have the effect of weeding out thieves and rapists (assuming that the woman in question can assess a man's decency with sufficient accuracy), but the quality of "being a decent person" doesn't only mean one isn't a thief and a rapist; it's more wide-ranging than that.
Name: Tuesday Next
I am an undergraduate student studying political science, with a focus on international relations. I have always been interested in rationalism and finding the reasons for things.
I am an atheist, but this is more a consequence of growing up in a relatively nonreligious household. I did experiment with paganism and witchcraft for several years, a rather frightening (in retrospect) display of cognitive dissonance as I at once believed in science and some pretty unscientific things.
Luckily I was able to to learn from experience, and it soon become obvious that what I believed in simply didn't work. I think I wanted to believe in witchcraft both as a method of teenage rebellion and to exert some control over my life. However I was unable to delude myself.
I tried to interest myself in philosophy many times, but often became frustrated by the long debates that seemed divorced from reality. One example is the idea of free will. Since I was a child (I have a memory of trying, when I was in elementary school, of trying to explain this to my parents without success) I have had a conception of reality and free will that seemed fairly reasonable to me and I never understood what all the fuss was about.
It went something like this: The way things did turn out is the only way things could have turned out, given the exact pre-existing circumstances. In particular, when one person makes a decision they presumably do so for a reason, whether that reason is rational or not; if that decision is not predetermined by the situation and the person, then it is random. If a decision is random, this is not free will because the choice is not a result of a person's decision; rather it is a result of some random phenomenon involving the word "quantum."
But since no two situations are alike, and it is impossible for anyone to know everything, let alone extrapolate from knowledge of the present to figure out what the future will be, there is no practical effect from this determinism. In short, we act as if we have free will and we cannot predict the future. It is the same thing with reality. Whether it is "real" or not is irrelevant.
The practical consequences of this, for me at least, are that arguing about whether we have free will or not misses the point. We may be able to predict the "future" of a simple computer program by knowing all the conditions of the present, but cannot do the same for the real world; it is too complex.
I finally found this articulated, to my great relief that I was not crazy for believing it, in Daniel Dennet's "Freedom Evolves." This is what got me interested in philosophy again.
I am also interested in how to change minds (including my own). I have always had fairly strong (and, in retrospect, irrational) political beliefs. When I took an Economics course, I found many of my political beliefs changing significantly.
I even found myself arguing with a friend (who like me is fairly liberal), and he later praised me for successfully defending a point of view he knew I disagreed with. (The argument in question was about a global minimum wage law; I was opposed.) I found this disconcerting as I was in fact arguing what I honestly believed, though I do have a tendency to play "Devil's Advocate" and argue against what I believe.
This forced me to confront the fact that some of my political views had actually changed. Later, when I challenged some of the basic assumptions that Economics class made, like the idea that markets can be "perfect," I found myself reassessing my political views again. I am trying to get in the habit of doing this to avoid becoming dogmatic.
Anyway, I think that's enough for now; if anyone has any questions I would be happy to address them.