The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...

I have a weird idea - it seems strangely simple, is it true? I don't know... but I find it an interesting mind-tool when thinking about people, and even animals.

I saw a documentary on TV once - about an experiment that started years ago - and is still ongoing in 2018. The intent of the experiment was to see how easily animals can be domesticated - using the Arctic Fox. From memory, after just 20 generations, the experimenters discovered that three dominant personality traits emerged - happy, scared and angry... just three!

Good things come in threes...

Hmmmm - three dominant personality traits... gives rise to 8 main personas? Imagine that we have an emotional equaliser - three channels that we can set to on or off... for the sake of convenience, lets order them 1-Scared, 2-Angry, 3-Happy

  • 0-scared, 0-angry, 0-happy - unemotional
  • 0-scared, 0-angry, 1-happy - happy, unconcerned
  • 0-scared, 1-angry, 0-happy - angry, unreasoning
  • 0-scared, 1-angry, 1-happy - mercurial, unafraid
  • 1-scared, 0-angry, 0-happy - afraid, quiet
  • 1-scared, 0-angry, 1-happy - cautious
  • 1-scared, 1-angry, 0-happy - violent
  • 1-scared, 1-angry, 1-happy - passionate

Of course this model simplifies things - imagine a scale 0-100 on each slider, and you would have a wide range of graduations, but the beauty of a simplified model is that it makes classification and what-if thinking easier.

A side of lamb

I am hand feeding two lambs at the moment - a Hebridean and a Boreray, they are tiny. The Heb ewe figured out immediately how to drink from the bottle - even though the teat smells like rubber. She seems very aware and smart, a bit nervous, a bit happy.

The Boreray ram-lamb on the other hand is always nervous and scared - he runs away until the Heb's slurping draws him closer - but his little heart races and he is so scared that he still hasn't figured out how the bottle works. I can touch the milky teat to his nose and he ignores it. I have to crouch over him, next to a hay bale to calm him, and prise his mouth open... once started he gulps it down, but if we get interrupted the whole catch-comfort-prise routine starts again...

These two lambs show the same personality characteristics as their flocks - and have since their very first day...

Looking around our home, I would say that the geese are angry, chickens are happy-scared, guinea fowl are scared, dogs are happy, and our cat is definitely a scaredy cat - but we knew that when we chose him as a tiny farm kitten - the other kittens were all hissy angry - just one hid in the corner, so we picked him - smart kitten.

So what does it mean?

Maybe the three-state results from the experiment just indicate that these three things are a group of related feelings. Perhaps they are all managed within us in the same set of neurons.

It doesn't mean that other emotions don't exist - maybe they are managed by a different cluster of neurons in our brains. Things like love, hate, altruism and selfishness might be another orthogonal set of emotional-sliders.

It interesting to see where we individually fit in this model - can we adjust our emotional skew? It's pretty hard to be objective, most people I know feel-without-thought, in that they just accept their feelings as valid without much introspection, and rarely even notice when those around them show signs of surprise.

I want to think about this more - and check the details of the experiment out.