Thursday, November 28, 2013

I like the crazy ones

I like the crazy ones. What can I say? For a long time, I slept with the script of the thing under my pillow, hoping I'd get smarter by osmosis. John inherits the dubious honor by a non-negligible margin. While W. was a chef d'oeuvre of character exploration, JJ manages to not only further the character arc, but the overall plot as well. It also makes significant use of the entire cast. This insane universe is as much about Shirley as it is about John. Chiana is no wallflower either.
Of course, the beauty of it all is that this acknowledgement of audience expectation doesn't close any door. We know that they know that we know. It doesn't change a thing. However, it appeases those who have been wondering why no one is concerned and no one is asking questions. In any case, it appeases me. It's not that John hasn't noticed or isn't worried about the odd behavior of some of his crewmates. He's simply not expressing his concerns out loud, keeping his cards close to his chest.

'There is no longer any distinction in my mind' is, in hindsight, lovely foreshadowing for an episode where John finds himself thrown into a world built from his dead twin's memories. Perhaps we find another example of meta awareness here. I wouldn't go as far as to say that reintegration occurred, although the game made reference to events this John did not know about. Instead, John tagged his own set of memories onto the game. Yet, John told himself 'You really are John Smith.' And in the end, I believe John followed a path not at all different from that of his twin. This one follows in the footsteps of the illustrious hero, albeit shaped by his individual experience and current situation.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Predictability of behavior

Predictability of behavior.

Analyzing a character is basically profiling. Bootstrapping. You start with the behavior, and work back towards personality based on your understanding of psychological mechanisms. The problem with this, and it's a problem I struggle with every day, is that profiling assumes a stability of personality characteristics, or traits. It must, to work at all. If people who behave the same way do not share the same personality traits (the homology assumption) then the whole thing is out the window.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to prove that personality traits are stable. Personality constructs however, like Eisenck's Extraversion or Hare's Primary Psychopathy, seem to hold constant. These are organizing constructs however, not traits. They can help you understand how traits are articulated, and they can be somewhat predictable, they can be stable. But these aren't traits.
I think it's a matter of boundaries. You can narrow down a range of behaviors someone would be likely to engage in, or not engage in for that matter, if you have enough psychological, sociological, economical, ecological and biological data on them, but as for predictability-- Predictability implies consistency. It implies that placed in similar circumstances, a person would behave in similar ways.
I link this to the dichotomy between personality traits and constructs. Traits (actions) are unstable (unpredictable) but constructs (themes) are stable (predictable).

I can only speak from personal experience (and admittedly I deal with criminals) but the consistency hypothesis is in bad shape. Our best test of consistency is the observation of serial offenders. Controlling for fluctuations in environment and victimology, it's not like on TV. Serial rapists don't go after the same type of victim, using the same modus operandi, in the same setting, engaging in the same range of sexual acts. It happens, but it's the exception rather than the rule. If you look at behaviors, it's absolutely not consistent (hence not predictable). However, if you look at themes (like under a microscope, pulling back to see the specimen rather than just a cell) then some amount of predictability can be reached. A serial rapist might always engage in sadistic acts. Different actions, same connotation to each. Or always engage in controlling acts... Like I said above, boundaries. You can't predict the actions, but you can perhaps predict their range.

There's always a difficulty in saying anything was predictable after you saw the outcome. We've been shown how John behaved, and had we not, could we have predicted it beforehand?