Hint of personality

Karthik Nadig

In “Errors as we speak”, we saw how error prone communicating with words can be. Let’s explore a deeper level of translation between idiolects, and how our mind achieves this translation.

Psychology has taught us that we communicate people with a mental “looking glass”, which filters content based on the idiosyncrasies of the individuals it has picked up. We have a general looking glass that we use to communicate with strangers. This general looking glass is conditioned by every experience accumulated till date. It allows us to make choices such as mode of speech, body language, subtleties in the intonation of words, etc. This general looking glass works until the conversation remains general (definition of ‘general’ is relative to each individual).

As we learn more about a person, we seize to use the general looking glass and we switch to a specialized one, dedicated to the person. This can be observed in our daily life and we understand some people who are close to us, even if they were not able create a complete sentence about whatever they were trying to say. This is because, the looking glass, with time, has now tuned to pickup and translate, a person’s idiolect to one’s own idiolect. In essence, our mind captures the personality of the individuals. One might ask, why do we need this mechanism? What purpose does capturing one’s personality have?

Our mind is a sucker for running simulations. Call it imagination, prediction or contemplating outcome, it is an important feature which allows us to form social groups. Capturing personalities allows our mind to estimate the consequences of our actions by predicting reactions of people. By using the feedback from the predicted reactions our mind to improve its strategy, prepare itself for consequences.

This ability of our mind is so good that it can associate personality to everything, be it an animate (pet animals) or inanimate (bike, tools), existing (anything tangible) or imagined (characters in a book) objects. It so well evolved that sometimes we can communicate using the looking glass, within our mind, and yet come up with a response which exactly reflects the response of the person we just simulated, this almost sounds like telepathy. Although our mind has evolved this feature, we don’t have complete control over it.


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