Thursday, 16 June 2016

What draws our attention?

Greetings friends,

You know, I was thinking today about how strange it is that one person can really love something, while others do not.
- Yes, I know I am talking about a subject that most pre-schoolers can grasp, but just bear with me.

Take me and my gaming partner Tom for an example; we both enjoy a lot of similar things, but we also have preferences. Tom's preference is Fantasy over SciFi, mine is SciFi over Fantasy. Tom loves Game of Thrones, I am not really a fan. I love most things CyberPunk, Tom doesn't really see the appeal.

Similar things are true with my wife and I. We both love videogames, I love First Person Shooters, she loves Dragon Age.

This is something that I find so fascinating, the idea that two people who can share so much in common, but be almost polar opposites on certain preferences.

But why is this? It can not be because something is 'Good', while another is 'Bad'. If this was the case, then liking something or disliking it would be universal, but it isn't. Instead, for some reason certain things causes one brain to start producing "I like this chemicals", while another does not.

But really what are we looking at here?

Part of this must be related to schema and the prejudices that we all inherently hold. For example, there was a TV show that my wife started to watch semi-recently (apologies, I forget it's name) but it was something that from the trailers looked very 'High Fantasy', with Elves, and Wizards, and all that sort of stuff. Things that my schema tells me I do not enjoy all that much.

So I saw this trailer, my brain goes "nah, this isn't something for you", and I switch off. I don't intend to watch the show and my life goes on.

About a week or 2 later, my wife says that I should watch it, saying it is something that I will like. This is the woman I've been married to for nine years, who knows me better pretty much better than myself, telling me I'm going to like something I think is high-fantasy - a genre that is only second in dislike to me than 1920s Prohibition Gangster.

So I humour her, I watch the show, and as soon as the opening credits begin, suddenly I am interested. Why? Because of the pretence that is shown. I realise that this isn't a Tolken-esq high fantasy TV show, but instead a Post-Apocalyptic show with a fantasy twist, where the fantasy world inhabited is a ruined Earth, where these before mentioned Elves and Wizards are making their homes in the shattered remains of famous Earth landmarks, and they themselves are evolved/mutated descendants of Humans themselves.

So I watch it, my mind opens up, and I allow myself to enjoy it, and I find that I do enjoy it.

It's as if there were switches in my brain, some Dislike switches, and some Like switches (much like YouTube, or Comment Up/Down Voting). It sees Fantasy and Elves, and the Dislike switches are flicked, but then it sees PostApocalyptic Earth, and a MASSIVE Like switch is flicked, overruling the previous Dislike Switches.

I find this interesting.

It's clear prejudice, and something that we all do, we are seeing something, and based on the limited knowledge we have, we are pre-judging it. We are saying "this has X in it, so I will probably not like it", or "this has Y in it, so I probably will like it".

The very concept of this intrigues me so much. How much of this is down to our own experience? How much is based on early influences?

I would love to say this is down to personal experiences, and that our brains are wired to say that you and your personality are going to be tuned to certain radio-stations more than others, but I look at how I act around my daughter, and how her tastes are developing, and I remember how my own childhood was, and I have to start doubting just how much of this is the case.

So when I was younger, my Dad was a huge Star Trek fan, he watched the Original Series growing up, and Next Generation was something that we watched every single Wednesday on BBC2 at 6pm without fail. We must have watched every episode they ever aired. I'm response however, the only Star Wars film we watched together was Return of the Jedi.

Fast forward to modern day, and if people asked me to pick between Star Wars and Star Trek, I'd pick Star Trek. If you asked my what m favourite Star Wars film was, I'd say Return of the Jedi. This is clearly not a coincidence.

But then we move onto CyberPunk, a genre which is my absolute favourite (but not my favourite Franchise, that is, and always be Aliens). I can not trace my love of CyberPunk back to anything, other than perhaps the videogame SNATCHER. Much like how Aliens was to me and SciFi-Horror, SNATCHER was like that to me and CyberPunk. It seemed so fresh and original, and it's been a love of mine since. Sure my father also enjoyed the game, but there were lots of games that he enjoyed which I did not, so that can't be it.

So what was it about SNATCHER, CyberPunk, and NeoTokyo which caught my eye, what was it about this dystopian future that caught my attention and allowed me to fall in love with it?

One answer I can only begin to use to explain is how it was SciFi, something that was already flicking my YES switch, but that the rest was totally new to me, I didn't have a schema for Japanese influences, or cybernetic integration concepts, so therefore my brain was required to generate new schema on the fly, and therefore categorise something that it was unable to do so normally. After all, yes it was SciFi, but it was nothing like Star Trek or Star Wars or Buck Rogers or anything like what I had seen before, and yet my brain was still flipping YES switches.

I guess if I'm honest, I'll never figure this out. It's like the answer is on the tip of my tongue, only millimetres out of reach.

Who knows...

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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