Sunday, January 22, 2017

What are the "Alternative Facts"?

The lies of Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Donald J. Trump are not meant to deceive. They are manipulative displays that operate at a pre-linguistic level of communication. Conway's "alternative facts" are best understood as the equivalent of chimpanzee poo-flinging:
In short, what appears to be the main reward for throwing is the simple ability to control or manipulate the behaviour of the targeted individual (ape or human). For example, in our laboratory, chimpanzees will patiently wait for strangers or visitors to approach and then will throw at them. They do not conceal their intentions and they will often stand bipedal and threaten to throw by cocking their arm with the projectile in their hand in preparation for throwing. The passers-by can see this and will often try and negotiate with the chimpanzees to put down the projectile, or they will try to trick the ape by stopping, then dashing rapidly past the ape enclosure. This seems to be the reaction the apes hope to get from the humans and, in operant conditioning terms, is the only ‘reward’ the chimpanzees receive for throwing. 
Neurologically, throwing is complex because it demands coordinated precision in timing the velocity and release window of a projectile in relation to the speed of movement and distance of the target (i.e. prey). Some have suggested that the increased selection for neural synchrony of rapid muscular sequencing routines associated with actions such as throwing are similar to the motor programming demands of language and speech, and therefore engage similar neural systems, notably Broca's area. 
Kellyanne Conway demonstrating how to put extra "spin" on a fecal projectile. 
Cognitively, we believe that the development and acquisition of throwing skills by chimpanzees operates in a manner similar to the emergence of manual gestural communication. As noted previously, the motivation for throwing in chimpanzees is largely to alter the behaviour of other individuals (be it human visitors or conspecifics). For this reason, the apes that have learned to throw have acquired an ability to understand how their behaviour affects the behaviours of others. 
People really need to learn to stop trying to "refute" the "alternative facts" that are being flung. Shit is shit. You cannot refute feces.

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