I've Found It!

A little while ago, I linked to an article describing a hypothesis developed by Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine suggesting that human beings have a need for order. That part of the research is very dull, and nothing new; remember Wallace Stevens' poem, "The Idea of Order at Key West": "Oh, Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon / The maker's rage to order the words of the sea."

But the article I linked to, originally appearing in the NY Times, suggested that Proulx and Heine believe this "rage for order" is so intense that, when people are faced with "nonsense" (a term I'll come back to), their brains start firing in interesting ways: following a confrontation with "nonsense," we seek meaning wherever we look.

Dissatisfied with their definition of "nonsense" (they use Kafka [!] as a nonsense-stimulus), I read the original/entire article myself.

...Well, to put it mildly, I'm so thunderstruck by this single article that I can't even begin to cough up my reaction in a blog post. I've found a new research project. It's true I may have to work with a social-psychologist to get the project done, but I'm more than sufficiently motivated to make it happen.

Eureka! Anyway, don't steal my idea, okay? And here's my new direction for "around here." Hope you find it interesting!


Insignificant Wrangler said...

I'm looking forward to it! It rings a bit to me of complexity theory [how "nature" produces order out of randomness]. I might recommend:

Mark C. Taylor, Moment of Complexity (academic, focuses specifically how complexity theory moves past postmodern cliches)

Steven Johnson, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (popular, one of my favorite science writers)

Michael Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (a history of the development of complexity in the hard and soft sciences--mostly hard)

Casey said...

Yeah, that might actually help -- the psychological research is all almost in-place, actually. This stuff may help me to give a theoretical orientation... certainly some among us will need it! My first inclination was to return to Wayne Booth and critics like him who thought about literature in terms of audience... reader-response stuff, I suppose.

Now I've just gotta convince a social-psychologist colleague to get on board with me, and to guide me through the process of objective research on human-subjects.