01 November 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Interesting people

Interesting People

In every society and country we find heroes, saints and celebrities.
Indeed with the advent of social media our celebrities have probably
become our heroes and saints. This is not to say that we have abandoned
our past heroes and saints but that today's celebrities are more
relevant for us.

What is important for our topic is that many people might think a
particular celebrity is an interesting person but not another. So
recently I was at a film premiere photocall where many popular celebs
were expected to be there. Eventually the leading actor of the film
entered the photocall and all the fans at the back erupted into a single
scream calling out his name. But a particular fan had an even more
penetrating voice (scream) than the rest. So every time her hero
appeared she would scream her head off. Sometimes she would shout the
name of another actor or actress posing, until an actor came along to
pose; much older than the hero but not as handsome as the hero. So this
young fan upon seeing this older actor screamed his name at the full
capacity of her lungs followed by "….you are here already!!!" At which
point everyone around burst out laughing.

The moral of the story is that even heroes have competition and there is
always someone else who is even more interesting. The question is why?
Why do we feel that some people are more interesting than others?

By interesting I do not mean attractive, sexy, handsome, beautiful,
friendly, nice, intelligent or whatever, although some of these
characteristics might be present. We simply find one person interesting
and not another. We might even not know anything about the person but
still think they are an interesting person. Of course, we might
eventually discover that they are not that interesting after all but
that's a different matter.

This experience is something, I guess, we have come across since our
school days. Some class mates were simply funny and the jokers of the
class, others were the troublemakers, but sometimes there would be
someone who everyone respected and always listened to what they had to
say; very difficult to achieve at school but it does happen sometimes,
they were just interesting. Today, as adults, I would venture to say we
can spot these "interesting" people in every aspects of our daily life,
including the setting of a bus or metro ride.

Of course, in the animal kingdom especially primates there is the
element of respect and the focus of every animal on a particular
creature, but this is more due to fear and power than to "the animal
being interesting". At least we can reasonably assume that this is the
case with animals. But even this phenomenon is present when humans look
at animals; some animals are more interesting than others.

Although I have excluded a whole list of characteristics from being the
cause of being interesting, I am in no doubt that a number of perceptual
and psychological indicators or factors might be playing a causal role
in our judgement. Maybe subconsciously we are looking for friend or foe
type of signals from a person in question; healthy or diseases, unusual
or angelic looking.

Indeed, all successful catwalk models have to be able to perform what in
the business is called an "eyesmile"; basically smiling with one's eyes
with no other facial expressions. A smile is indeed a signal of a friend
or friendly posture thus a model that can perform an eyesmile will
attract our attention much longer and thus look at the apparel she (or
he) is wearing that much longer. Actors can eyesmile, except this is
more controversial since actors have to convey the character they are
playing whilst models are trying to be different by being friendly
instead of the expressionless pose of the catwalk. Please note this has
nothing to do with being seductive; in most cases the designer instructs
models to eyesmile or be seductive but not both.

But even the way we look at people might shift the balance between being
interesting or just being. Maybe these subtle mannerisms from people
plus other context signals might play a key role in finding a person
interesting or not. Some might argue that this is just a sexual
attraction in disguise. No doubt some cases are precisely a sexual
attraction, but this assumes that interesting people can only be
interesting if they belong to a gender we are attracted to or at the
very best also sexually attracted to in some specific cases.

Maybe because we are inundated with sexual messages or stressed out
(otherwise known as frustration) about sex that we miss other forms of
subtle signals from people who might be as advantageous and useful to us
as much as mating. One thing we can all agree upon is that we are really
interested in interesting things and people; who wants to spend time
with dull and boring people?

It is true that someone we might think is interesting might turn out not
to be. But this idea implies that we had the opportunity to find out
more about the interesting person in question. What is relevant is not
that we were wrong, we are more often wrong than right about many
things, but that we were right about someone we think they are
interesting when we knew nothing about them.

An actor or actress we know nothing about but think they are an
interesting person might turn out to have been a super success at
university or some other profession. Maybe a politician might have an
unusual hobby or qualification. There is no question about it, every
time we correctly predict a future event, in our case the person is
really interesting, not only do we feel good about it but feel more
confident in our method of predicting future events.

So where is the philosophy is all this? To begin with, what are the
necessary and sufficient conditions that make someone interesting? Are
these conditions natural, subjective or even universal? Are we really
that good at predicating future facts about people, compared say at
predicting the lotto, or is this interesting people phenomenon just a
random event of our imagination? And maybe, are we programmed to search
for interesting people or is this a passive trait we have and sometimes
we are bothered to notice?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Interesting people

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