Previous post Conformity vs. Distinction covered two basic “social forces” as I will call them. The conceptual model used to explore this idea was a flock of birds. It seems time for a third force and a new physical analogy in order to justify the use of “force” (as a term). It helps if we start with only physical analogies, or those involving animals. This model is a massive simplification, as all models are but can nonetheless be illustrative in interesting ways.
1) Distinction: That force which leads an individual entities to travel according to their own whims. In the physical case this can be considered to be brownian motion, diffusion, random walk, etc.
2) Conformity: That which brings individual entities together, or leads to clustering. I won’t go into the thermodynamic details, but as you contemplate your half eaten bowl of cheerios just notice that those little anulus’ travel in packs
3) Assimilation: This is my suggestion for a third force which governs the interaction between two conforming groups, or an individual. The best analogy here may be surface tension.
A quick note for the purposes of complication – Each of these forces can be present to greater or lesser degrees, if not posses positive or negative polarity.
A new analogy…
When you make pasta as often as I do, it’s hard not to contemplate the oil in the water of a saucepan before it boils. There is a distribution of oil droplets; some small, some large. As the water starts to boil we se evidence of the first force. Each individual droplet is pushed around in a seemingly random fashion. The droplets often cluster together in different regions, showing evidence of the second force. Finally, the droplets actually merge together to form larger droplets showing evidence of the third force. If you imagine that you can change the rules of this system along each of these three forces you might get a different result.
High individuality, low conformity, low assimilation: lots of little droplets
You can imagine other results from other combinations, but it is a little more of a lengthy example than with the bird flock example. If we add assimilation to the flock it helps us understand what might happen if you had two flocks of starlings and they interacted with eachother.
Why is this approach useful?
Let’s take it home. You may think that these examples only make sense with birds and EVOO. You may think that the human mind and motivational system is so complex that no simple model could possible capture, predict or teach us anything about human behavior. If you believe this I want you to go dig up some old memories. Picture the 6th grade dance. For all the complexity of human interaction you ended up with a simple and predictable situation: boys on once side, girls on another. The leap for how we get from oil and birds to boys and girls will be the topic for another post.