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The Satisfaction Hypothesis or “Satisfaction by Means of Mental Selection”

September 14, 2010
After contemplating the statement my friend made regarding why people do what they do, and having examined in depth the causes of human behavior, we formulated a hypothesis to explain the fundamental decision making mechanism shared by both humans and animals.
The idea was further explored and improved through the years and was summarized in 3 basic principles:

  1. Every human being, at the moment of making a conscious decision, chooses the option whose output, after being mentally simulated, would be most satisfactory. The process of choosing the most satisfactory option will be called Mental Selection.
  2. The factors composing what humans call “satisfaction” are based on human evolution, i.e. the basis of human satisfaction is dependent on evolutionary traits favorable to human existence. However, environmental causes (like the process of “conditioning”) are capable of drastically modifying the elements of human satisfaction.
  3. The process of simulating the result of each available option (i.e. Mental Simulation) is based on 2 factors:
    1. Available information regarding each option, and
    2. Mental capability of the decision maker to process available information and to simulate the resulting feeling of each option.

Simply put, in the process of Mental Selection, the consciousness of all human beings – without any exceptions – chooses the better option. Note that the “more ethical” option or the option held to be better by the public are not considered better here; better is the option whose sum of resulting feelings felt after the process of Mental Simulation is considered more positive or more satisfactory by the decision making individual.

In this hypothesis, mistake is the situation in which either the individual fails to correctly simulate the resulting feeling of their choice due to an unpredicted – and therefore unconsidered – factor, or the simulation is precise but the definition of what the individual considers satisfactory somehow changes after the decision is made.

Mistakes have a subjective definition in this hypothesis. Although similar parameters define human satisfaction, each person’s satisfaction is attained in a different manner. Existence of different “tastes” proves this point. A decision considered a mistake by an individual shouldn’t necessarily be considered a mistake for another.

Doubt in decision making indicates either lack of sufficient information regarding available options, so the process of Mental Simulation is not guaranteed to lead to reliable results, or presence of two or more equal options, that is, the result of Mental Simulation shows equal satisfaction value for the two (or more) highest options and the individual has no way of choosing either option. In this situation the individual either tries to gather more information or eventually decides to invoke the subconscious part of his/her mind to make an apparently random choice among those equally satisfactory options. It is interesting to point out that gathering more information or choosing randomly involves yet another choice that goes through the same process of decision making, but depending on the decision making individual, the process maybe perhaps less conscious and more habitual.

This hypothesis fully complies with causality and the theory of Evolution. In addition to producing an organ capable of understanding rules and simulating effects of perceived causes, Evolution defines the parameters comprising what animate beings consider satisfactory. Different species – including human beings – differ in definition of satisfaction as well as their mental capacity to simulate the results of choices available to them. What satisfies us – because of the reasons Evolution can perfectly explain – is to some extent different and to a greater extent similar to what other species consider satisfaction. For example, death is frightening to all animate beings and options leading to it usually fail to be chosen except in some extraordinary situations; like when the death of one individual helps the entire colony in some way. To a human being, death is never an appropriate option for solving a simple problem, but it seems appropriate to a mother trying to save her child; a phenomenon easily explained by Evolution.

Self-sacrifice for ideological goals also follows the same pattern. At the first glance it might seem that there is a paradox between such an act and what has traditionally been considered “personal benefits”; however, it must be noted that an individual’s simulated satisfaction value at the moment of decision making may in fact involve the individual’s death; the option which leads to death may indeed become the better option in extreme cases. Evolution has led to formation of altruistic properties which justify self-sacrifice in order to serve a “greater good”, that is, reaching a great satisfaction value after mentally simulating the result of choosing to sacrifice oneself to help other human beings or even ideological ideas. In summary, our satisfaction may be achieved by imagining what it’s like to die and have an impact on the world around us, or thinking of death as the beginning of a path which brings about even more satisfaction.

The process of Mental Selection has a great deal of resemblance to Natural Selection. Regardless of how the individual perceives options, always the option which produces the highest amount of satisfaction is “selected”. Other options simply fail to get selected and are dropped. Hence the title “Satisfaction by Means of Mental Selection” sounds appropriate to describe this hypothesis.


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  1. Anonymous permalink

    Wow! I repeat wow!
    You cannot imagine how many times I have tried to explain such things in English. But this text not only shows that you are excellent in English but also reminds me that how fantastic you are at speaking and reasoning.

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