I recently watched a response video to the widespread “2016 was the worst year ever” tantrum largely by people who’s view of history is shorter the time the iPhone has been in existence, where the content creator ended his video with the statement “No, 2016 is not the worst ever, your frame of reference is“. I had another post planned, but that statement is perhaps more profound than the creator intended when he recorded it.
Frame of reference can be argued as a synonym for “field of knowledge“, which is an expression that is used within academia and is of high importance when designing research projects. In order to avoid duplicating the research that has already been done within a field of knowledge (unless one is doing a verification of previous research), a literature search is conducted to build the foundation for the research. It also serves to anchor the research that is to be done within the field, and to support choices the researcher makes.
When the researcher then designs the methodology, the experiments, and the other parts of the full research project, the literature review acts both to inform and to control the research. In the same manner, a person who has a narrow frame of reference, will hold attitutes and make decisions different from someone with a wide frame of reference, a person with a deep frame will view the world different from a person with a shallow frame and so on.
In many ways this is the underlying principle of just about everything humans engage in, and a source of many conflicts. A researcher named Thomas Kuhn argued that as each person who evaluates evidence, brings their subjective field of knowledge and experience with them into the evaluation, science is somewhat of a relative discipline .
Some of this can be traced back to various forms of bias and incentives. A researcher who has invested his career into a theory will be reluctant to accept that it has been proven wrong and have clear incentives to interpret results in a manner that is positive to the theory. Likewise someone who is invested in an ideology will be reluctant to accept any evidence against the benefits he or she perceives that ideology as having.
This is where one gets the “Not real communism” from those who advocate communism when they are presented with the tragic history of the countries that have attempted to govern according to that ideology.
How Frames of Reference Develop
We start to develop our frames of reference right after we are born, for instance learning what effect crying and tantrums have on our parents. Our first major frame is thus, that of our family. What rules govern our family, who holds what roles, what the goals of the family is and what characteristics are valued.
This is part of the socialization process that prepares us for interacting with other human beings once we leave the nest and start attending school. Our field frame of reference is that of our parents, we share their values, often because they are the only ones we know, we share their world-views, and they are also representative of the few adults we know.
As we attend kindergarten and then school, our fields increase in size as we accommodate the knowledge imparted by socializing with other children our age, adults other than our parents, and the various parts of the curriculum relevant to our school. Our early years are usually shaped by learning reading, writing and arithmetic in school, as these the tools the system relies on in order to present more complex information to us over time.
As we continue our schooling we learn more advanced writing and mathematics. We read more advanced texts and are required to add more knowledge to our minds. This knowledge works to transform not only how we view the world, but also how we interpret the world.
These early frames are often difficult to unlearn or alter should we decide to do so, and many men who find “The Red Pill” struggle to fully let go of those internalized frames regarding sex, dating and relationships. Likewise, people who grow up in liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious households or environments struggle when fundamental frames are challenged.
The size and depth of a frame is dependent on the diet of information a person feeds themselves. The Dunning-Kruger effect is relevant, as this fairly well-known perception error, where those who are knowledgeable within an area judge themselves as less competent than they are, and those who have little knowledge within a field will tend to judge themselves as more competent within that field than they actually are  often cause us to evaluate our frames poorly.
A man who has had few relationships and little interaction with women, does not have a frame of reference based in reality, but one based in social programming. Their patterns will be based on those they observed among adults in their social circle, among their peer group, and in entertainment media. Thus his data is not only flawed in quality, it is also flawed in quantity.
Exploration and Hypotheses
Our personal frames are used to explore, describe and determine how our world works. This has a parallel in research where exploratory research is focused on the discovery of ideas . The sample size is often limited, the methodology often tends towards phenomenology rather than positivism, it may even be based in grounded theory.
If promising ideas are identified, one may move on to do similar research with a larger sample size, in order to determine if the observation one made from the small sample is true for a larger sample. If this proves to be the case, then one may move on to do small sample hypothesis based research to determine to see if one could identify causal patterns . If this also proves successful one would move to a large-sample hypothesis based research to confirm the theory formed after the small scale research.
This method is a form of going from the particular to the general. Starting with a single or few samples, to identify ideas, and then moving on to test if what is true for the particular is true for the general. The other way around, would be attempting to establish whether what is true for the general is also true for the particular.
One can liken such a method to a person’s journey through relationships, the first relationship is unique in it’s entirety. The ones that follow are only somewhat unique as some characteristics permeate all relationships between men and women. Those that follow after this group of relationships, often feature some experimentation, wherein one seeks to improve upon what has gone before, and finally one ends up with a proven theory for how one gets what one desires out of a relationship.
Summary and Conclusions
Our frames of reference are based on our inherent knowledge based as it has been shaped throughout our life, this informs our ability to make conclusions, however it also creates the very pitfalls that we often experience in evaluating reality. Our minds work in a way where we judge information based on a priori knowledge, which is knowledge that can be obtained independent of learning anything except the language and a posteriori knowledge, which is known based on experience.
Daniel Kahneman speaks of our penchant for making quick and easy decisions without actively engaging our faculties of reason . What he defined as “System 1” is fast, instinctive and emotional, and reminds me of the following quote by H.L. Mencken
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
What he defined as “System 2” is slower, more deliberate and logical. This relates to the former sections, in that when one combines the emotional, instinctive and fast reactions of system 1, with the tendency for people to over-estimate their frame of reference. One gets a situation where fast and easy judgments are made based on an imperfect amount of knowledge. When this is further combined with a small sample or anecdotal (but persuasive) evidence, it forms a perfect storm where a decision is made quickly, with little though, based on bad evidence and with overconfidence. This is the foundation of what Bertrand Russell stated was wrong with the world.
“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” Bertrand Russell
The event that I recognize most as happening as a result of this perfect storm, is the long-term relationship rush that comes when women reach their late twenties to early thirties and suddenly decide that they are ready to settle down.
The man in such a case is frequently less experienced than her, and thus has a weaker frame of reference based on his own experience in relationships. The decision to move in together or get married is often an emotional one, be it born in passion, shame, guilt or excitement. Finally, he often has an urgency as the men who are picked for husbands are the type of men that Sheryl Sandberg describes in her now infamous quote .
If one views this quote in reverse, what she states is that during a woman’s party years, there is no concern for equality in the relationship, whether he values intelligence, ambition or cares at all about her opinion is not something of prime importance. Whether the relationship is fair or equitable is not really a concern either.
This implicitly also means that once a woman does decide that she wants to settle down, she should aim for a man such as the one I described above, a man with limited experience, who makes a fast and emotional decision that he is convinced is right based on a flawed frame of reference.
A man with a weak frame of reference, but strong reasoning capabilities may escape the trap through the inability to accept his own emotional turmoil. He is the captain navigating through the storm, who comes out battered but alive.
A man with weak reasoning abilities but a strong frame of reference, may avoid the whirlwind due to his extensive knowledge. He is the mountain that stands firm as the storm rages around it.
A man with both a weak frame and weak reasoning abilities may never escape or avoid the dungeon, as he has no knowledge of how to escape, and no ability to determine how to do so.
Perhaps this is what Red Pill theory is all about, improving a man’s frame of reference, pressing him to consider his life and future through cold-blooded reason rather than blinding emotion and finally tempering his mixture of a priori and a posteriori relationship knowledge imparted through long social programming with advice from others who have more experience and knowledge in that area.
One must remember that at no other time in human history have so many boys grown up without fathers, grandfathers and other males from whom they could learn. As I wrote in the essay on principal agent issues, women raise poor men, because they do not raise men to be men, but men to be poor quality women.
Throughout our history, being the boy who clung to the apron strings was shameful, to be the boy who would rather gather with the women, or who rejected the company of other men in favor of the company of women, was unlikely to pass his rite of passage into manhood, the very rite of manhood that no longer exists.