Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Thin Slicing" Your Fighting Stances

     In the new book, Wait, the Art and Science of Delay, Professor Frank Partnoy collects numerous studies on the split-second or millisecond-second decision-making of mental and physical choices. He has all the very latest, of 2012, medical and psychological testing on sports and self-defense on down to fast-paced internet stock trading. (It is interesting to note that in modern books like this and others, the infamous Hick's Law is not even mentioned, not a whisper. That is how research has advanced from the 1950s and left the primitive Hick's in the proverbial dust.)

     In many ways, Wait refutes the former bestseller Blink by Malcolm Gladwell by proving that the very best-of-the-best know how to delay reaction to the last - well, millisecond - thereby making the best choice, the best response. The secret? Some genetics and a lot of proper training. Blink tells the reader to go with the first quick impulse. Wait tells you to go with your last quick impulse. All these choices occur in less than a second anyway, and the book makes for good reading. It breaks down the three critical steps - vision, decision, and reaction averages - all in the milliseconds with the latest high technology. About 100 milliseconds to see, about 200 milliseconds to decide what to do among several choices, and about 200 milliseconds to action. About half a second. (This does not increase exponentially or in a logarithm with multiple choices.)

     But in Chapter 6, Partnoy deviates from the main theme just a bit and takes us to Columbia University to meet a Dana Carney doing amazing work on the subject, who leads us also to an Amy Cuddy and an Andy Yapp working on what they call high-power and low-power stances. Know what those terms mean. A "power stance" would be like a fighting stance/ready position, or like a back erect, hands on hip, chin-up stance. Being and looking powerful. A "low-power stance" is the opposite of that. Being defensive, palms up and out, scared or slump-shouldered, chin down, or otherwise surrender positions, etc. Being and looking not powerful. 

     Students were asked to strike these stances for at least 60 seconds while various tests were run on them at the end. Perhaps the results are intuitive. Within seconds, the power stance people had much, much more testosterone. As guessed, the people with low-power stances had much less, a sudden drop in testosterone. Comparisons are then made to boxers and their stances and ring preparation.

     “This biology affects our decision making and performance." I was immediately struck with thoughts about common self-defense training. Stances. What about all those submissive, non-aggressive stances and words used to diffuse conflicts?

     “Now, sir, I am not looking for trouble.”

     “I am not looking to fight.”

     First, we all should already agree that those submissive/surrender postures and defensive "beta" words often encourage the criminal or the bully, both overtly and subliminally. Or do we all really know this? Because so many teach these non-aggressive stances to diffuse conflicts and never mention it or warn people. Many people practice this submissive posture in the artificial environment of a training class to diffuse conflicts, and some are quite shocked how the event actually plays out. Situational chaos. But I now wonder what does this role-part playing do to the chemicals in your body in the real world? The defuse stance and dialog will drop your fight chemicals as suggested. Drop and give us a bad start at the worst time?

     Can you trick yourself about this? Can you turn your submissive “want no trouble" stance into a power stance in your mind? Or can you still get a fast jolt of testosterone in some sort of reverse engineering style training by convincing yourself that your non-power stance is really a power stance? Or how fast can you change from one to the other, from non-power to power, and count on your chemicals to follow quick suit?

     Tests like this are called by these experts “thin slicing.” I don't know these answers. Nor do they, as they are working on other aspects than the specifics I've mentioned here; but I do now think it needs a little more explaining and instructing than before. I think the only way to defeat the biological possibilities is to teach them and explain them all this way. To somehow make, to transform, the so-called passive or non-aggressive acting into a "power stance." An added paragraph in the "old doctrine of life." I think that the paragraph could be called, "Stances and Words, Overcoming Biology."

     It does make you think. How you stand. What you say. What these do to you biologically, the underpinning of your physical performance....

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