Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Hulk is more of a real person than you are

Just an interesting thing I picked up on while doing random research. There’s a theory out there based on anthropological research that basically throws out the idea that the human mind can only process 150 unique human relationships. Once you get up to that number (the actual number is 147.8 or something but fuck it), the mind stops processing people as identifiable persons and more as abstract ideas or caricatures. So for example, unless you happen to know who the pizza delivery boy is specifically, your mind will only categorize him as the pizza delivery boy. Absent of a name, character traits, and even a minor gleam of a personal history, your mind just doesn’t give a fuck. He’s just another dude you will probably never see again. You can remember physical details if your mind is sharp, but you won’t necessarily associate those details with a unique personality that you interact with.

This is basically the idea that a large amount of casualties is just a statistic, something simple for your mind to process. You know that as a human you should mourn the loss of life, but you are going to have a difficult time really mourning on a personal level. But if your dog that you have know for 12 years passes away, you might just break down crying. Because you knew your dog. You lived with your dog, took care of it, and hopefully loved it.

The actual point I had with this, though, was a curious question that popped up in my head: could a fictional character take precedence in your subconscious mind? Most humans, if they were human, would acknowledge people above all else and disregard that question. But seriously, think about it. Some of these characters we have read about have existed for over 50 years. They are older than many people in the real world. Spider-Man is a recognizable popular culture icon with three successful movies, multiple cartoons, toys, and other memorabilia spread across the globe. Many children know who Superman is before they realize the importance of the President of United States.

Does the human mind make additional room for fictional characters without limiting our capacity to interact socially? Or does the fact that I can recall a crapload of life altering events in the history of Peter Parker cancel out the inclusion of a real person in my 150 number limit? Supposing the answer is yes, I have two reactions to that:

1) It’s a little creepy, thinking about the ramifications of this finding on society, and

2) I actually don’t mind the idea that my mind has reserved more space for the Hulk than for some of you assholes.

1 comment:

chrishaley said...

"Superman" was my third word after "mama" and "dada", and he has remained the most steadfast and dependable person in my life since that point.