Author Topic: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions  (Read 5428 times)

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Bijou

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Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« on: September 29, 2011, 03:22:51 PM »
I don't think this is a glitch or an error but it could be a problem, because sometimes I get confused when a thread gets pretty lengthy and I forget it isn't a real situation or one affecting an actual member.  I just didn't know where to put this.
I wonder if it would make sense to have a folder for hypothetical situations (versus real ones).  This could include those threads about Dear Abby/Miss Manners letters. 
It seems confusing sometimes when they are mixed in with the real personal things.  Does anyone have thoughts on this? 
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 03:38:07 PM by Bijou »
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Onyx_TKD

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2011, 03:53:15 PM »
Personally, I don't think separating them makes sense. For one thing, IME most hypothetical scenarios that get posted don't come out of a vacuum--something prompted the poster to wonder about the scenario--so I wouldn't dismiss them as scenarios that aren't really affecting the poster.

I think posting about a hypothetical scenarios vs. a "real" scenario often is a matter of different posting styles, not necessarily differences on how much the poster is affected by the scenario. Some posters tend to post stories of specific incidents and ask about the etiquette involved; for others, a specific incident that happened to them is a jumping off point to ask about the general etiquette involved (E.g., if the specific incident is already over, it's unlikely that that exact scenario will happen again, but a similar situation might, so why not ask about the general situation as a hypothetical?). Sometimes the situation is made "hypothetical" to conceal identifying details or to try to avoid biasing the answers (e.g. the threads that start with a hypothetical scenario and then later give the details of the specific incident that prompted the question).

In a recent thread that I started, one incident got me wondering about how to respond to a more general scenario that might come up in similar situations. After some thought, I did decide to describe the actual incident, and while the posters replying were helpful, they also got a little caught up in the question of whether the guy in my story was a "jerk," which wasn't quite the question I was trying to answer.

Lynn2000

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2011, 05:56:01 PM »
Do you think it affects your response if you know it's only a hypothetical situation, or one that happened to someone you don't "know" (like a Dear Abby letter), versus something that happened to the person posting it? Truly curious.

I also don't think it makes sense to separate them, partly because it would be difficult to decide what constitutes a hypothetical situation. One assumes that the situation in a Dear Abby letter actually happened to the letter writer, for example, so it's not really hypothetical. And people often post situations that their friends are in, looking for advice on the friend's behalf--the situation didn't happen to the OP, but it did happen to someone they know.

I do think this is an interesting question, though. For me, the situation being hypothetical doesn't affect my response; but maybe others have a different perspective.
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Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2011, 11:34:07 PM »
Do you think it affects your response if you know it's only a hypothetical situation, or one that happened to someone you don't "know" (like a Dear Abby letter), versus something that happened to the person posting it? Truly curious.

I also don't think it makes sense to separate them, partly because it would be difficult to decide what constitutes a hypothetical situation. One assumes that the situation in a Dear Abby letter actually happened to the letter writer, for example, so it's not really hypothetical. And people often post situations that their friends are in, looking for advice on the friend's behalf--the situation didn't happen to the OP, but it did happen to someone they know.

I do think this is an interesting question, though. For me, the situation being hypothetical doesn't affect my response; but maybe others have a different perspective.
If it is hypothetical there is no further information to rely on, as when we ask for clarification.  How can you ask for that if the situation didn't really happen and all there is is the original post?  Same with letters to Abby or Miss Manners.  There is no way to really explore the situation.   
I'm not referring to situations in which someone is seeking responses for a friend.  Those aren't hypothetical and clarification can be given, if needed.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 11:40:20 PM by Bijou »
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Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2011, 11:36:50 PM »
Personally, I don't think separating them makes sense. For one thing, IME most hypothetical scenarios that get posted don't come out of a vacuum--something prompted the poster to wonder about the scenario--so I wouldn't dismiss them as scenarios that aren't really affecting the poster.

I think posting about a hypothetical scenarios vs. a "real" scenario often is a matter of different posting styles, not necessarily differences on how much the poster is affected by the scenario. Some posters tend to post stories of specific incidents and ask about the etiquette involved; for others, a specific incident that happened to them is a jumping off point to ask about the general etiquette involved (E.g., if the specific incident is already over, it's unlikely that that exact scenario will happen again, but a similar situation might, so why not ask about the general situation as a hypothetical?). Sometimes the situation is made "hypothetical" to conceal identifying details or to try to avoid biasing the answers (e.g. the threads that start with a hypothetical scenario and then later give the details of the specific incident that prompted the question).

In a recent thread that I started, one incident got me wondering about how to respond to a more general scenario that might come up in similar situations. After some thought, I did decide to describe the actual incident, and while the posters replying were helpful, they also got a little caught up in the question of whether the guy in my story was a "jerk," which wasn't quite the question I was trying to answer.
I find this especially disturbing.  I don't understand about biasing the answers. 
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Onyx_TKD

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2011, 12:23:13 AM »
Personally, I don't think separating them makes sense. For one thing, IME most hypothetical scenarios that get posted don't come out of a vacuum--something prompted the poster to wonder about the scenario--so I wouldn't dismiss them as scenarios that aren't really affecting the poster.

I think posting about a hypothetical scenarios vs. a "real" scenario often is a matter of different posting styles, not necessarily differences on how much the poster is affected by the scenario. Some posters tend to post stories of specific incidents and ask about the etiquette involved; for others, a specific incident that happened to them is a jumping off point to ask about the general etiquette involved (E.g., if the specific incident is already over, it's unlikely that that exact scenario will happen again, but a similar situation might, so why not ask about the general situation as a hypothetical?). Sometimes the situation is made "hypothetical" to conceal identifying details or to try to avoid biasing the answers (e.g. the threads that start with a hypothetical scenario and then later give the details of the specific incident that prompted the question).

In a recent thread that I started, one incident got me wondering about how to respond to a more general scenario that might come up in similar situations. After some thought, I did decide to describe the actual incident, and while the posters replying were helpful, they also got a little caught up in the question of whether the guy in my story was a "jerk," which wasn't quite the question I was trying to answer.
I find this especially disturbing.  I don't understand about biasing the answers.

This is probably where the disconnect comes in, then. The idea that using hypothetical scenarios instead of posting the actual situation could be "disturbing" to anyone never entered my mind.  ??? Could you clarify what you mean?

Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2011, 06:22:29 AM »
Personally, I don't think separating them makes sense. For one thing, IME most hypothetical scenarios that get posted don't come out of a vacuum--something prompted the poster to wonder about the scenario--so I wouldn't dismiss them as scenarios that aren't really affecting the poster.

I think posting about a hypothetical scenarios vs. a "real" scenario often is a matter of different posting styles, not necessarily differences on how much the poster is affected by the scenario. Some posters tend to post stories of specific incidents and ask about the etiquette involved; for others, a specific incident that happened to them is a jumping off point to ask about the general etiquette involved (E.g., if the specific incident is already over, it's unlikely that that exact scenario will happen again, but a similar situation might, so why not ask about the general situation as a hypothetical?). Sometimes the situation is made "hypothetical" to conceal identifying details or to try to avoid biasing the answers (e.g. the threads that start with a hypothetical scenario and then later give the details of the specific incident that prompted the question).

In a recent thread that I started, one incident got me wondering about how to respond to a more general scenario that might come up in similar situations. After some thought, I did decide to describe the actual incident, and while the posters replying were helpful, they also got a little caught up in the question of whether the guy in my story was a "jerk," which wasn't quite the question I was trying to answer.
I find this especially disturbing.  I don't understand about biasing the answers.

This is probably where the disconnect comes in, then. The idea that using hypothetical scenarios instead of posting the actual situation could be "disturbing" to anyone never entered my mind.  ??? Could you clarify what you mean?
Yes, I can clarify.  It disturbs (or "bothers", if that feels better to you) me that a poster would be afraid of getting biased responses (either in favor of them or not in favor of them) from the other members.  In other words, feeling that the members may not give the same answer to a hypothetical situation as they would to a situation they believe is being experienced by another member (or that member's friend or family member). 
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FlyingBaconMouse

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2011, 08:13:38 AM »
I don't know: for better or worse, forming biases based on experience seems to be a human thing.

So if my (imaginary) brother-in-law had been the subject of several threads as an inconsiderate menace in traffic, a story and request for suggestions about a problem with his boss would likely have details changed/be cast as a hypothetical. Maybe no e-Hellions would be actually saying "It's karma!," but people who had read the other threads would be hard-pressed not to think it, and it might affect the answers.

Or take a thread I did actually write, about the relative who asked me to store his Massively Morbid Objects (which I might finally get rid of this weekend!). In the thread, I said the objects were from a beloved uncle. In fact (*hopes relatives don't read this forum*), they were from his beloved, deceased mother. I didn't mention that because I thought it might prejudice the answers...because it was certainly prejudicing MY answer: every time I thought about addressing the issue, I thought, "Yeah, sure. Just tell Joe I'm thinking about getting rid of these things from his late mother. Not!" I do think changing that detail helped posters, and by extension me,  get down to the actual issue at hand.
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Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2011, 10:18:10 AM »
I'm all for changing details to hide identifying information.  In fact, I think it is wise in some cases. but it still is real and further details that may be needed can be provided. 
I don't know.  It just makes sense to me to separate the real situations from the made up ones. 
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Dindrane

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2011, 10:26:49 AM »
I think the point is that there are no truly made up situations.  Most of the threads I've read that are hypothetical are based in some way on reality, and on things that actually happened.  Or on things that are likely to happen in the future.

And honestly, no matter how long a thread gets, the previous posts don't go away.  It's not all that hard to go back to the OP and maybe a skim a few older responses if you can't remember exactly what the situation is in a long and complex thread.  Whenever an old thread I responded in pops up again (often because of an update), I often have to go back and read a little bit to remind myself of what it actually said.  When a thread gets long and complex (or heated) enough, I frequently go back and read the OP so that I can make sure I have all the details straight before I respond.

Also, the inability to get clarifying information is not limited to hypothetical situations or "Dear Abby" types of threads.  Sometimes members of the board telling stories about their own lives choose not to clarify information, or miss requests for it.  Sometimes they leave threads before people stop posting about the issue.  There's no guarantee in any thread on this board that it will be possible to clarify anything beyond what is in the OP.


Lynn2000

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2011, 12:31:56 PM »
Regarding the "bias" thing, I can see how, in some cases that are not handled properly, it could come across as dishonest, if that's what you're getting at, OP. If the thread first starts with a "Mary and Sue went to the mall" thing, and then later the poster dramatically reveals that SHE is actually Mary, with (so it seems) the intention of getting direct sympathy, I can see how that might leave a bad taste in someone's mouth. Or if the responses are all like, "Mary was RUDE!" and then the poster says, "Well, I'm Mary, and here's additional information explaining why I acted that way so actually, I wasn't rude"... Again, that can come off as disingenuous or at least, poor storytelling.

IME, that's not how the majority of hypothetical --> true threads go, but I could see how hitting just a couple of them would make someone wary of others.
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Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2011, 01:34:42 PM »
Regarding the "bias" thing, I can see how, in some cases that are not handled properly, it could come across as dishonest, if that's what you're getting at, OP. If the thread first starts with a "Mary and Sue went to the mall" thing, and then later the poster dramatically reveals that SHE is actually Mary, with (so it seems) the intention of getting direct sympathy, I can see how that might leave a bad taste in someone's mouth. Or if the responses are all like, "Mary was RUDE!" and then the poster says, "Well, I'm Mary, and here's additional information explaining why I acted that way so actually, I wasn't rude"... Again, that can come off as disingenuous or at least, poor storytelling.

IME, that's not how the majority of hypothetical --> true threads go, but I could see how hitting just a couple of them would make someone wary of others.
Maybe that's it. 
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Onyx_TKD

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2011, 02:12:28 PM »
[snipping quote tree for brevity]

Yes, I can clarify.  It disturbs (or "bothers", if that feels better to you) me that a poster would be afraid of getting biased responses (either in favor of them or not in favor of them) from the other members.  In other words, feeling that the members may not give the same answer to a hypothetical situation as they would to a situation they believe is being experienced by another member (or that member's friend or family member).

OK, I guess I see where you're coming from. I want to clarify here; I tend to assume that some degree of bias is normal, natural, and pretty much unavoidable, so when I say I expect responses to be biased, it's not meant as any insult to the eHellions--it just means I believe that the eHellions are human beings.* There's a very good reason that scientists go to such lengths to try to remove bias from their studies--because they know that no matter how much they try, they cannot be completely unbiased.

So from my view, seeing how people respond to the hypothetical scenario can be very helpful. And if the situation is first posted as a hypothetical and then as a real situation (as happens in some threads), then seeing how the opinions differ (or remain the same) between them can be very useful, because it helps to isolate what details make the difference. (E.g. it tends to elicit more responses like "I said [hypothetical action A] was rude, but I think [real situation B] is an exception, because..." which are more informative than "I don't think [Person C] was rude.")

Also, your bolded statement confuses me. If you expect members to give the same answers to a particular situation, whether it's hypothetical or real, then what is the advantage of separating them? Aren't they pretty much equivalent then, on the etiquette boards? (Those aren't like "I Need a Hug," for instance, where posting a fake situation for sympathy would be trolling.)

Also, I think there can be a rather fine line between some "hypothetical" questions and general etiquette questions where an example scenario is used to illustrate the question; if we start separating them, drawing that line is going to be difficult.

*If any of you are in fact extraterrestrials, or artificial intelligences capable of passing a Turing test: congratulations on your most excellent imitation of human beings.  ;)

Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2011, 04:56:22 PM »
Actually, this part of the thread about biased responses wasn't part of my original thread.  It came up when someone said people may think they would get different responses depending on whether it is presented as hypothetical or real. 

Anyway, on the biased question, which is very interesting, it bothers me that a member would feel that he or she might get different responses to the same question depending on whether the responding members think it is a real or hypothetical situation.   I don't mean that every posters response would be the same as everyone elses.  I know that we all may see things a little differently.  But the individual responses should not be altered by whether the situation is real or hypothetical.
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Bijou

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Re: Just wondering abut hypothetical situatiions
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2011, 05:00:12 PM »
I think the point is that there are no truly made up situations.  Most of the threads I've read that are hypothetical are based in some way on reality, and on things that actually happened.  Or on things that are likely to happen in the future.

And honestly, no matter how long a thread gets, the previous posts don't go away.  It's not all that hard to go back to the OP and maybe a skim a few older responses if you can't remember exactly what the situation is in a long and complex thread.  Whenever an old thread I responded in pops up again (often because of an update), I often have to go back and read a little bit to remind myself of what it actually said.  When a thread gets long and complex (or heated) enough, I frequently go back and read the OP so that I can make sure I have all the details straight before I respond.

Also, the inability to get clarifying information is not limited to hypothetical situations or "Dear Abby" types of threads.  Sometimes members of the board telling stories about their own lives choose not to clarify information, or miss requests for it.  Sometimes they leave threads before people stop posting about the issue.  There's no guarantee in any thread on this board that it will be possible to clarify anything beyond what is in the OP.
What you say is true, but in a hypothetical folder, you would know that is all there is.
How do you feel when someone comes forward later and says, "I'm mary"? 
I've never knitted anything I could recognize when it was finished.  Actually, I've never finished anything, much to my family's relief.