Sunday, April 19, 2009

Psychological Projection and the Geek

I have been following an interesting and somewhat contentious debate on the Yahoo XP newsgroup titled People vs Process. When post 150279 came across my screen I felt compelled to respond. What's interesting about this as I had a discussion with a co-worker about this from a completely different angle on Friday. She was expressing frustration about some one at work that I had expressed similar feeling about in the past. I think she was looking to vent, but I took the opportunity to explain that the problem we have with the person has more to do with us than them. Another connecting piece of information came from a podcast. I think it was SO #49, but it could have been Hanselminutes #158, all I remember is that is was Joel speaking.

As I recall Joel was talking about how programmers think and how they want to solve every problem they run across. In fact they want to treat everything like a computer program. They also get frustrated by the world they live in as it does not appear to be running an operating system. Thus the reason why most geeks never make good managers or business people. I resembled his remarks and it stuck with me through my day.

Back to my point if I can find it. Geeks typically suffer from a lack of the ability to see the world from outside themselves. They can certainly look at themselves (and everyone they come in contact) in a critical manner, but they really can't see themselves as others see them. Thus they are often baffled when they find out other people's opinion of themselves. If you are still with me then you either know a geek or you are/where one and that's OK.

Here is where Psychological Projection comes in. Here is my take: when there is conflict between a geek and another (doesn't really matter if the other person is a geek or fact if they are a geek the conflict seems to be worse) the root cause of this conflict is that the geek projects their thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so on onto the other person. Thus their own insecurities come out. Here are some examples (these are not translations for all such statements):
  • "He's an idiot" -> I am insecure about my intelligence as I place my self worth upon it
  • "He's selfish" -> I wished I got more attention
  • "He just doesn't get it" -> I wish I was more important so people would listen to me
I hope this helps you to understand geeks and if you are a geek please take some time to read up on this important physiological concept and I hope I didn't butcher it.

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