Ch1 L14: The hierarchy of meanings

  1. In the last post, we opened up the discussion about supersigns as the building blocks of meanings [1] which enable us to show intelligent reactions to our environment and are created before concepts.
  2. Example 10: A new-born baby calms down faster when it smells her mom’s scent even coming from a blanket. This simple action signifies that the scent of the mother has special meaning to the baby because it triggers a specific reaction. Furthermore, it’s aligned with what we discussed about the exclusivity of meaning: the scent of the mother is different than all other scents [2].
  3. Emotion is our body’s first step to learn [3] and it has evolved to modulate our instinctive behavior. If you didn’t know your environment, you’d have to react spending the same amount of energy on every experience; however, the emotional tags [4] tell us how much energy we need to spend on something. Obviously, we need more energy to deal with a tiger than a cockroach [5].
  4. In the first post, we discussed minergy [6], our tendency to use minimum energy to get things done. So, emotions are evolved along the minergy to optimize and budget the body’s energy.
  5. Therefore, at the first level, the intensity of emotions indicates the importance or meaningfulness of things around us. If something causes more emotions to circulate, it will be more important to us.
  6. We should know that importance is different than desirability. Almost (?) no one wants to get cancer but it dramatically affects our life, so it’s very important. In fact, our tendency to negative events or emotions outweighs the positive. That’s what Daniel Kahneman [7] who won the Nobel Prize in Economics with his colleague Amos Tversky [8], in his famous and must-read book “Thinking fast and slow” [9], has demonstrated that most of us are risk-averse. He scientifically [10] said that the pain of losing $100 is more than the joy of winning it.


  1. The above diagram which is obtained from the book “Thinking fast and slow” shows that losing $100 has 3 units of impact (psychological value) on us whereas winning the same amount has half roughly 1.5 units of impact which is half of the negative effect.
  2. In parentheses, this diagram also shows that winning $100 if you have nothing makes you happier than winning the same amount if you have some money (if you move from $100 to $200, it means that you won $100 but, according to the graph you wouldn’t feel as happy as you made your first $100) [11].
  3. It shouldn’t surprise us that the negative effects are stronger than their equivalent yet positive ones. We discussed that survival is our first mission [12]; thus, threats must be prioritized to opportunities.
  4. In the next post, we’ll study the social impact on the hierarchy of meaning.

Exercise 14:

  1. How do you know when you’re stressed out? What are your reactions to it? Are they beneficial in a long run?
  2. Playing video games excessively can be considered as an instant gratification to deal with stress. Have you experienced such a thing? How did you deal with the reminders in your head that playing the video game wasn’t gonna solve your problem?


[1] Link

[2] Link

[3] In this context, learning means adapting to the environment and how to have more intelligent reactions.

[4] Link to the post about supersign in which we discussed the emotional tags.

[5] Phobia normally comes from a traumatic experiment in which the fear exceeds the panic threshold and breaks the emotional thermostat of the brain; so, the person won’t be able to show a rational reaction to the same experience (Some can be cured or mitigated over time or with the aid of therapy). So, those who show an extreme reaction to the cockroach as if it’s as dangerous as the tiger, their emotional thermostat is broken.

[6] Link to the first post.

[7] Link

[8] Link

[9] Link

[10] Scientifically obviously means that backed up by experiment and deductive analysis which is different than personal experiences or beliefs.

[11] If we look at the graphs, after a certain level, the increase of the psychological value in both ends of gain and loss slows down which can be called numbness.

[12] Again Link to the first post


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