The Lack of Diversity in Mental Frameworks

For the past few decades, we have moved away from being in extended families towards the less natural nuclear family structure. In doing so we lost the most important benefit of being surrounded by a variety of different adults. The lack of diverse mental frameworks. 

Every human has a unique outlook on the world. Which is shaped by their genetics and environment as they develop. These frameworks take our experiences as input, and our reactions are the output. The reaction is coupled to the experience. This allows the brain to efficiently move through the world. It doesn’t need to waste time thinking through every interaction in reality. This would be too costly from an evolutionary standpoint. If one were to have to think through every threat, the chance of harm is greatly increased. Thus, the brain learns from its surroundings and creates heuristics for how to act.

Ideally, we want to have frameworks that result in the greatest benefit to ourselves. Every framework has its pros and cons. Some are comparable, while others clearly don’t serve people very well. Take negative experience Y as an input. For example, getting a bad grade. There are multiple output reactions that we can imagine. Reaction A might be “Ah man that sucks I need to study harder next time. Even though I’m not too happy I’ll use this as motivation for next time!” Reaction B could be “I’m so dumb how could I possibly have done poorly! I hate myself. I’m so worthless.” These examples are black and white. Reality is a lot more nuanced. There are countless outlooks we could imagine. Reaction A and B make it obvious there are frameworks for responding to experiences that are vastly healthier to have. Reaction A results in the person using their experience to improve. Whereas, reaction B the person attacks themself which only results in feeling worse about yourself. 

Positive outlooks are usually ones that come from a growth mindset. When we have a negative experience you’d look for how you can learn from it. Thus, improving yourself. Negative outlooks are usually ones where you regress. You dig yourself deeper into the hole of stagnation. Further reinforcing your self-antagonizing identity.

A great deal of these mental frameworks are inherited by the people that surround us. If you have parents that are pessimistic in response to negative experiences, the probability you inherit a depressive outlook is high. The inverse is true as well. If your parents respond with optimism to negative experiences, you most likely will too. 

In the case of a nuclear family. It restricts your exposure to only two adults. Thus, the array of frameworks you may adopt is greatly restricted. This might be a good thing if your parents have high-quality frameworks to pass along. But, on average most parents will have a mix of positive and negative perspectives. The restriction of exposure to other perspectives leaves children at a disadvantage. Especially if their parent’s perspectives are particularly poor. The limitation of other reactions to experiences impedes the child’s development. If they were to have a negative incident in the imaginary category X (Examples for the category: Failure, unchangeable circumstance, etc.) and they adopted a negative response to such experiences in category X they are disadvantaged since their mental framework isn’t one of growth. 

Children that grow up in extended families are exposed to many diverse mental frameworks. The children may have grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, etc. surrounding them. Each of them having a unique combination of perspectives to potentially inherit. For example, in a nuclear family, imagine you repeatedly see your parents react negatively to experiences in the category X. You are likely to inherit the same reactions. But, in an extended family, you’d see a broader range of reactions to those negative experiences. Which doesn’t limit one’s perspective to just two people. 

It’s of immense benefit for children to grow up around a broader range of mental frameworks. It increases the chance they may inherit such perspectives themselves. Nuclear families are limiting to a child’s development. It costs them opportunities to grow up mentally healthier. Deprived from a multitude of outlooks, their perspective is lacking.

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