Hyperactive Agency Detection Device
Lately I have heavily invested in my psychometrics library which has resulted in a steady stream of book deliveries over the past week. A book arrived yesterday, however, I was shocked when a message from my room mate came through showing my book in tatters. My ever-curious dog had found the package and decided to open it himself.
Anger was the first emotion to shoot through my body followed by suspicion. Why had this book fallen prey? I had 7 other packages all similar size over the past couple of weeks make it with no issue. Had the postman thrown it in the yard, perhaps in a hurry, perhaps with nefarious intention due to the number of packages delivered to this household? Had my dog known this book was one that I was especially looking forward to and perhaps in protest of limited walks had decided to act? Have things just bene going well lately, and this event was designed to bring me back down to earth?
None of the above are reasons for what happened, simply the package was in reach of my dog and being a puppy, he chewed it. So why did I attribute such sinister motives so quickly, why was I looking for a conspiracy?
The Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD) was first described by Psychologist Justin Barrett. The concept of the device is that humans attribute intentions (often harmful to the self) to agents in their lives. It is viewed as an evolutionary device in that it is better to mistaken movement in the shadows as a dangerous animal or hunter from another tribe to respond in a protective way. The hyperactivity part of the device leads us to attribute great power and responsibility to such agents we see as maintaining control which can lead to conspiracy’s (eg. Moon landing, 9/11).
Justin Barrett felt that HADD was responsible for the rise of gods and spiritual beliefs as inanimate agents (eg. Sun, wind, waves, fire) were attributed meaning, intentions and evidence of a grand plan or divine intervention.
Yesterday I felt my mind falling back on such a device as HADD. In this personally unfair event that I didn’t deserve I was quick to look for plans and intentions to make sense of the event. This egotistical distortion that someone or something would plot against me is evidence of our biological evolutionary survival strategies. Of course, my situation is small and thankfully most of the book is still readable but think next time when the car doesn’t start, another bill comes in, or a difficult break up, is this the world against me? Or is this just the chaos of the world?