There seems to be a factor that is required for optimal psychological functioning of humans that is connected with the “engagingness” of stimuli they perceive. I call that factor “resonant input”. Input can be external, but it can also be internal in the form of recombined thoughts and ideas. The input consists of what we perceive of the world around us and ourselves.
Humans react to different kinds of input differently. Some forms of input can have a quite peculiar effect that I call “resonant”. The choice of this word comes from the physical effect of resonance in which two systems interact in a way that has massive effects over time. This typically happens when a physical body has a certain natural resonance frequency and is stimulated by something else that has about the same frequency. The result is that energy gets then pumped into the system at a maximum rate (and then it may accumulate more energy than it can handle without breaking down – examples for this are bridges collapsing during earthquakes and glasses of water bursting when hit by loud sound waves of a certain frequency).
But what is “resonant input” for humans? I’d love to know exactly what that is, so I can’t give an intrinsic definition. So let me try to define resonant input by the effects that it has:
- It feels stimulating and energizing
- It’s probably closely correlated with a strong release of dopamine
- It can trigger “aha moments”
- It facilitates and sustains states of flow
- It can have a deep changing effect on one’s thinking, challenge old ideas, and open up new perspectives
- It inspires one to be more creative
- It can encourage people to share the input
- It often feels people engaged and wanting to interact with the source of the input
What kind of input can have these effects? It’s hard to say that in full generality, but input with a lot of the following attributes has a good chance at being resonant:
- Novel input, especially new ideas, new questions, new approaches to certain problems
- Personally emotionally relevant input, especially input that can help oneself to fulfil certain wants and needs better.
- Correct or at least consistent input. Truth. Knowledge. Better ways to look at the world
- Input that reveals a high level of creativity, intelligence, competence, or wisdom
This suggests that whether certain input is resonant is subjective and dependent on the time, experience, and mood of the person who perceives it. Everything else being equal, the same input just delivered twice will become much less resonant the second time, because it ceased to be novel. Resonant input needs to be relevant to the (emotional) interests of the receiver!
The requirement of novelty is a general problem, because it makes it harder for input to be resonant over the lifetime of a person, because as the persons learns more and more, less and less input will register as “novel”. The faster a person learns, the more severe the problem becomes!
Because humans are heuristic creatures, they often make the mistake of seeking resonant input in a certain area, because that area first triggered a strong resonance signal. But as that area is increasingly explored, the less it is able to generate novel inputs, so the most rational behaviour would be to explore new areas. However, humans are also afraid of venturing into completely new areas, because they may seem unfamiliar and dangerous. Also, there may be a lack of incentives to explore new areas, apart from sheer curiosity.
Whenever I delved into rather new areas I felt quire energized and felt like someone who is exploring a whole new universe. But of course that fascination waned over time for each area.
A lack of resonant input may create the feeling of boredom. Resonant input is “anti-boring”. I also have the suspicion that a too prolonged lack of resonant input can create anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure. This is probably due to a lack of dopamine release in certain areas of the brain.
Humans with the same interests and the same general level of IQ are relatively good at producing resonant input for each other, especially when they have different experiences and ideas that they want to share. When interests or IQ levels become to different, then it gets very hard for communication to contain resonant input. So, ideally, people should self-organize into circles with compatible interests and IQ levels – at least when the only thing that matters is the optimization of resonant communication inputs.
Direct communication can be resonant, but it doesn’t need to. Also, indirect communication tools like books or blogs or pieces of art can be very effective sources of resonant input.
These insights may be helpful for optimizing the intake of resonant input.
How would a good strategy for optimizing that look like?
Do you think this whole concept of resonant input makes sense?
Do you think it’s a fundamental psychological need?
Do you have favourite types of resonant input?