Cognition & Reality

Monday, 15 November 2010

Details & Specifics

Filed under: Psychotherapy,Television — drtone @ 3:19 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve written before on the importance of specifics in discourse, clinical and otherwise.

Yesterday, I was queried about my reaction to a detail in the first season of “In Treatment,” the dynamite HBO show featuring Gabriel Byrne as a clinical psychologist: The client played by Blair Underwood kept referring to himself as a “Navy pilot,” but I had been given to understand that Navy fliers prefer to be called ” Naval aviators,” because their carrier landings place them in a different category from those who need only land on the ground. (Or possibly because in maritime usage a “pilot” steers a ship.) Although I now realize I’m not sure whether Navy fliers do normally call themselves “aviators,” the apparent error in detail did bother me. When a “previously on” segment of “Heroes” referred to one of the characters, a girl who can’t be hurt, as “invincible,” rather than “invulnerable,” the show lost me. I no longer trusted the writers.

I was asked why a little detail like that can have such a big effect on me. The best answer I could come up with is that I don’t like anything that interferes with my ability to suspend disbelief, a necessary component of enjoying fiction. The effect is similar to my affection for specifics, except in real discourse specifics or details  increase my ability to believe at all, not so much because their absence signals lying as because vagueness projects a fuzzy picture.


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