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Friday, October 8, 2010

A Little (Third Person) Perspective.

If there’s one thing I truly love about media personalities it’s their ability to effortlessly go third person. Take our good friend Rick Sanchez for example. When asked if he would consider working for CNN again, Mr. Sanchez said, “absolutely. CNN is a wonderful, wonderful organization. CNN didn’t screw up. Rick Sanchez screwed up.” This response made me wonder why some people refer to themselves in the third person. Luckily, Jesse Kelley had time to search MAGNOLIA and find an article that offers some perspective.

Dorthe Berntsen and David C. Rubin’s article “Emotion and Vantage Point in Autobiographical Memory” looks into why certain perspectives are used when reliving certain memories. Here’s an example: let’s say you’ve been asked to remember your most severe punishment. Now, when you have this memory, do you see yourself being punished as an outsider or do you remember the punishment as it happened? Without question I see the punishment from a third person perspective. I can see me jumping around while my mother chased me brandishing a belt. What’s reassuring is that this is typical. Berntsen and Rubin state “findings from other studies also suggest that individuals with more severe reactions in response to traumatic events tend to have more observer perspective associated with their memories of those events” (1196). Basically, remembering unpleasant events in the third person perspective helps the victim create distance from the event.

So, when we see Rick Sanchez speaking about himself in the third person it’s not because he’s a narcissistic jerk. Well, maybe he is, but what he’s mostly doing is describing a third person perspective memory. What I’m saying is Rick Sanchez feels bad about what Rick Sanchez did and to distance himself from his actions, he’s blaming Rick Sanchez. It’s that simple.

Berntsen, Dorthe, and David C. Rubin. 2006. "Emotion and vantage point in autobiographical". Cognition & Emotion. 20 (8): 1193-1215.

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