Ten years ago, I read Vankatesh Rao's blog post The Gervais Principle. It blew my mind, as it did the minds of many other people. It quickly became Rao's most popular blog post entry, prompting a series of blog posts on the same subject and an eBook. I think I've read the whole thing end-to-end at least 10 times.

Rao has a thesis that starts with workplace dynamics and explodes to cover a breadth of social and philosophical topics, offhandedly giving an answer to the question "What is happiness?"

If you haven't read it, I recommend you do.

His thesis in a nutshell, is that people are divided to three groups, which he jokingly calls Sociopaths, Clueless and Losers. He goes in-depth about the social interactions of the three groups and the haves and wants of each groups.

My one beef with his model is that I don't see people divided along these groups, but I see these three basic parts as the basic elements; I see them as the protons, neutrons and electrons of every person and social interaction. We all have the three of them, and at different times we play up different elements.

I think of them as sensations, emotions and thoughts, each layer built up on top of the previous one.

This trinity has been my main philosophical belief for years now-- And I can't point to any origins but a blog post.

My question is: Do you know of established philosophical or sociological models that sound similar to this? Please tell me that this has a different name and has been written about extensively.

  • Well; based on Spinoza's recognition that human thought originates in gathered 'impressions' from interaction with other people and that the nervous system converts these sensations into emotional messages which are stored in the brain which sensations serve as the source of thoughts, I'd say you are on the right track. See his "Ethics" Part 3- On the Emotions on wikisource. Or for an easier to read version, see my 'Spinoza's Strange Symbiosis' Where Emotion and Thought Conjoin, on Academia.edu. Good Luck!
    – user37981
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


It’s a really big topic, so on the bright side, there’s no shortage of further reading materials, but on the downside, I don’t have a quick answer for you.

You want to know what the ingredients / building blocks of social interaction, social cognition, or human cognition in general, are. I’d recommend you study these articles as a starting place:

Social Ontology




Those are just some articles to help you triangulate what you’re really after. Basically, you’re looking for a certain ontology of mind, as I see it.

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