Abstract: 52 Pickup: Simulating Unconscious Behavior Patterns Through Random Ordering

Given that humans, like most animals, engage in unconsciously directed, non-verbal, flirting behaviors, and given that it is possible, through research and direct observation, to assemble a list of 52 of these behaviors, and given that we desire to make from our list a narrative that simulates the complex, unconscious, behavior patterns that constitute a typical flirting episode, how should we best proceed?

A conscious ordering of descriptions of discrete flirting behaviors tends to result in the type of stereotypical and therefore predictable behavior patterns commonly seen in pulp fiction: "He looks her up and down. She smiles." Our attempts to order the narrative unconsciously (while sleeping or disassociated) have resulted in so much wrinkled paper. If it is undesirable to order the narrative consciously and impracticable to do so unconsciously, perhaps we can simulate an unconscious ordering by other means.

The reader may be familiar with a card game known as 52 Pickup, which plays in this way: Player One holds up a deck of playing cards and asks, "Do you want to play 52 Pickup?" Unfamiliar with the game, Player Two responds, "How do you play?" Player One proceeds to launch from his or her hand all 52 cards, then, pointing at the cards on the floor, says to the astonished Player Two, "Now pick them up!"

Modifying this game for our present purposes, we substitute 52 index cards, each typed with a short description of a discrete flirting behavior, for the 52 playing cards, and divide these index cards into male and female behaviors. We then pass the "male" stack to our male volunteer and the "female" stack to our female volunteer, who, while facing each other, simultaneously launch their cards into the intervening space. When the cards have at last been picked up and read in the order found, the result is a randomly ordered narrative.

Reviewing the logic of our approach, we recall that the relationship between two pairs of opposites with one common element can be expressed by the statement: If A is the opposite of B and B is the opposite of C, then A equals C. Thus, when A is random ordering, B is conscious ordering, and C is unconscious ordering, the statement reads: If random ordering is the opposite of conscious ordering and conscious ordering is the opposite of unconscious ordering, then random ordering equals unconscious ordering.