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February 2020

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From:
Jim Tobias <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Mon, 3 Feb 2020 08:29:18 -0500
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To me this tension between cognitive and emotional modes is a strong
argument for social cognition. That is, our individual capacity for reason
is both limited and unduly influenced by inner, unconscious processes.
Unfortunately, the only place that basic cognition can occur is inside
individual minds. But when we reason together, we may be able, by
triangulation/whatnot, to reduce stray inputs and get closer to useful
truths.

What is an example of successful social cognition? Science! with its
communication techniques and mutual supportive skepticism.

Note: nothing I'm saying here should be considered anti-emotion; I'm a big
believer in gestalt and integrative processing.

Jim



On Mon, Feb 3, 2020, 6:57 AM Jonathan Latham <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Kamran
> I agree with you Kamran that there is much of importance to say about this
> article.
> For one:
> "Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses
> that go with it.”
>
> Buddhism (and also the Non-Violent Communication, NVC, of Marshall
> Rosenberg) teaches its adherents to separate these with the implication
> that they can be separated.
> And this is one of its most important practices.
>
> Jonathan
>
> On Feb 2, 2020, at 11:15 PM, Kamran Nayeri <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
> Thank you, Phil.
>
> I have been thinking about this point of view for some time. It is the old
> question about human nature and I do not find a convincing "Marxist"
> response to it because it much of what I have read and heard denies our
> primate lineage, hence inborn tendencies such as being devoted to our
> children, our biological or social tribe, etc. and treats human nature as
> entirely socially determined.
>
> I would be delighted to see if others in SftP can share their own views on
> this question. In fact, an entire magazine can be devoted to articles about
> this issue. I would be grateful.
>
> Best,
>
> Kamran
>
>
>
> On Sun, Feb 2, 2020 at 3:21 PM Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>>
>> https://theconversation.com/humans-are-hardwired-to-dismiss-facts-that-dont-fit-their-worldview-127168
>>
>> <https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/three-wise-monkeys-mystic-apes-sacred-281368427>
>> * Humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview *
>> January 31, 2020 8.00am EST
>> Author
>> <https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-bardon-878782>
>> Adrian Bardon <https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-bardon-878782>
>> Professor of Philosophy, Wake Forest University
>> Disclosure statement
>>
>> Adrian Bardon received funding from the Humility and Conviction in Public
>> Life project at the University of Connecticut.
>> Partners
>>
>> View all partners <https://theconversation.com/us/partners>
>> [image: CC BY ND]
>> We believe in the free flow of information
>> Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative
>> Commons license.
>>
>> Something is rotten in the state of American political life. The U.S.
>> (among other nations) is increasingly characterized by highly polarized,
>> informationally insulated ideological communities occupying their own factual
>> universes
>> <https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/16/20964281/impeachment-hearings-trump-america-epistemic-crisis>.
>>
>>
>> Within the conservative political blogosphere, global warming
>> <https://www.desmogblog.com/heartland-institute> is either a hoax or so
>> uncertain as to be unworthy of response. Within other geographic or online
>> communities, vaccines
>> <https://www.npr.org/tags/399145964/anti-vaccination-movement>, fluoridated
>> water
>> <https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/but-not-simpler/why-portland-is-wrong-about-water-fluoridation/>
>> and genetically modified foods
>> <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/food/the-plate/2016/05/17/scientists-say-gmo-foods-are-safe-public-skepticism-remains/>
>> are known to be dangerous. Right-wing media outlets
>> <https://dailycaller.com/> paint a detailed picture of how Donald Trump
>> is the victim of a fabricated conspiracy.
>>
>> None of that is correct, though. The reality of human-caused global
>> warming is settled science
>> <https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/>. The alleged link
>> between vaccines and autism has been debunked
>> <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html> as conclusively
>> as anything in the history of epidemiology. It’s easy to find authoritative
>> refutations <https://apnews.com/893415ed7acb069604566149630abdb8> of
>> Donald Trump’s self-exculpatory claims regarding Ukraine and many other
>> issues.
>>
>> Yet many well-educated people sincerely deny evidence-based conclusions
>> on these matters.
>>
>> In theory, resolving factual disputes should be relatively easy: Just
>> present evidence of a strong expert consensus. This approach succeeds most
>> of the time, when the issue is, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen.
>>
>> But things don’t work that way when the scientific consensus presents a
>> picture that threatens someone’s ideological worldview. In practice, it
>> turns out that one’s political, religious or ethnic identity quite
>> effectively predicts one’s willingness to accept expertise on any given
>> politicized issue.
>>
>> “Motivated reasoning
>> <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/motivated-reasoning>” is what
>> social scientists call the process of deciding what evidence to accept
>> based on the conclusion one prefers. As I explain in my book, “The Truth
>> About Denial
>> <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-truth-about-denial-9780190062279?lang=en&cc=us>,”
>> this very human tendency applies to all kinds of facts about the physical
>> world, economic history and current events.
>>
>> <https://images.theconversation.com/files/312935/original/file-20200130-41527-1q4zuso.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip> The
>> same facts will sound different to people depending on what they already
>> believe. AP Photo/John Raoux
>> <http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Nightclub-Shooting-Florida/4d33732e41f34ce89a416c03d669a0b0/1/0> Denial
>> doesn’t stem from ignorance
>>
>> The interdisciplinary study of this phenomenon has exploded over just the
>> last six or seven years. One thing has become clear: The failure of various
>> groups to acknowledge the truth about, say, climate change, is not
>> explained by a lack of information
>> <https://theconversation.com/facts-versus-feelings-isnt-the-way-to-think-about-communicating-science-80255>
>> about the scientific consensus on the subject.
>>
>> Instead, what strongly predicts denial of expertise on many controversial
>> topics is simply one’s political persuasion.
>>
>> A 2015 metastudy <https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716214558393> showed that
>> ideological polarization over the reality of climate change actually
>> increases with respondents’ knowledge of politics, science and/or energy
>> policy. The chances that a conservative is a climate change denier is significantly
>> higher
>> <http://www.people-press.org/2008/05/08/a-deeper-partisan-divide-over-global-warming/>
>> if he or she is college-educated. Conservatives scoring highest on tests
>> for cognitive sophistication <http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2182588> or quantitative
>> reasoning skills <http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2319992> are most
>> susceptible to motivated reasoning about climate science.
>>
>> This is not just a problem for conservatives. As researcher Dan Kahan
>> <https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=8P7tOMAAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao> has
>> demonstrated <https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2010.511246>, liberals
>> are less likely to accept expert consensus on the possibility of safe
>> storage of nuclear waste, or on the effects of concealed-carry gun laws.
>> Denial is natural
>>
>> Our ancestors evolved in small groups, where cooperation and persuasion
>> <https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X10000968> had at least as much to do
>> with reproductive success as holding accurate factual beliefs about the
>> world. Assimilation into one’s tribe required assimilation into the group’s
>> ideological belief system. An instinctive bias in favor of one’s “
>> in-group <https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html>”
>> and its worldview is deeply ingrained in human psychology.
>>
>> A human being’s very sense of self is intimately tied up with
>> <https://doi.org/10.1080/10463280701592070> his or her identity group’s
>> status and beliefs. Unsurprisingly, then, people respond automatically and
>> defensively to information that threatens their ideological worldview. We
>> respond with rationalization and selective assessment of evidence – that
>> is, we engage in “confirmation bias
>> <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201504/what-is-confirmation-bias>,”
>> giving credit to expert testimony we like and find reasons to reject the
>> rest.
>>
>> Political scientists Charles Taber
>> <https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=9VwvxRIAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao> and Milton
>> Lodge <https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=NyoRiXkAAAAJ&hl=en>
>> experimentally confirmed the existence of this automatic response
>> <https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716214554758>. They found that partisan
>> subjects, when presented with photos of politicians, produce an affective
>> “like/dislike” response that precedes any sort of conscious, factual
>> assessment as to who is pictured.
>>
>> In ideologically charged situations, one’s prejudices end up affecting
>> one’s factual beliefs. Insofar as you define yourself in terms of your cultural
>> affiliations <https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2010.511246>, information
>> that threatens your belief system – say, information about the negative
>> effects of industrial production on the environment – can threaten your
>> sense of identity itself. If it’s part of your ideological community’s
>> worldview that unnatural things are unhealthful, factual information about
>> a scientific consensus on vaccine or GM food safety feels like a personal
>> attack.
>>
>> Unwelcome information can also threaten in other ways. “System
>> justification
>> <https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2017/06/system-justification>”
>> theorists like psychologist John Jost
>> <https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=Zh1vTeMAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao>
>> have shown how situations that represent a threat to established systems
>> trigger inflexible thinking and a desire for closure. For example, as Jost
>> and colleagues extensively review, populations experiencing economic
>> distress or external threat have often turned to authoritarian,
>> hierarchicalist leaders
>> <https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ftps0000122> promising
>> security and stability.
>>
>> <https://images.theconversation.com/files/312934/original/file-20200130-41490-1fn1e5d.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip> Everyone
>> sees the world through one partisan lens or another, based on their
>> identity and beliefs. Vladyslav Starozhylov/Shutterstock.com
>> <https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/3d-cinema-glasses-isolated-on-white-62373739> Denial
>> is everywhere
>>
>> This kind of affect-laden, motivated thinking explains a wide range of
>> examples of an extreme, evidence-resistant rejection of historical fact and
>> scientific consensus.
>>
>> Have tax cuts been shown to pay for themselves in terms of economic
>> growth? Do communities with high numbers of immigrants have higher rates of
>> violent crime? Did Russia interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
>> Predictably, expert opinion regarding such matters is treated by partisan
>> media as though evidence is itself inherently partisan
>> <https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/04/28/george_will_global_warming_is_socialism_by_the_back_door.html>
>> .
>>
>> Denialist phenomena are many and varied, but the story behind them is,
>> ultimately, quite simple. Human cognition is inseparable from the
>> unconscious emotional responses that go with it. Under the right
>> conditions, universal human traits like in-group favoritism, existential
>> anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic,
>> system-justifying identity politics.
>>
>> When group interests, creeds, or dogmas are threatened by unwelcome
>> factual information, biased thinking becomes denial. And unfortunately
>> these facts about human nature can be manipulated for political ends
>> <https://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/>.
>>
>> This picture is a bit grim, because it suggests that facts alone have
>> limited power to resolve politicized issues like climate change or
>> immigration policy. But properly understanding the phenomenon of denial is
>> surely a crucial first step to addressing it.
>>
>>
>>
>
> --
> Kamran Nayeri
>
>
> Jonathan Latham, PhD
> Executive Director
> The Bioscience Resource Project,
> Ithaca, NY 14850 USA
>
> Websites:
> www.independentsciencenews.org
> www.poisonpapers.org
> www.bioscienceresource.org
>
> Tel: 1-607-319-0279
> Twitter and Facebook: @Biosrp
> Please sign on to our mailing list:
> https://www.independentsciencenews.org/subscribe/
>
> “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits
> and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic
> society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society
> constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of
> our country.”—Edward Bernays, Propaganda
>
>


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