Cognitive immunology: Why aren't we all conspiracy theorists?

C C Offline
Cognitive dissonance

EXCERPTS: The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other.

[...] Cognitive dissonance poses a challenge: How can we resolve the uncomfortable feeling that arises when our own thoughts or actions clash with each other? Some responses may be more constructive than others.

A man who learns that his eating habits raise his risk of illness feels the tension between his preferred behavior and the idea that he could be in danger. He might ease this feeling by telling himself that the health warning is exaggerated or, more productively, by deciding to take action to change his behavior. If a woman reads that her favorite politician has done something immoral, she could conclude that the charges have been invented by his enemies—or, instead, rethink her support... (MORE - details)

Cognitive immunology: Why aren't we all conspiracy theorists?

EXCERPT: . . . The answer is that some of us have a degree of immunity to the claims of climate denialists. You may be immune also to QAnonsense. The solicitations of Scientologists may strike you as silly, and belief in Bigfoot may strike you as bunk. If any of these things are true [doubting orientation], you have a kind of resistance, or immunity, to some bad ideas. (None of us is immune to all bad ideas.) We’ll awaken from our post-truth nightmare when we understand mental immunity: what it is, where it comes from, and how to develop the mind’s defenses.

Sixty years ago, a psychologist named William McGuire discovered that minds behave as if they have immune systems. He established that you can expose minds to weakened forms of potentially mind-changing arguments and thereby inoculate them against stronger arguments. Since then, advertisers, religious apologists, and propagandists have leveraged his findings to close and manipulate minds.

Now, scholars are using inoculation theory to free minds. Some are inoculating minds against misinformation. Others are applying its principles to fight science denial. A new science is emerging: the science of immunity to bad ideas.

I call this new field “cognitive immunology.” It deploys a frame of reference that recognizes the ubiquity of infectious nonsense and treats resistance to it as a noteworthy achievement. Through this lens, senseless beliefs may warrant explanation, but acquired immunity to infectious ideas is especially salient. Cognitive immunology helps us understand what many minds are doing right.

Here’s the idea: false, baseless, and destructive ideas are mind parasites. Some are infectious and harm the minds that host them. But minds have defenses—“mental immune systems”—that offer some protection. These are natural systems, and we can study them like we do other natural systems. We can learn how they work and why they sometimes fail. Then, we can apply what we learn to prevent mental immune system breakdowns.

Cognitive immunologists are making strides. We’ve identified the mind’s antibodies. We know the basics of how mental immune systems work. (A healthy mind deploys questions and doubts to ward off problematic ideas; in unhealthy minds, this “mental immune function” is suppressed, misdirected, or hyperactive.)

We’ve learned that intelligence does not prevent mind infections, and that critical thinking skills can be used in motivated and selective ways. We’re cataloguing species of mental immune disorders. We’re isolating mental immune disruptors (beliefs that interfere with healthy idea assessment) and designing mental immune boosters (instruction that strengthens our ability to spot and remove bad ideas). We’re even experimenting with mind vaccines... (MORE - missing details)
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Joseph Heller: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean [eliminate all possibility] they aren't after you."

Bayesian probability
Leigha Offline
It seems that ''conspiracy theorist'' is used more and more in politics, to simply discredit a person's unpopular opinion these days, and shut down the conversation. To me, it's a problematic term when overused because there are real conspiracies that probably started as ''crazy theories.''

As far as false, dangerous conspiracy theories, I wonder if those that believe them, fail to question their knowledge on anything, really. Some may act like they know more than they really do...always...about everything. If they never entertain opinions other than their own, that could lead to delusional thinking.
Syne Offline
(Sep 12, 2021 03:53 AM)Leigha Wrote: If they never entertain opinions other than their own, that could lead to delusional thinking.

You listening, MR?

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