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View Diary: Street Prophets: Rant on! (51 comments)

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  •  speaking of good and evil (4+ / 0-)

    Reading an interesting book on the history of the concept of free will, which covers ground in the fields of philosophy and psychology...and reveals, through an analysis of numerous psychological studies... that human beings, in essence, are driven by our brain wiring, not our "free will" which doesn't exist as such, because we don't get to choose our brains. The way the brain functions is through a constant interplay between the environment (social group) and habit. As a result of which, who you hang around with, the information and attitudes you are exposed to, and what you do with your time and your mind are all extremely influential. In other words, people are more sponge-like and mutable than we tend to believe. The group determines behavior to a large extent. And people are notoriously adept at rationalization, prone to hypocrisy and myopia, and chronic revisionism. It's not about guilt or blame, but about hard-wired human limitations - the inchoate mass of sensory information filtered through a will to survive makes everyone...well, just sort of clueless. We invent reasons for our behavior after we do the behavior, not before - there is a kind of retroactive fabrication of our own version of "truthiness."

    When you see a bureaucracy doing things that obviously run counter to the needs of the population that bureaucracy is meant to serve...that's a framing issue. People are driven by emotion not by reason (there's current AlterNet article on this phenomenon also).

    I guess the author is attempting to suggest that if we could see ourselves as a species more objectively, we would be able to be more selective about the kinds of environments we put ourselves in. Or at least be cognizant of how people actually work vs. how we think they should work. (The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Science, and the Myth of Free Will, Heidi Ravven.) It's not that we don't have choices, but that we don't have quite the range of options we think we have. We are truly interdependent.

    •  I agree with most (3+ / 0-)

      if not all.

      This:

      We invent reasons for our behavior after we do the behavior, not before - there is a kind of retroactive fabrication of our own version of "truthiness."
      I have seen this many times over.

      Very interesting.

      "the Devil made me buy this dress!" Flip Wilson as Geraldine Jones

      by BlueJessamine on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 11:54:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think we all have - ? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlueJessamine, NormAl1792

        But what's interesting is that these observable eye-roll inducing behaviors...have been demonstrated to be pretty universal. According to some of the studies she writes about, people who suffer from depression are better able to observe these kinds of traits in themselves than those who do not. But we all have them.

        Most interesting (and disturbing) were accounts of studies that showed the group dynamic influenced behavior to such an extent that seemingly "normal" people from "nice middle class families" would become vicious abusers in a closed setting where that role was encouraged (the Stanford prison experiment is one example)...and what they learned was that a closed environment breeds a narrow point of view (not surprisingly) but it can be quite dangerous - as in Abu Ghraib or Nazi Germany - it takes the perspective of outsiders to disrupt the dynamic of a closed social system. Usually there would be a hierarchical authoritarian structure where people were punished for non-conformity and given status for compliance. Another experiment designed by Stanley Milgram at around the same time Philip Zimbardo ran the Stanford prison experiment showed that test subjects were willing to be urged - and could successfully be urged - to administer what they believed were electric shocks to other people (test collaborators not known to subjects as such) - to the highest level of pain allowed by the test - just because an authority in a white coat told them to do it. That this happened from a pool of average people off the street, repeatedly, was pretty chilling. The tone of a group is very much determined from the top down.

        I read in another book that when people were asked to review information and make decisions about it, they scored much higher on accuracy when they worked alone than when they worked in a group. It was something like...the brain activates social centers in group decision making that wouldn't be used if a person were alone. So in a very real sense, people are smarter when they're by themselves.

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