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This diary's title is a tribute to neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat chronicles ways in which brain damage can affect our perceptions in odd ways. But our brains can also lead us astray when they are working normally, in everyday life. A case in point is the now-infamous New Yorker cover that features false views of Barack and Michelle Obama taken by their fiercest opponents.

My co-author and I have written recently for the New York Times and on DailyKos about how our brains can lie to us. The topic of brain lies is also a major theme of our book Welcome To Your Brain.

One set of brain quirks allows us to eventually accept a false statement as being true even when we are explicitly told otherwise. Now we have a piece at the American Academy of Political and Social Science blog on how these ideas apply to the New Yorker cover. The use of caricature may potentially amplify the problems of false memory formation. We state:

Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues have shown that if people aren't given enough time to think, they tend to automatically accept a statement as being true. Visual information is processed particularly rapidly. And what's more immediate than a caricature?

I encourage people to check out the rest of our piece!

Originally posted to mindgeek on Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 03:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I linked to your article (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, SciVo, sanglug, Norbrook, roystah

    in one of the diaries about the cover last week, asserting that the wurlitzer of coverage on TV would serve to propel the image to many who would see it as confirmatory of the smear campaign.

  •  Most tragic example is the belief (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, luckylizard, dogheaven, SciVo

    by the majority of Americans before the invasion that Iraq was responsible for 9-11.   Bush never said so, but by association, when he talked about terrorists and then segued (slid into) talking about Saddam Hussein, this was the message that was transmitted.

    Along with the primacy of visual impact, is the effect of being in a state of fear.  When in danger we revert to our midbrain, that which sustained our forebears for eons.  We don't survive predators by thinking about it, but by fight or flight--and fast.  

    Since most see the Republicans as having beaten us for decades by mastering these phenomenon, many democrats, the "framers" etc, want us to do the same, but better.

    The problem is that it reinforces behavior that has the effect of reducing the cognitive capacity of individuals and societies. It accelerates the race to the intellectual bottom.

    This is about as serious an issue of the survival of this country as there is.

  •  I Thought This Was About Obama's Joke (4+ / 0-)

    About campaigning in 57 States that the Wingnuts simply didn't get.

    I STILL see them bloviating about Obama not knowing how many States there are.

    In the immortal words of Jed Clampett:

    Pitiful. Just pitiful.

    We have no intention of prosecuting Rush Limbaugh because lying through your teeth and being stupid isn't a crime.

    by The Baculum King on Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 03:16:03 PM PDT

  •  like a dagwood sandwich (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bmcphail, IreGyre

    Bushco has loaded the plate with false premise after false premise, one smothering the other until Afghanistan sounds like a good thing to top that sandwich off to people that have been trying desperately to get out of Iraq for the past six years.
    If we'd just get back to the original slice of bread, (9/11), a simple slab of truth would be far more delicious.
    America's collective brain has been washed and left at the cleaners and how we get it back will be Obama's biggest task.

    by tRueffert on Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 03:18:13 PM PDT

  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

    A case in point is the now-infamous New Yorker cover that features false views of Barack and Michelle Obama taken by their fiercest opponents.

    I will state as fact something I can't prove but know to be true: that article proved to more people that those false views are in fact false than the opposite. To think otherwise is to defy logic. That the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for it - a drop in the polls, maybe - dissuades nobody from continuing such nonsense is dismaying.

  •  Mindgeek, you should post a tip jar.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckylizard, dogheaven

    So we can recommend you!

    Everything about your findings rings true to me.  Thanks for your fantastic work.


  •  My brain is wierd. (0+ / 0-)

    When I see a traffic "No Left Turn" symbol, that is, a left turn arrow within a red circle with that red diagonal through it, for some reason I perceive the left arrow first.  This causes me to interpret the sign to say "Turn Left! . . . Not!"  It has caused me some precarious moments.  God knows what other tricks my brain plays on me.  I'm trapped alone in here!

    After practicing law for 38 years I've pretty much concluded that the human brain is a very efficient conclusion-jumping machine.  One of my mottoes: "The shortest story wins."  Due process of law, the right to challenge your adversary's story slowly, one fact at a time, is one of the most ingenious creations of our Founders.

    This whole area is fascinating to me.

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