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The basic premise of cultural theory is that individuals can be expected to form beliefs about societal dangers that reflect and reinforce their commitments to one or another idealized form of social ordering.

That’s not an observation or academic conclusion which should be open to much debate, even though we may take issue with the benefits associated with that aspect of human nature. We form relationships and associations when we can with others whom we perceive share the same commitments, preferences, and values. We do so personally, culturally, socially, and to the extent feasible with those in our work environments.

I’m a die-hard Boston Bruins hockey fan. Not in this lifetime will I become a member of any collection of individuals who’ve associated because of their passion for the Montreal Canadiens. I will for similar reasons never be a member of any Young Republicans association or a Fox News Is The Best! Club.

The issue becomes more relevant and influential when we allow (consciously or not), those various associations and collaborations to create barriers preventing us from acquiring or assimilating knowledge, information, or perspectives which might better serve us now or over time. We’re all “guilty” of making such choices, but is there a way to appreciate that realization first, given that it is often done automatically, and then pausing for a moment or two to ask ourselves if that sole or customary way of thinking is actually our best choice?

‘Biased assimilation and polarization’ is a dynamic that characterizes information processing. When individuals are unconsciously motivated to persist in their beliefs, they selectively attend to evidence and arguments, crediting those that reinforce their beliefs and dismissing as noncredible those that contravene them. As a result of this ‘biased assimilation,’ individuals tend to harden in their views when exposed to a portfolio of arguments that variously support and challenge their views. By the same token, when groups of individuals who are motivated to persist in opposing beliefs are exposed to balanced information, they don’t converge in their views; as a result of biased assimilation they polarize.
[Kahan - link above]

That this is now the political norm for policy debates isn’t open to much dispute, either. Take any topic of significance or potential impact (climate change, income inequality, gay marriage, peak oil, etc., etc.) and we see combatants on both the Left and the Right locking down into the positions they and their in-group have established as ideological beachheads, and not much is gained other than scoring snark points. The needle doesn’t move much in terms of progress or problem-solving.

The listing of issues mentioned above is only a small sampling of challenges we’ll all be facing in the years ahead. Scoring talking points for our team may have its benefits, but if that’s the game we insist on playing while ignoring what’s happening off that field, we may be blind-sided by events which a little bit of insight and wisdom would have served us better.

Perhaps a different priority might be an option?


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Comment Preferences

  •  I've read that studies were done that show that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Mopshell

    When arguing topics such as religion and politics the sections of the brain that govern emotional but NOT reasoned responses of the brain become highly activated.

    The emotional response centers are also what some would call the "monkey brain" meaning the part that we share with other semi-evolved animals, e.g. primates but not reptiles.  It has been shown that when the "monkey brain" is driving the bus that one always feels justified and correct in their positions and responses.  

    In other words, it has been scientifically demonstrated that arguing politics is nearly never going to sway someone's opinion on the matter.

    "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

    by blackhand on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 06:34:49 AM PDT

    •  That's interesting, thank you. (0+ / 0-)

      I wonder if the same is true when talking to someone who shares your religious/political beliefs?

      Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

      by Mopshell on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 06:57:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've read that people of differing ideologies do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mopshell, semiMennonite

    poorly at math when computing arguments that do not support their own views...

    Yeah, it's an evolutionary brain development problem. I'm sure it has its reason for being, maybe even benefits, but it does leave us susceptible to groupthink and, as you say, polarization, and perhaps even most importantly, to manipulation; especially when the marketeers and spin doctors rule the public media.

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 06:40:40 AM PDT

  •  there's nothing wrong with hardening of strategy, (0+ / 0-)

    Lincoln took a radical position against compromise right into a civil war, Washington against Brit imperialism, Madison against the Articles, JQA against slavery and the gag rule, Charles Sumner against slavery and racism, Jimmy Stewart against the Potter Bank. Classic Capra. Also FDR against the Court in 1937, and fascism in WWII, JFK/LBJ against Jim Crow in 1963-5, MLK against Vietnam. In "Each Dawn I Die" George Raft breaks out of prison to help Cagney still inside, Hollywood stopped making jailbreak genre movies, but this kind of heroism on behalf of justice is what the greatest generation was brought up on.

    I'm certainly guilty of what you describe, but more reptilian and self-righteous. That doesn't play today. But that's because genuine debate has been pretty much banned everywhere since Gore Vidal died. It's pretty rare that the leftist position would be permitted equal time in the media. Noam Chomsky is an example, also the right-biased news and parties as Mort Sahl used to point out. The views of professional politicians of the major parties get about as close to right/left free speech as the 1919 World Series was to competitive baseball.

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