Psychology of belief
Basics of Group Conflict
When opposing ideologies approach an interaction with a mindset that their beliefs reflect a complete and accurate understanding of reality, a negative outcome is practically assured. No information with productive utility is likely to result. Both sides become more frustrated and self-righteous than before the interaction, further precluding the possibility that a typical individual from one and/or both groups could benefit. While there are several angles from which to explain this common occurrence, at the fundamental level it is the due to naive realism. Naive realism results from the assumption that sensory information provides them with a direct awareness of the world as it really is. This is incorrect and problematic. First, there is no such as direct perception. We have no senses that are capable of this due to the fact perception evolved for evolutionary purposes, not accurate perception. It is much more accurate to say that things in the environment are perceived as an experience of meaning. The meaning being the relationship something has to one's goals and desires. That could also be called a belief about it. The purpose that the thing can serve in aiding or hurting with the movement from where you are now to where you want to go. That is very different from direct perception. It more like bits of abstract information being interpreted by gluing them together everything you have learned. The analogy of a computer icon works well. The icon has meaning in that it performs a certain function, but that actual machinery that performs it is never seen and much more complicated than what you see. Direct perception of the environment never occurs. It is very difficult to conceptualize what that even means because it has never been done by anyone.
Due to naive realism, each side of conflict are assuming their perceptions accurately capture reality. This concept is also captured in other articles ons beliefs systems. Without recognizing that the underlying cause and effect based interpretations that make up beliefs only capture a very limited amount of the total information that exists, it is hard to grasp that something besides what you believe could more “true.” It does not matter how “true” something seems subjectively, The feeling correctness and the experience of it being rational, does not mean it is true. There is always much more to learn outside of beliefs. It is naïve to do so and is characteristic of fundamentalism. The reduction of more complex systems to simple “if, then” or simple cause and effect relationships.
Positive outcome would be much more likely when able to recognize that something seeming right is property of perception that does not make something correct. Unfortunately, this not understood and groups provide peer support as evidence for wrong idea. The naive sense of correctness only serves increase the polarization, as each side can’t understand they wrong. It is ironic, but the increasing polarization that leads to greater disconnect with reality occurs with even more confidence in illogical arguments.. That is, the heightened sense of self-righteousness that occurs would be recognized as reasonableness decreasing to a neutral observer. This lack of correlation between self-assuredness and reality is usually the case when basic fear or survival mechanisms are involved in thinking. In such circumstances, thoughts are taken over by mechanisms for fast instinctual responses. This quick responding is interpreted by the conscious mind as being “correct” and rooted deep within old brain structures. The fronto-parietal lobes, responsible for slower and more deliberate thought that characterizes higher-order thinking, is more recently evolved. When under threat, such as when one’s beliefs are being attacked, this part of the brain is literal put “off-line.” This occurs due to inhibition for the instinctive older structures. The problem is that at the subjective experience level, there is no obvious difference. A thought is a thought. . The higher-order regions responsible for metacognitive insights are being drowned out.
There is a predictable repertoire of defensive strategies that are subjectively experienced as higher-order thinking when functional fMRI indicates this not to be true topic regarding contentious ideological beliefs. These are cognitive tools that provide an illusion of logical reasoning. One example is attacking the source of the information and not addressing the actual information. This might be resorting to name calling of person or not believing anything someone says because they may have said something you wrong on an unrelated point. Another common one would be over-generalization. That is when the idea/thought/concept is characterized in a way that does support the intended meaning.
Such inaccurate viewpoints persist because “artificial” environments are constructed in which one in mostly encounters others with the same perspective and information which supports those viewpoints. In order to avoid such situations, an artificial environment in which one is only exposed to perspectives and information that supports what they believe is constructed around them. In alternative viewpoints in such a way, a false sense of legitimacy that results from a constructed environment allows for increasingly radical ideas to emerge from individuals within that environment. They are insulated from the amalgam of viewpoints that make up the real world. Thought processes that occur within this encapsulation become increasingly detached from reality if not kept in check by reasonableness. Extreme reactions such as violence may seem n due to distorted view of reality. When this situation occurs, it is often mirrored on both sides. What makes this all worse is that the ability to perceive the increased reality detachment and the resulting irrational behaviors occurring in the opposition group are conserved. It is important to note that inhibition of high-order thinking is selective. For example, comprehension of argumentative nuance will be used if it involves support to their own world view and not used if it involves a understanding a counter argument to that view. However, if something about another group should be interpreted as good with understanding it just a little better and considering just one or two more factors, it is clear that higher-order critical thinking skills have been paused. These things are covered with blanket statements and looked at with a fundamentalist mindset. Highly intelligent people are still subject to these selective cognitive malfunctions when their own highly held beliefs are questioned. It easy to see why such situations are dangerous. Each side remains vigilant to the faults in the other, blind to their own, while at the same time their perspectives are both becoming further detached from reality. Observing the faults in the other side provides more rationalizations for their own constructed environments, which then can become distorted further. This can go back and forth until the amount of objective reasonableness of each side deteriorates to a point where a violent response remains the only option that can be conceived.
It is also possible however, that there is one side that is truly hateful and dangerous. Knowledge of this possibility on both sides can serve to intensify the situation. This is typically not the case and that mentality should be avoided. Human psychology normally ensures that this is not the case, as these situation arise due to predictable psychological mechanisms that require an opposition group to evolve. Again, this is reflected by the deterioration of reasonableness on one side being in step with the other. An example of this is not being the case is hard to find. The majority of negative interactions, such as the one between conservative and liberal ideologies, go through cycles and evolve over many years. The pattern of behaviors by the individuals on both sides is somewhat predictable. With that said, increasing radicalism and selective inhibition of higher-order thought on both sides is very concerning.
Somewhat counter intuitively relative to most approaches, alleviating these issues is not best done by addressing the interaction directly. That is what is always done and is why group conflict as been a major problem throughout history. Due to the dynamics involved with the psychology of individuals that make up the groups and their perception of the other group, an individual focused bottom-up approach is also necessary. As opposed to negotiating a more reasonable interaction between the groups as a whole, helping the individual negotiate their interaction with the environment independently of what is occurring with the group interaction. This involves instilling self-confidence in the ability to overcome challenges, as oppose focusing on what is in the way. Optimally, using ingenuity and ability to "problems" from perspectives not contained by any predefined ideology. to The primary concern of what is occurring at the group level is more restricted to maintain and increasing individual rights to a reasonable to agree, such that pursuit of meaningful goals is not precluded. Of course other policy issues matter, but when they are debated from a mindset of dependence and helplessness, the cooperation needed to make good policies is difficult.
When the individual learns about how to work with their own psychology and improve their own life, they also become a guiding light for others. They demonstrate it is possible and become a part of the solution. They see that they can do on their own what they thought required imposing the groups will. Focus on the groups as a whole and not fostering a sense of control over one’s own life, only intensifies the conflict. It reinforces dependence upon the group for happiness. There is an alternative. Life is challenging, but that does not mean we should focus on making it easier for our own group. Our psychology and the nature of reality itself ensures it will always be challenging. Entropy is constant force that is tearing everything you know apart non-stop and you are resisting it. You shouldn’t even be here, but here you are constantly trying maintain things that are always falling apart. It is amazing. Why not run with it and see how much you create and maintain as the entropy resisting life form you are. Embrace the challenge by finding goals that create meaningful changes in the world, thus making the inevitable challenges worth it.
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