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Feb 27, 2009

Why Should I Believe You?

Brain Rinse
02/27/09 - ChcagoBoyz by John Jay

First impressions are usually the strongest ones. The acclaim or possible danger associated with a product or idea leads to thinking it is the best or worst, even when better ones appear or studies show safety.

Shannon Love comments that this is Social Reasoning, a result of our brains being specialized for cooperation and competition within groups. Groups started 2 million years ago. Individuality is only a thin thread starting 2 thousand years ago.

John Jay:

[edited] What I call “mental aftertaste” is that on many topics, there is no way for the layman to perform a test, such as directly comparing the washing efficacy of Dreft and Tide. No test is available that would once and for all change their perceptions. In most arenas, once the tone has been set by the first mover, it is extremely difficult to shake a perception.

Con-men, tricksters, marketers, and intelligence agents realize that once an idea gets into someone’s head, even if it is disproven to the rational brain, there is an emotional residue akin to an aftertaste that colors perceptions. Unless the new idea totally dominates the old one, the old one tends to stick. This is at the core of the marketing adage that "perception is reality".

Shannon Love:
[edited] People fall for all of these hoaxes because they use social reasoning instead of the evidence of each phenomena. Consider astrology, vaccine fears, suspect technology, alternative medicine, and suppressed miracles. The common factor is deep suspicion of other people or the need to believe one’s self to have unique knowledge.

People trained in the sciences are taught to ignore social reasoning. For the majority of people outside the sciences, even well educated people, social reasoning is their primary modality of thought. This is especially true in political and economic thought. The dominant idea in post-modernist thought holds that who advances an idea is the most powerful predictor of validity.

Thus, who a scientist is determines whether their ideas about global warming have any validity. Ditto for economists, politicians, and academics. Those in the tribe are trusted, those outside are automatically wrong.

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