cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and moral reasoning room 58:12

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Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology, and Moral ReasoningRoom 58:12Political and social polarization in the US is at its worst since the Civil War

Source: Haidt s presentation at SwathmoreWhy wont they see reason?!What psychology and neuroscience suggest may be hindering our communicationOur brain evolved mechanisms better suited for the pre-modern worldThe Spotlight Effect: we tend to think that other people notice things about us more than they actually do. ~Psychologist Nathan Heflick

Analysis paralysis, and choice regret: Sometimes, having too many options keeps us from making any decisions at all. And when we do settle on something, we're more likely to regret or be disappointed by it. ~Psychologist Barry SchwartzOur memory is notoriously fallible. One study even demonstrated that 25 percent of people could be induced to remember events that never even happened to them.

We favor our own WAY too much. Psychologists have found in-group bias to exist even among randomly-assigned groups.

Source: Huffington Post - 8 Things Your Brain Does Wrong Every DayOur brain evolved mechanisms better suited for the pre-modern worldour brains are wired to scout for the bad stuffwhich makes it hard for us to learn from our positive experiences [which] is the primary way to grow inner strength. ~ Psychologist Rick Hanson Hardwiring Happiness

Change blindnesswere probably not as aware as we think we are. ~(Harvard and Kent State study)

Cognitive dissonance and confirmation biasit is mentally taxing and confusing for us to let of of what we think we know and start collecting evidence for a new hypothesis

We see patterns where there are noneapophenia type 1 errorsconspiracy theories

Source: Huffington Post - 8 Things Your Brain Does Wrong Every Day

What we want/expect and what we focus on can change what we seeChun and Wolfe, 2001Balcetis and Dunning, 2006

Reason isnt very good at helping individuals find truthConfirmation Bias Motivated Reasoning

Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, pp 57-74.

but it can help moderate groups promote better ideasIts my job to convince you of my beliefs and find holes in your arguments, and vice versa

Haidt argues reason is more PR manager than passionless truth seeker Evidence confirms beliefCan I believe it?Evidence contradicts beliefDo I have to believe it?

Haidt found six underlying moral foundations common to all culturesLiberals tend to emphasize:CareFairnessConservatives emphasize all 6CareFairnessLibertyLoyaltyAuthoritySanctityHaidt, J. (2012).The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Random House LLC.

Haidt says morality blind and binds usUltrasociality (ants and humans)Religious ritesMagnetic polarizationDemonization and subjugation

For when you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of this color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your home or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

~ Robert F. KennedyMooney says the old brain (emotion) affects the new brain (reason)Storage and recall of memory is handled by the older regions of the brainBeliefs are physical structures in the brainReasoned arguments from a conflicting point of view cannot rework these physical pathways on the spotand it hurts (CD)

Mooney, Chris.The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.Mooney argues conservatives and liberals are differentin the headLiberalsOpenness to ExperienceTolerance for AmbiguityIntegrative ComplexityAnalysis Paralysis

ConservativesDeterminationPerseveranceLeadershipLoyaltyAuthoritarianNeed for Closure

Mooney argues that genetics is only a part (albeit currently underestimated) of the complex milieu that shapes how we perceive information and react to it. Some environmental factors he discusses include: family/group norms, selective media exposure, national political environment, major world events, and personal experience.

NOTE: Haidts discussion of twins converging over timeThe smartest people tend to be the most biasedThe smart idiot affect (Mooney) The more [sophist]icated you are and the more knowledgeable you are the more biased you are likely to be (Kahan)This can make it even harder for people to recognize when they are being biased and why others might view them as dishonestSo what can we do about it?Recommended strategies from psychologyMercier and Sperber say we should talk to people we disagree withInteraction is keyFace to FaceNon-verbal cuesSmall groupsThere needs to be a common interest in finding truth, willingness to change viewsTruths that threaten group/social status may be the hardest to overcomeHaidt argues that we need to demonize less and listen morePlea for moral humilityDont expect your reasoning to convince othersWork on relationships FIRST!How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale CarnegieAsteroid clubRead National Review AND The New Republic

Mooney says to liberalsinherit best conservative traitsand be coolIn order to be more successful electorally, be more like conservatives: determined, loyal, pick a direction and persevere (lead)Dont be like Convercetat least in one wayBe careful when you are:Self Affirmation Exercise (Nyhan and Reifler)Demonstrate common ground and dont threaten values (Kahan)

What can we do to help reverse the increasing divisions in our Country?

DISCUSSCommunity groupsBowling Alone19Confirmation bias tends to worsen as people are more sophisticatedWhen reading pro and con arguments, participants (Ps) counterargue the contrary arguments and uncritically accept supporting arguments, evidence of a disconfirmation bias. We also find a confirmation biasthe seeking out of confirmatory evidencewhen Ps are free to self-select the source of the arguments they read. Both the confirmation and disconfirmation biases lead to attitude polarization especially among those with the strongest priors and highest levels of political sophistication.Taber, C. S. and Lodge, M. (2006), Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs. American Journal of Political Science, 50:755769.


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