Learning all the ideas Hubbard put forth are bullshit is stunning. After Scientology I definitely needed to face a profoundly humbling reality - my false education in Scientology being laid bare as a fraud devoid of value or truth meant I am one of the least educated adults I know. Not only do I lack correct education - I actually have a deeply flawed one to overcome. That's an even bigger deficit than plain ignorance.
So, I know I need to look at where to even start and what to learn to try and catch up to other adults. It's a difficult and intimidating challenge.
I have started with many books on Scientology itself to understand what it did and try to recover from its influence. But aside from understanding Scientology there is a lot more to know.
I already have written about books on several topics through the lens of understanding Scientology, but at some point you graduate to trying to learn things for other reasons.
I previously wrote entire series on books like Age Of Propaganda, A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance, Influence, Cults In Our Midst, Cults Inside Out, Recovery From Cults, Take Back Your Life and Traumatic Narcissism.
I also read books on the true history of Scientology like Bare Faced Messiah, L Ron Hubbard Messiah or Madman, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, Beyond Belief, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, and A Piece Of Blue Sky.
I ended up reading The Sociopath Next Door, The True Believer, The Crowd, Freedom Of Mind, The Brain (by David Eagleman), Hypnotism Comes Of Age, Social Psychology For Dummies and Trances People Live.
Entirely apart from anything related to Scientology I started to pursue books to understand politics and political affiliation like Lies Incorporated, The Fox Effect, Don't Think Of An Elephant !, Moral Politics, Our Political Nature, A Colony In A Nation, Listen Liberal, No Is Not Enough, Warnings, On Liberty and The New Jim Crow.
To some ex Scientologists reading several dozen books to understand Scientology and try to catch up on their education seems insurmountable. I understand. Not only do I read these books, in many cases I write virtually the equivalent of a book on them.
But it's really the only way I know to take this on. I don't recommend for or against talk therapy, but I am extremely confident that therapy isn't going to result in the same knowledge reading books will. It may provide benefits reading won't but it can't provide education like reading does.
I don't think it's ever going to make up for twenty five years wasted in Scientology, but you won't get anywhere if you don't try.
I think an important point that can't be overstated is that Hubbard's ideas on the mind aren't a little off, they are generally entirely wrong. Not only that but his estimations of the development of other subjects including the understanding of the mind other sciences hold is woefully inadequate.
I have been initially skeptical about how well these subjects were developed and how scientific the research methods were. A serious examination of many of the methods used and effort involved has led me to reconsider and see that there's a valid and growing number of genuine scientific subjects related to the mind and related subjects.
The information in these subjects, particularly where well researched and supported by numerous studies and experiments, is both a vital awakening for ex Scientologists as to the preposterous, unscientific and frankly wrong ideas Hubbard presented and it's a partial antidote to his lies to see the lack of scientific research and method in Scientology. It helps to begin a real education on the ideas and not just settle for "Hubbard was wrong, I don't know what is right."
I can't predict where these sciences will go and to be really scientific any ideas that are accepted can be later disproven or falsified by later evidence. No sacred science here, to borrow a phrase from Robert Jay Lifton, and I ain't no guru or saint.
I just am going to look around, find what looks like it's a better or more true alternative to what Scientology provided and put it forward.
For some ex Scientologists this will be a great find, for others it hopefully will give them starting points to look at some subjects and see where their desires and needs lead them.
If someone reads a little of my stuff but finds subjects, authors and books that significantly help improve their lives that is better than if they faithfully read everything I write about and don't get improvement in their lives or if even worse they substituted dependence on Hubbard with dependence on me. I frankly would rather have people decide I am an uninformed idiot and reject me entirely than ever have the kind of relationship Hubbard did with his followers.
So, I am going to try to emphasize the origins of virtually everything I share is in ideas others wrote about and I just am sharing them. It's a lot easier to relay an idea than to come up with it.
The first book I have chosen to cover in the Alternatives To Scientology series is Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow. It's a book of moderate difficulty in my opinion that is a great alternative to Scientology to start with.
It addresses the reality of the unconscious mind and for ex Scientologists is a terrific contrast to Hubbard's fraudulent claims.
I think people should have a minimal amount of education on the mind and decide if they want to find out more for themselves. I have started with Subliminal because it is not a very difficult book and has an excellent cross section of assorted ideas from neuroscience, social psychology and psychology to consider and see a bit of what alternatives to Scientology have to offer. They are also subjects that have far, far better scientific research and evidence than Scientology and can contrast scientific research against the pseudoscience of Hubbard and Scientology. They are worlds apart.
I hope that ex Scientologists and anyone who is interested in understanding people will find this useful.
In the prologue Mlodinow wrote "Carl Jung wrote, "There are certain events of which we have not consciously taken note; they have remained, so to speak, below the threshold of consciousness. They have happened, but they have been absorbed subliminally." The Latin root of the word "subliminal" translates to "below threshold." Psychologists employ the term to mean below the threshold of consciousness. This book is about subliminal effects in that broad sense--about the the processes of the unconscious mind and how they influence us. End quote.
In Subliminal advances in neuroscience including fMRI scans and studies using them are highlighted. The fMRI scans offer scientists the opportunity to map the brain in far better detail than ever before and to see which regions of the brain and nervous system are active in different circumstances and during different activities. Combining this with the vast wealth of information accumulated through experiments in social psychology and advances such as tests for implicit bias has created a far, far better base of scientific evidence to consult for the purpose of understanding human thought, emotions and behavior.
I have dealt with Scientologists starting with Hubbard himself that tried to discredit and reject scientific studies of the mind. I also have dealt with numerous independent Scientologists and even several passionate ex Scientologists that continue to follow Hubbard's ideas and won't even examine the evidence that the understanding of the mind has tremendously progressed and is a legitimate science that has been well established. It's not perfect and doesn't have perfect answers or absolutely true solutions but it is worth knowing.
Mlodinow wrote, "Research suggests that when it comes to understanding our feelings, we humans have an odd mix of low ability and high confidence."(page 19)
As an example of behavior motivated by unexpected reasons he presented a study of three U.S. states and the last names of people that married each other. It demonstrated that if one was named Smith or Brown or Jones they were significantly more likely to marry someone else with the same last name. We are unlikely to grow up thinking I want to marry someone with my own name, but it seems that we chose to do just that more than random chance would create.
Mlodinow went on, "Most of us are satisfied with our theories about ourselves and accept them with confidence, but we rarely see those theories tested."
Now good science has shown we are good at guessing our motives and being certain we understand them and bad at getting those guesses correct. A terrible combination.
As another example he described a study in which people are given either good popcorn upon entering a movie theater or intentionally bad (as in soggy, stale and terrible) for answering a few questions along with a free drink. They are given alternately a big popcorn or a huge popcorn, both are too large to finish in one sitting, and they found the size of the popcorn determined how much was eaten as much as whether it was good or terrible. (Page 20)
He sited other studies that show doubling the size of the container of snack food increases consumption by 30 to 45 percent. (Page 20)
One of the most important points Mlodinow makes is "While we sometimes acknowledge that such factors can influence other people we usually believe---wrongly--that they cannot affect us." (Page 20)
He was referring to what advertisers call "environmental factors", such as package design, package or portion size, and menu descriptions.
As examples he provided, "Studies show that flowery modifiers not only tempt people to order the lyrically described foods but also lead them to rate those foods as tasting better than the identical foods given only a generic listing." (Page 21)
He went on to describe a study that found if people were given a recipe for preparing food and it was presented in a difficult to read font they described the preparation as more difficult. (Page 21)
This was reflected in a lower willingness to prepare the difficult to read but identical recipe. It was repeated with an exercise routine written as one page of easy to read or difficult to read text and the same result occurred. People were more certain the difficult to read font described a difficult exercise and less willing to do it.
Mlodinow wrote, "Psychologists call this the "fluency effect." If the form of the information is difficult to assimilate, that affects our judgments about the substance of that information." (Page 22)
It's not likely that we factor in the difficulty in receiving a communication as an influence on our perception of the communication.
Mlodinow described how an economics professor from Caltech named Antonio Rangel has done experiments demonstrating how people aren't the pure rational actors we usually assume ourselves to be.
Rangel found people will pay far more (40 to 61 percent more) if they have the item in front of them rather than on a computer. He found they were willing to pay the computer level if the item was behind plexiglass.
I can get chips from a vending machine for ninety cents or off a shelf at the convenience store for a dollar sixty nine. Hmm.
He went on to describe studies that found people rate detergent as superior if it was in a box with blue and yellow, instead of blue or yellow, despite the detergents being identical in each box.
He described how in England four German wines and four French wines were placed on shelves with either German or French music piped in. On the days German music was played over seventy percent of the wine purchased was German and on the days French music was played over seventy percent of the wine purchased was French.
Of course when asked if the music was a factor in their decision to purchase the wine only one customer in seven said yes.
Rangel went on to do a study of wine tasting. He had people sample and rate wines only knowing prices. One was labeled ninety dollars a bottle and the other ten dollars. They had fMRI scans done while tasting the wines and had more activity in certain regions of their brains. Of course they rated the more expensive wine as better tasting. Of course the wines were identical. Uhm hmmm.
Our brains create through experience and anticipation. He described how in the cola wars there is the "Pepsi paradox" - people routinely rate Pepsi as better tasting when placed in a blind taste test against Coke. But rate Coke as better tasting when they know what they are comparing.
Maybe all those commercials with people singing about love and friendly polar bears have created an association with happiness and Coke.
To go even further the VMPC aka ventromedial prefrontal cortex (a portion of the brain associated with "warm, fuzzy feelings such as those we experience when we contemplate a familiar brand-name product." to quote Mlodinow.)(Page 25) was studied in 2007 and researchers found people with significant damage there preferred Pepsi in blind tests and when they knew which soda they were drinking. Hmm.
We usually don't say "I prefer this product because I have numerous psychological factors that predispose me to an array of biases" but probably should.
Mlodinow described how the ease of reading and pronouncing the names of new stocks affects how well they initially sell and that studies have shown people leave bigger tips for waitresses on sunny days than rainy days and another study found people gave better tips in an Atlantic city casino for food brought to their rooms if it was sunny.
I get paid the same, rain or shine, but many people that rely on tips really do better with a sunny day.
A study was done of New York city stock exchange trades and a finance professor analyzed data from 1927 to 1990. He concluded sunny days and rainy days influenced stock prices.
To support this we have another study by a pair of researchers that looked at stock markets in twenty six countries from 1982 through 1997. They confirmed the first study. (Page 28)
Mlodinow goes on, "We perceive, we remember our experiences, we make judgments, we act--and in all of these endeavors we are influenced by factors we aren't aware of." (Page 29)
For Scientologists and ex Scientologists I can assure you a lot more evidence has been presented that supports this basic idea and the ideas Hubbard had on this are not scientific, in agreement with the vast preponderance of evidence available or remotely true.
I know Hubbard expressed hidden influence as having tremendous power, which on the surface seems to be exactly what I am presenting, but the details of what, where, when and how influence exists and Hubbard's ideas are entirely different and how these ideas were arrived at almost couldn't be more different.
And I hope that difference is worth exploring and the methods and evidence to support that difference are worth very serious and careful examination. To me it's all the difference in the world.
In trying to understand the human mind philosophers from the time of the ancient Greeks tried to describe the subconscious mind and could use whatever ideas they dreamed up to answer questions about the mind.
It was thought by philosophers as far as the 1800s that the human mind couldn't be examined with empirical evidence like other subjects. German philosopher Immanuel Kant felt we construct our view of the world but it couldn't be verified scientifically.
In 1834 physiologist E.H. Weber did experiments on the sense of touch and demonstrated that through scientific experiments measurable and repeatable evidence regarding the mind can be found.
In 1879 German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt established the world's first psychology laboratory and a Harvard MD and professor William James also set up a lab.
From the experiments these two pioneered psychology the New Psychology emerged that would revolutionize the field.
From his book Subliminal Leonard Mlodinow wrote, (quoting British psychologist William Carpenter from his 1874 book Principles Of Mental Physiology) "two distinct trains of Mental action are carried on simultaneously, one consciously, the other unconsciously," and that the more thoroughly we examine the mechanisms of the mind , the clearer it becomes "that not only an automatic, but unconscious action enters largely into all its processes."(Page 32)
The subconscious or unconscious mind has been described as entirely necessary but usually overlooked. It's like a hundred behind the scenes people putting on a show in which only the star in the spotlight is usually seen.
Mlodinow wrote, "According to a textbook on human physiology, the human sensory system sends the brain about eleven million bits of information each second"..."The actual amount of information we can handle has been estimated to be somewhere between sixteen and fifty bits per second."(Page 33)
We don't usually think about it but usually our bodies have a tremendous number of sensory inputs to evaluate and respond to. We have senses of balance, pressure, heat, taste, smell, and many fine details we don't usually consider like our breathing, heartbeat and many functions. We have glands that secrete a variety of hormones and neurons and neurotransmitters that carry messages to receptors that receive those messages. And many other things I haven't even touched on.
Perhaps over 95 percent of our mental processes are unconscious and less than 5 percent are conscious, some scientists say less than 2 or even 1 percent of our mind is conscious.
That's like a tiny piece of ice being visible and something you can easily inspect with a giant mammoth mountain of an iceberg below the depths and unseen. If you thought the movement and actions of the tiny sliver that can be seen above explains everything, you would be incorrect regarding many things like the momentum and inertia of this ice.
You would be wrong about how it would affect what it interacts with and how it is affected.
Mlodinow referred to the case of a man called TN who is famous in literature on neuroscience. I will briefly recap, and hopefully not butcher, a few facts about TN. He was a fifty two year old man that was a doctor and unfortunately had several strokes that knocked out functions in his occipital lobes, brain portions crucial for processing visual information from the eyes and getting it to the conscious mind.
His eyes worked and his unconscious mind received the information but sadly it didn't make it the rest of the way to his conscious mind. He was tested and his total blindness was established.
Through brain injuries to other people and creatures disabling vision a lot of supporting evidence has been established for this result.
So TN had an intact optical system but a completely destroyed visual cortex, to paraphrase Mlodinow.
Researchers used forced choice experiments - make the blind TN sit in front of a computer with pictures and have him guess details about the pictures. See if a blind man can see or be guided by his subconscious.
First he was given geometric shapes to guess, and got them right about half the time. That's what you expect from a blind man. But they presented him faces and asked if they were happy or angry. Evaluating faces is crucial to human survival. You look for love or hate, honesty or deception, safety or danger in a face. That evaluation, sometimes in a second is crucial to survival.
We even have a portion of our brains specifically set aside to recognize faces and expressions and interpret the meaning of them. Vision in general is so important about a third of our brains are devoted to the task.
This blind man could use the specialized area focused on faces in the brain - the fusiform face area - to guess facial expressions correctly nearly two out of three times, despite not seeing anything.
Some researchers heard of these results and got an idea for another experiment. They created a corridor filled with obstacles that a sighted person would simply walk around and eventually convinced TN to try to walk through it with a person that would trail him to catch him if he fell and see what happened.
TN walked down the corridor and reportedly walked around a garbage can, a stack of paper, and several boxes. He reportedly didn't stumble or collide with any objects. He had no idea how he had done this.
This phenomena has come to be called blindsight. Wounds experienced by many soldiers during World War I in the occipital lobe well established that the occipital lobe is crucial to processing vision. Hundreds of soldiers were shot in this region and survived. The bullets used in World War I were significantly different than most modern bullets and didn't do the tremendous damage modern bullets do, so this type of wound provided a lot of opportunities to research which brain sections are associated with which functions, by seeing what functions are knocked out by removing or damaging which portion of the brain occurs.
The function of the unconscious in processing sensory information and filling in gaps has a lot of other evidence. We can have a portion of a word dropped out in a phone conversation and from the context our mind can guess the appropriate sound to complete the word. It can do it so subtly we don't recognize the dropped out portion as being missing. Similarly we can be missing a portion of what we see do to poor lighting, shadows, eye movement and other causes and our unconscious can fill in the blanks often to see the most likely or appropriate view in our opinions, unconscious opinions.
Mlodinow wrote, "The world we perceive is an artificially constructed environment whose character and properties are as much a result of unconscious mental processing as they are a product of real data." (Page 50)
Mlodinow sums up the second chapter (Sense Plus Mind Equals Reality) with, "That brings up a question to which we will return again and again, in contexts ranging from vision to memory to the way we judge the people we meet: If a central function of the unconscious is to fill in the blanks when there is incomplete information in order to construct a useful picture of reality, how much of that picture is accurate ?" (Page 51)
A question that is of particular relevance to Scientologists and ex Scientologists is how can the unconscious shape, alter or influence memories ? And how can influence of the unseen unconscious be unseen influence of memory ?
That's the subject of the next chapter.
In the third chapter (Remembering And Forgetting) of his book Subliminal Leonard Mlodinow takes on the issues of how much the unconscious or subconscious mind affects memory.
We usually assume our memories are accurate and reliable. We believe everything we recall happened as we remember. It's unfortunately not true.
I know you may think your memory is good, and I often have myself. But there is a lot of evidence that we can be swayed by factors to be inaccurate, sometimes in the most important situations.
Many people identified by victims of horrific crimes like rape, sexual abuse, robberies, assaults and other crimes have eventually been exonerated due to DNA evidence despite the victims picking suspects out of lineups and testifying against them with strong certainty.
Mlodinow wrote, "About seventy-five thousand police lineups take place each year, and statistics on those show that 20 to 25 percent of the time witnesses make a choice that police know is incorrect." (Page 55)
Mlodinow went on to explain how police use fillers meaning people like other police or people imprisoned in local jails to fill the lineup out. They have assumed a person who was in jail for months or years didn't recently commit a crime outside the jail in person. There have been experimental studies that have suggested more than half the time if there is a lineup and the correct person who committed a crime isn't present people will pick someone out of the lineup. Terrifying for numerous reasons.
Mlodinow wrote, "An organization called the Innocence Project, for example, found that of the hundreds of people exonerated on the basis of postconviction DNA testing, 75 percent had been imprisoned because of inaccurate eyewitness identification."
This gives us several problems with the criminal justice system. A book called Convicting The Innocent by Brandon Garrett takes this up.
I personally don't like the fact that a person can be convicted solely on the basis of eyewitness testimony with no other evidence, despite eyewitnesses being far too unreliable alone. The standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly for the most serious crimes, to me should require more proof. We are imprisoning innocent people and letting the guilty walk free to commit more crimes, likely by the tens of thousands each year.
A lot of research and evidence supports the idea that we can have memories that are clear and vivid that we are certain of which are inaccurate or even entirely false. Philip K Dick would love to explore this. He wrote many stories about the nature of memory and reality and himself had serious mental health issues.
Psychologists thought - as most of us do of - that you had memories saved like files of videos and they could be lost or fade if we couldn't find them but that the vividness and completeness of a memory corresponded with its accuracy. Even many very recently believed this. It seems true to us, we consult certainty for certainty.
In 1907 Hugo Munsterberg, a German psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt, realized memories could be vivid and inaccurate.
He had his home burglarized and he examined his home then described it in vivid detail to police in interviews and in court and he got many details completely wrong. He had delivered thousands of lectures relying only on his memory and was stunned by this revelation.
Munsterberg studied memory and tried something original. He studied a staged event. Professor Franz Von Liszt gave a talk on criminology and afterwards a man stood up and got into an argument with another man, soon a gun was pulled and it was fired and people ran around and finally it was revealed to be staged. Witnesses were in different groups asked to write essays or answer questions or report on these events in another way.
People reported details that never occurred, they reported events in entirely different orders from reality and ommisions, alterations and additions were counted as errors. Error rates from 26 to 80 percent were reported.
Staged event became the rage in Europe for a while. People got things wrong consistently. They recalled who did what and who spoke wrong and even who wore or didn't wear a hat.
From all these experiences Munsterberg formed a theory on memory - we don't remember everything, but try to remember the most important things and when needed for consultation our memories are pulled and combined with our efforts to fill in the blanks and we don't consciously know about the creative editing our unconscious minds perform before or while presenting our memories.
Mlodinow wrote, "Munsterberg published his ideas about memory in a book that became a best seller, On the Witness Stand: Essays on Psychology and Crime. In it, he elaborated on a number of key concepts that many researchers now believe correspond to the way memory really does work: first, people have a good memory for the general gist of events but a bad one for the details; second, when pressed for unremembered details, even well-intentioned people making a sincere effort to be accurate will inadvertently fill in the gaps by making things up; and third, people will believe the memories they make up."
These revelations bring us to a crossroads. How do we survive and operate with such poor memories ? Why don't we notice ?
Well, our memories have evolved to select and focus on the most important things in our estimation. If you have to tell your boss one thing from his boss that is a yes or no answer you understand you need to get that right and not the color of his tie or what he had for lunch.
Our minds filter for importance and you can have a boring conversation with a person who you feel has no important information for hours on a long bus or train ride and forget everything that they said upon walking away, and be glad to forget it.
We retain conclusions and not details. We categorize information to help us remember it. Sometimes we remember something in the same category when asked for information, a person similar to another or a description of something instead of the thing or the most vivid idea we associate with a person or thing. When you see someone say "the guy on the show about the thing in the place" they are remembering the ideas they associate with something, sort of.
In memory research people can be given lists of words to recall later. If you have synonyms of words on the list in questions people will recall those as being present when something close was. They recalled the general idea better than the specific words.
Frederic Bartlett researched memory and found we edit and re-edit over and over. If asked about incidents from our childhood we surprisingly give different accounts right after an event, a year later, five years later and ten years later. We change parts, leaving out some adding others and adjusting minor details.
Many, many experiments have verified our changing and incomplete memories. It has been found for us to recall something we have our conscious mind must focus attention on it, a conscious mind only focuses on a few details usually and that guides memory of vision. If it's important enough to look at intently it might be important enough to remember, but if it isn't then that alone can filter out details as irrelevant, even if they are not.
Two psychologists, Daniel Levin and Dan Simons, filmed an experiment to see what details are noticed by people. They had a person outdoors claim to be a researcher and speak with a student for ten to fifteen seconds, then a pair of men rudely carried a door between the researcher and the student, separating them for about a second, the researcher was replaced with a different man. The new man had a different voice and height but most people didn't notice the replacement. Astounding.
This phenomena is called change blindness. Sometimes something that isn't the focus of conscious attention can be changed and we don't even notice.
People that recalled similar words to words actually on a list were certain that the words were there. Mlodinow wrote, "False memories feel no different than memories that are based in reality."
Uh-oh, in Scientology people are taught certainty is knowledge. But in truth certainty is not accuracy, not even close.
This is a particular problem for ex Scientologists that are used to always relying on certainty and put their memories front and center as irrefutable proof Scientology works. They recalled the things Hubbard said they would.
Mlodinow wrote, "As it turns out, planting false memories is not that hard...Memories of events that supposedly happened long ago are particularly easy to implant." (Page 75)
Psychologists have found merely telling a person an event occurred can prompt the manufacturing of a memory to fit the suggestion. And then recall the memory but not the suggestion that prompted it.
This has been described as successful 15 to 50 percent of the time. A recent study was done on people that went to Disneyland. They were asked to think about a fake ad for the park with Bugs Bunny. It had suggestions regarding vivid imagery of Bugs and being with him using suggestive language like imagine, he got bigger the closer you got and so on.
About a quarter of the subjects recalled meeting Bugs and of those 62 percent remembered shaking his hand, 46 percent recalled hugging him.
Now Warner brothers owns Bugs Bunny and Disneyland owns Mickey Mouse and the two don't visit each other. But people can recall meeting Bugs Bunny when they never did - if provided the suggestion.
For Scientologists the hundreds of suggestions they're provided are certainly sometimes effective on some people at prompting false memories. In Scientology indoctrination and auditing hundreds of suggestions are given and repetitive questions certainly serve as suggestions in this context. And if those people stay in Scientology and agree that the suggestions are real as memories then to them it appears everyone has these memories, because the people that don't have these memories either leave or keep it to themselves.
Mlodinow wrote, "Conscious memory and perception accomplish their miracles with a heavy reliance on the unconscious."
Unfortunately, just as the unconscious is unseen by the conscious mind its errors and efforts to manipulate the unconscious to guide or fool the conscious mind are also unseen and when successful unnoticed.
That's the horrifying vulnerability that makes groups like Scientology capable of deceiving people with false memories and similar techniques.
Our ignorance about the vulnerability of our minds is the deadly glaring weakness that leaves us gullible about our gullibility. We are sure our memories are so reliable when Scientology manipulates them we mistakenly take that as proof and see the matter as settled. We couldn't be more wrong.
I hope this alternative to Scientology serves to show the evidence that Scientology is fraudulent, or if you are not convinced where to look for evidence, and that this is worth learning about to understand yourself, your vulnerabilities and other people.
In the fourth chapter of his book Subliminal - The Importance Of Being Social - Leonard Mlodinow takes on the social nature of human beings.
Mlodinow wrote, "Social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer." (Page 82)
Mlodinow in this chapter gathered a good cross section of bits of evidence to explain this in a scientific way. Here I will briefly recap a tiny bit.
Mlodinow wrote, "Scientists have discovered that the social pain is also associated with a brain structure called the anterior cingulate cortex--the same structure involved in the emotional component of physical pain."(Page 83)
I have seen a lot of evidence the ACC is active when a person experiences emotional pain from exclusion or rejection and when that person experiences real physical pain from an injury. I am not going to overly explain that here. In other places like many long studies this is explored.
I will recap a bit from one study, without giving every detail, to support this claim. In one experiment twenty five healthy people volunteered to take two extra strength Tylenol (acetaminophen) tablets twice per day and half received a placebo. They took these for three weeks. On the final day they played a computer game in which they were told two other people played and it was like passing a ball back and forth between three people, with each taking turns catching and passing the ball.
In the experiment the participant was excluded by the two other people intentionally, like being ignored by two people playing catch. Afterwards they filled out a questionnaire on social distress and the subjects that took the Tylenol reported less hurt feelings.
Additionally the subjects were placed in fMRI scans and the area of the ACC is more active when people are subject to social exclusion and people who took Tylenol had less activity than people who didn't.
I am not a doctor, don't know all the adverse effects of using Tylenol or anything else to lessen emotional or physical pain, and so won't recommend or condemn people taking painkillers for emotional pain. I will say strictly regarding the question, "Does that reduce emotional pain ?" I think the evidence supports that it does to some degree.
There was a survey of 4,775 adults in Alameda county, near San Francisco in California. Subjects were asked about issues like marriage, friends, group membership and social participation. They were tracked over nine years. The results strongly supported the idea that good health is proportional to some degree to having social connections.
Mlodinow wrote, "SOME SCIENTISTS BELIEVE that the need for social interaction is the driving force behind the evolution of superior human intelligence." (Page 84)
Mlodinow described how it's strongly believed that humans about fifty thousand years ago went through a significant change and began doing things like hunting animals that were more dangerous to catch and started fishing, building structures for living, complex burial sites and more developed art. They could team up to catch or kill big animals in a way that hadn't before then.
A higher degree of social interaction and teamwork emerged and transformed human survival into a new range. Mlodinow raised the development of Theory Of Mind. In psychology Theory Of Mind is the capacity to understand that you or I have intentions, thoughts, understanding, individual existence and emotions and behaviors.
TOM (Theory Of Mind) has been extensively studied in children. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist that has a superb book The Brain and a PBS television series in which he demonstrates in fine detail how human children usually develop understanding of this in stages.
The stages are sometimes called orders, meaning how many steps of awareness someone or something has. Many organisms are aware of first order - that they themselves have desires.
Children develop understanding that others can hold ideas and emotions as they get older. They don't understand that mommy or anyone else is separate from them when they are only a few weeks old but by several months old awareness that other people are separate begins developing. Experiments with primates have demonstrated that some primates can understand another primate with a blindfold can't see while blindfolded and that without the blindfold they can see.
That's second order intentionality. Normal humans past early childhood can understand others have independent thoughts. Third order is understanding that another person can think about the thoughts of a third party. Joe is thinking about Sam's thoughts of Sheila.
Fourth order is described by Mlodinow as required for literature. I have to understand or try to comprehend that writing a certain way will tell the audience that I believe Mlodinow thinks people behave and think certain ways. I as the first order think the audience as the second order will think Mlodinow as the third order thinks certain things about other people as the fourth order - and all these orders involve understanding thought at each level occurs. Seems complicated, but if you think through different examples it makes sense and is a natural way for people dealing with politics and running large groups to think. If you can't think this way you will have serious difficulties in certain social positions, especially of high authority or complexity.
It's been theorized humans can perform sixth order TOM thinking. I know that Sam is thinking about how Sarah feels about Joan thinking Pete feels Joe is upset about Tony loving Tina.
Huh. It's a bit complicated, but understanding people at this level is possible. But only for people and not animals.
Even a chimp can understand another chimp wants a banana or won't know things it can't sense, but it won't know another chimp knows it wants a banana. We're the only ones who can do this.
So, the point is we have the third and fourth order Theory Of Mind and no one else does. Without that capacity we wouldn't be able to have cities or well developed groups or communication that we to rely on every day.
TOM and high levels take a lot of brainpower to maintain. It's an expensive venture in terms of energy and brain capacity. It's been found the larger size of the neocortex proportional to whole brain size that corresponds to larger social groups for primates. If you look at primate groups sizes you get Gorillas under ten, Spider Monkeys twenty and Macaques at forty or so. Consistent ratio of neocortex size to whole brain size. For humans it been calculated to be 150 and called our Dunbar number. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar is credited with finding this number. It's not universally accepted as completely confirmed that 150 is absolutely right but our capacity to form complex groups with individual members understanding others and relationships of others through TOM is well demonstrated.
Two substances called oxytocin and vassopresin are related to bonding and monogamous behavior in many mammals. Some mammals that normally are unfriendly to young offspring of their own species upon becoming pregnant release oxytocin if female and change their behavior to be loving and bond as a mother.
Similarly several variations of voles, a rodent that resembles a mouse, are either monogamous or what is called a tournament species, meaning males mate with any female available, practically whenever possible.
In research one type of vole was monogamous - the Prairie vole - and another a tournament species - the Meadow vole - and in manipulating the levels of oxytocin and vassopresin received by what are called receptors the behavior of the voles can be adjusted to be more social in the loner Meadow voles.
Substances like the neuropeptides are simple proteins or protein like molecules that are two things. When they act to send messages for neurons they are neurotransmitters, they send messages between neurons and certain neurotransmitters send different messages depending on context, genes activated and environment. They are hormones when released by glands and send messages, again dependent on the genes activated and environment and genes expressed. That's a complicated way to say they do different things based on the genes expressed, what exact organism they are in on the level of species and what traits that has genetically and even the individual specimen as that will have different genes present and active than others and have experienced a different environment than other organisms and that will result in differences from other organisms.
Basically all that means is substances like oxytocin and vassopresin do different jobs in different circumstances or are more or less effective in different situations. And you have to have receptors to receive them active and working efficiently for them to be effective as neurotransmitters, or they are wasted or ineffective. And you have to have the right interactions for them to be effective as hormones and they don't create behavior that is impossible for a species. They also interact with people of different temperaments in different ways.
Other studies have produced evidence oxytocin heightens trust of in group members but heightens hostility towards out group members. It helps people to like and be more loyal to their family, friends, groups and race but helps them oppose outsiders at every level. A double edged effect if ever there was one. Sometimes good, sometimes terrible.
Obviously, all the hormones, neurotransmitters and receptors at work are beneath the awareness of the conscious mind. Entirely subliminal but extremely important.
Two subjects that tried to take on the subject of human thought, emotions and behavior were cognitive psychology and social psychology. They have each made important contributions to the overall subject of human beings but didn't focus on the unconscious. These subjects emerged in the fifties and evidence of the unconscious emerged again in the eighties.
Numerous studies of behavior found people followed similar patterns at similar rates in similar situations. Mlodinow wrote, "Throughout the 1980s, study after study seemed to show that, because of the influence of the unconscious, people did not realize the reasons for their feelings, behavior, and judgments of other people, or how they communicated nonverbally with others. Eventually psychologists had to rethink the role of conscious thought in social interactions." (Page 99)
Being able to observe the functions of the human brain in living subjects was revolutionized by the development of fMRI scans in the 1990s. With an FMRI the different regions of the brain and how active they are could be safely observed without intrusion or harm. Since the 1990s thousands of studies, experiments and research papers have been created regarding understanding the brain using fMRI scans and noting which regions are active when people worry or are happy, are confused or relaxing, and in thousands of other situations.
It's made it possible to learn, support and falsify hundreds of ideas regarding the functions, relationships and tendencies of regions of the brain.
Any serious examination of the brain includes grouping the regions into a three sections grouping. Various theories on this have emerged and one called the Triune brain theory has been discredited as a fine understanding of the exact details of human evolution, but it has a useful classification for a high school level understanding in some details. At a higher level of education it's transcended by more nuanced information.
In the most basic details it's accurate enough for our purposes here. There's a reptile brain section that does jobs like regulating breathing, eating, heart rate and primitive emotions regarding fear and aggression. It's the fight or flight associated section. All vertebrate animals have this brain structure.
Second is the limbic system, this is more complex and the source of social perception. It's seen as instrumental in the formation of social emotions. In humans it's often defined as including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (associated with very emotional decisions), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala (associated with fear and aggression), hippocampus, hypothalamus, components of the basal ganglia and the orbitofrontal cortex. You don't have to memorize all those regions. Some are described in study after study and their association with primitive emotions becomes obvious. Others are described less often.
Many structures in the limbic system are often grouped together and called the old mammalian brain. All mammals have these structures on top of the reptile brain.
On top of this is the neocortex or new cortex is in the new mammalian brain. We as humans even have the prefrontal cortex and regions no other creatures have. Our social complexity, ability to recognize things like emotions via facial expressions and understand Theory Of Mind greatly transcend all other living creatures and our highly developed new mammalian brains and unique prefrontal cortex give us the edge in these aptitudes and others unique to our species. It's debatable whether there's intelligent life out there but the closest thing we have found yet on earth is ourselves, immodest as that sounds.
I have to stress the reptile brain, old mammalian brain and new mammalian brain is something of an oversimplification at the level of education you would seek for a college level understanding of the brain, but a useful metaphor for our level of education.
The fMRI scans made a meeting of several subjects possible to occur thanks to technology and evidence regarding the brain. Social psychologists, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists all could better understand their all fields by consulting each other. Cognitive psychologists studied mental states and social psychologists form theories regarding behavior and both can benefit from understanding the anatomy of the brain and which regions are active in which circumstances. Similarly, neuroscientists benefit from understanding the mental states and processes that accompany the physical phenomena they observe.
So social cognitive neuroscience or social neuroscience emerged. By the 2000s tens of thousands of articles and papers and research projects on social cognitive neuroscience had been created. The subject hit the ground running and went from nonexistent to researched, researched and researched thousands of times in a few decades. It went from something most of us never heard of in school to a well established subject today.
It's rapid development in no way diminishes the evidence supporting it. It's a lot of evidence and many points and ideas in the subject have hundreds or thousands of experiments to support them. I can't emphasize that enough. No subject is perfect or infallible, but this one's progress has been amazing.
Mlodinow closed the chapter with, "Vague concepts like the id and the ego have now given way to maps of brain structure, connectivity, and function. What we've learned is that much of our social perception--like our vision, hearing, and memory--appears to proceed along pathways that are not associated with awareness, intention or conscious effort." (Page 104)
I have to stress that the information above has tremendous importance. For everyone there's the startling revelation that we often believe we have emotions, behavior, beliefs and thoughts for certain reasons and much evidence supports the idea that we are terrible at estimating why we do those things, but great at believing we know why, especially in ourselves. We think "I understand my own mind, and am not irrational or superstitious or overly emotional or just plain wrong about myself as much as other people" as a matter of course.
It's like the surveys that reveal 94% of people consider themselves above average as drivers or in other categories when asked. Only 50% of people can be above average by definition but we are making up in confidence whatever we lack in modesty and humility.
Scientology teaches that certainty is knowledge but the truth is certainty is how we pursue confirmation and escape dissonance (mental discomfort from contradictions or confusion). We do, feel and believe what feels right or comfortable often and avoid, try to not feel and try especially hard to not believe what feels uncertain or uncomfortable. It's human nature to pursue comfort in many circumstances, not truth. Obviously we can to some degree on occasion overcome bias (towards certainty and comfort and away from doubt or discomfort) , but it's not always easy or usual.
For Scientologists and ex Scientologists this is particularly poignant. They, well we, were taught "intention is cause" and similar ideas in Scientology. We were taught that we were responsible for everything that ever happened to us making it go right was the supreme test of a thetan. These concepts are entirely contrary to the nuanced subtleties of the brain in reality.
I can't stress enough that you really should look at the ideas in Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow and the simpler book The Brain by David Eagleman if you are or ever were a Scientologist so you can at least consider the different perspective from Hubbard's on these topics. Not everyone will wholeheartedly embrace these subjects, but to at least look at the reality of the subjects instead of Hubbard's frankly dishonest portrayal of these subjects you should at least read a couple books. It's a service for yourself, not me or anyone else.
In chapter five (Reading People) of his book Subliminal Leonard Mlodinow took on the issue of human body language and how it's primarily generated on a subconscious or unconscious basis and also equally important to understand is that we primarily perceive body language in an unconscious manner.
Mlodinow started this chapter with an interesting story of nonhuman recognition of human understanding. In 1904 a stallion, known as Clever Hans, was trained by his owner Herr Wilhelm von Osten. He taught Hans to stomp his foot in response to questions. He stamped for colors, once for gold, twice for silver and three times for copper. He identified coins. He similarly identified colors of hats and performed division and identified the date and month. Hans was rewarded with sugar and carrots for his answers.
He became a celebrity and was examined by the Kaiser at a command performance. He also was examined by a commission and the director of the Prussian Natural History Museum felt he had succeeded in his studies.
A psychologist, Oskar Pfungst, investigated the claims of profound equine education. He discovered Hans could answer questions from other people too, if they knew the answers to the question as well.
Oskar Pfungst realized that Hans noticed subtle movements that were cues of when to start stomping his hoof and crucially when he had stomped enough times. When the question was asked the person asking would slightly bend forward and when the correct stomping occurred they would slightly move. The horse learned to perceive the tiny movements to earn his carrots and sugar.
Oskar had twenty five people question him and found that twenty three of the participants made subtle movements he could detect.
Mlodinow wrote, "Scientists attach a great importance to the human capacity for spoken language. But we also have a parallel track of nonverbal communication, and those messages may reveal more than our carefully chosen words and sometimes be at odds with them. Since much, if not most, of the nonverbal signaling and reading of signals is automatic and performed outside our conscious awareness and control, through our nonverbal cues we unwittingly communicate a great deal of information about ourselves and our state of mind. The gestures we make, the position in which we hold our bodies, the expressions we wear on our faces, and the nonverbal qualities of our speech--all contribute to how others view us." (Page 109)
Mlodinow commented on something close to my heart. In studies the animal that is best at recognizing human body language is one my wife instantly knew but many primatologists were surprised to discover, and they are generally a pretty smart bunch. It wasn't the chimpanzee or gorilla or any monkey. It was as the saying goes man's best friend, the dog.
We have been dealing with dogs as friends and pets probably tens of thousands of years. Scientists suspect that several tens of thousands of years ago humans sitting around the fire eating would offer bits of food to wild wolves. The wolves most willing to approach humans and not attack or threaten were offered food, in theory.
The idea goes that the friendly wolves were selected for feeding and their pups were similarly selected for friendliness, cuteness and obedience. Over time humans through selecting the most desirable wolves got to the point of having actually domesticated dogs and could breed them and train them as dogs similar to our pets today. And wolves and later dogs more capable of reacting to human body language were treated better than those that couldn't. They may not understand our words perfectly but they can react to our movements and tone of voice and behavior. And that was the difference between getting fed or not fed thousands of years ago. A difference between starving and living well for a pup. So nature rapidly selected winners in good listeners and rejected the poor listeners.
A researcher named Robert Rosenthal did numerous experiments, several of which Mlodinow described, to illustrate that we reveal expectations via body language, even if we are unaware of it.
One excellent one involved teachers in eighteen classrooms. They had students given IQ tests and were told the results. The teachers were given the results, but not the students. The teachers rated the high IQ students as more curious and better workers than normal IQ students. They actually were told regular IQ students were high IQ and the students grades after the teachers were told that paralleled this. The ones the teachers thought were bright did better than the others, with only a perception of excellence in their teachers' minds.
Eight months later the kids IQs were tested again. The kids labeled high IQ initially (who were normal) had a much better increase in general and a much, much greater increase in several cases than the other children in general, and keep in mind this was eighteen classrooms of children. Not just a few.
Rosenthal was careful to never label children as below average. But other people do. And of more concern is the fact that studies have found minorities and females often get less attention and lower expectations from teachers.
The fact that expectations and attention often contribute to achievement and grades creates a self fulfilling prophecy. Educators expect less from some students based on racial and gender prejudice then neglect those students and see their failure as proof it was inevitable. I don't know the solution to this problem, but know it's worth mentioning.
Mlodinow wrote of our nonverbal communication and that of other primates.
This portion is of particular relevance to ex Scientologists, Scientologists and people that study Scientology and cults. I must mention something familiar to every Scientologist. The training routines in Scientology. In various drills Scientologists are taught to alter their communication from that of well frankly normal human beings. I am not exaggerating.
Scientologists are trained to stare at people without looking away when communicating. They are trained to receive communication without reacting or flinching or looking away. They routinely do dozens or hundreds of hours of drills to improve their ability to listen and talk without flinching, turning away or reacting in any way.
If you were in Scientology and did the training routines as indoctrination then you know exactly what I am referring to. Their verbal communication is also determined by Scientology indoctrination. They learn and practice forceful communication and exact means of response. They practice acknowledgements as proper responses to communication in Scientology and a variety of other aspects of communication like half acknowledgements which are statements used to encourage someone to continue or finish a statement. The Scientology communication system is strange and uncanny to normal people.
Scientologists come across as aggressive, assertive and above all supremely confident to normal people. They stare without looking away, speak with unflinching certainty and answer in ways that are artificial and their body language is robotic.
What that means is something we didn't consider while in Scientology. It's given a whole new look with the information in this chapter.
As humans we share some of the body language with our primate cousins. And understanding the origins of these communications helps us understand ourselves. Mlodinow described how we feel good often if we notice someone looking and smile at them and they smile back. If I smile at someone and they don't smile back it doesn't feel good.
Of extreme interest here is something Mlodinow asserts, "In the society of nonhuman primates, a direct stare is an aggressive signal. It often precedes an attack--and therefore, can precipitate one."
Mlodinow described how in primate society a smile can be disarming. It says, "pardon my staring, I meant no offense", from a submissive monkey and in response can mean, "Don't worry, I am not attacking you."
A smile can be faked to a degree by humans, but only imperfectly. In a smile the zygomatic major muscles in our faces pull the corners of our mouths up toward our cheekbones as a voluntary movement. We easily can fake that. But a genuine smile includes an involuntary movement we do as an involuntary reaction. The orbicularis oculi muscles pull skin surrounding the eye toward the eyeball. It's subtle and slight but noticeable and people that study smiles can easily detect it with practice.
French neurologist Duchenne de Bologne noticed this and was an influence on Charles Darwin. He gave Darwin photos of people smiling and Darwin realized people could tell fake smiles from genuine and not know exactly how they could tell. They said fake smiles are sleezy, certainly a cousin to uncanny, lifelike but not quite right, unnatural.
Darwin felt human expressions were possibly universal and research by him and several others supports this hypothesis. Many expressions are understood as having the same meaning regardless of what people are making them, a smile or frown by any name or no name is a smile or frown.
Studies have shown very young infants display almost all the facial expressions of adults and even blind children do as well. It's unlikely they are imitating anyone.
Mlodinow wrote, "Our catalog of facial expressions seems to be standard equipment--it comes with the basic model. And because it is a largely innate, unconscious part of our being, communicating our feelings comes naturally, while hiding them requires great effort." (Page 118)
Mlodinow went on, "IN HUMANS, BODY language and nonverbal communication are not limited to simple gestures and expressions. We have a highly complex system of nonverbal language, and we routinely participate in elaborate nonverbal exchanges, even when we are not consciously aware of doing so." (Page 119)
The Scientology cult has training in numerous ways that alters normal body language. They practice reading without flinching or hesitation and answer the same way to pass checkouts and spot checks on materials in indoctrination. If they are spotted moving or scratching or yawning while studying in Scientology they are instructed to stop and explore for misunderstood words in their materials. They rapidly learn to not move in these ways or they don't ever get through courses. Over time the cumulative effect of the training routines and further training routines at more advanced courses and the indoctrination to study, read and respond to questions on study all add up to a conditioned behavior that suppresses a significant portion of human body language. It makes Scientologists somewhat inscrutable and disconnected from normal people. They come across as not quite right and difficult to understand.
Nonhuman primates have well established social hierarchies. Dominant primates pound their chests and submissive ones can smile to signal submission.
In modern humans two kinds of dominance exist. Physical dominance is shown by carrying weapons or showing off bulging muscles or wearing the right clothes. Even certain tattoos are signs of dominance.
We also have social dominance. In normal humans this exists and can be seen by watching our gaze. The contrast between Scientologists and normal people couldn't be more extreme.
As I described earlier Scientologists are taught to maintain unflinching direct eye contact with any person they are communicating with in person. Simple, they look at the other person when speaking or listening. That's conditioned behavior, altered over hundreds of hours in Scientology training drills and other activities.
Some people tend to always look at someone else when talking while others seem to always look around.
Leonard Mlodinow wrote a very precise description of how social dominance is expressed, "It is not your overall tendency to look at someone that is telling but the way in which you adjust your behavior when you switch between the roles of listener and speaker. Psychologists have been able to characterize that behavior with a single quantitative measure, and the data they produce using that measure is striking.
Here is how it works: take the percentage of time you spend looking into someone's eyes while you are speaking and divide it by the percentage spent looking at that same person's eyes while you are listening. For example, if, no matter which of you is talking, you spend the same amount of time looking away, your ratio would be 1.0. But if you tend to look away more often while you are speaking than when you are listening, your ratio will be less than 1.0. If you tend to look away less often when you are speaking than when you are listening, you have a ratio higher than 1.0. That quotient, psychologists discovered, is a revealing statistic. It is called the "visual dominance ratio," and it reflects your position on the social dominance hierarchy relative to your conversational partner. A visual dominance ratio near 1.0, or larger, is characteristic of people with relatively high social dominance. A visual dominance ratio less than 1.0 is indicative of being lower on the dominance hierarchy. In other words, if your visual dominance ratio is around 1.0 or higher, you are probably the boss; if it is around 0.6, you are probably the bossed.
The unconscious mind provides us with many wonderful services and performs many awesome feats, but I can't help being impressed by this one. What is so striking about the data is not just that we subliminally adjust our gazing behavior to match our place on the hierarchy but that we do it so consistently, and with numerical precision. Here is a sample of the data: when speaking to each other, ROTC officers exhibited ratios 1.06, while ROTC cadets speaking to officers had ratios of 0.61, undergraduates in an introductory psychology course scored 0.92 when talking to a person they believed to be a high school senior who did not plan to go to college but 0.59 when talking to a person they believed to be a college chemistry honor student accepted into a prestigious medical school, expert men speaking to women about a subject in their own field scored 0.98, while men taking to expert women about the women's field, 0.61; expert women speaking to nonexpert men scored 1.04, and nonexpert women speaking to expert men scored 0.54. These studies were all performed on Americans." (Page 121)
I quoted this long section of the book because it's so important to understand that normal people signal dominance by looking an equal amount while speaking or listening to the same person and submission by looking away more when listening than talking. Important people expect to be watched when talking and can look away when less important people are talking.
Scientologists that have been indoctrinated in the communication course or training routines tend to look constantly both when listening or speaking, which is the behavior of socially dominant people. It's persuasive when dealing with some people and puts off others.
Of definite worth is noting that this makes Scientologists have a mimicry of the communication style of each other and are increasingly socially isolated from normal people by these behaviors.
Additionally factors like space between people and other aspects of body language and communication become controlled and different from normal people, further creating social isolation and strengthening the bonds between Scientologists.
It's worth noting the studies these statistics are derived from, for anyone with a serious interest.
R.V. Exline et al., "Visual Behavior as an Aspect of Power Relationships" in Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect, vol 2
R.V. Exline et al., "Visual Dominance Behavior in Female Dyads: Situational and Personality Factors," Social Psychology Quarterly 43, no. 3
John F. Dovidio et al., "The Relationship of Social Power to Visual Displays of Dominance Between Men and Women," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54, no. 2
In the sixth chapter (Judging People by Their Covers) Leonard Mlodinow took on aspects of how our unconscious mind guides reactions in ways we don't usually perceive or understand and further we even don't believe in ourselves, even when presented evidence. We don't feel like we are biased or primed in an unconscious manner but a lot of evidence supports this idea.
Mlodinow discussed how we react automatically to nonverbal social cues.
He gave some great examples of studies that show we are not the rational actors we usually presume. A Stanford communications professor Clifford Nass had a couple hundred computer students work on computers that used prerecorded voices.
The students were told that they were preparing for a test with computer tutors. The tests were on topics like mass media and love and relationships.
After the training the students took a test and evaluated the course and computer.
Nass was interested in if people reacted unconsciously and automatically. In one experiment half the students had computers with female voices and half had male voices. They presented the same information.
The students knew these were computers and not people. They displayed gender stereotypes in their evaluation of the computers, despite knowing the computers had no gender and were not people.
They saw the female voiced computer as more knowledgeable about relationships, a common stereotype, and that forcefulness is more desirable in men and is seen as being bossy in women, a common stereotype. This was not likely to be a conscious decision.
Nass also did an experiment in which he saw if students would spare the feelings of their computers. In this one half the students entered an evaluation of the computer tutor on the same computer and half entered the evaluation on a different computer. They actually were harsher in their evaluation on the other computer.
It's like having to say something to a person's face, we usually have social politeness and lessen direct criticism, but let it out more about people who aren't around. And the students spared the "feelings" of their computer tutors. Not likely to be a knowing and conscious decision.
Mlodinow wrote about research that supports the idea that our voices translate into impressions of us. The speed we speak with and how low or high our voices are and other features influence impressions.
It's been found slow speakers with many pauses are not trusted or believed as fast talkers with loud voices and few pauses. Of interest to ex Scientologists is the fact that Scientology training routines and indoctrination emphasize eliminating pauses and hesitations and having communication that reaches the audience. That includes hours of training to be heard well, be loud enough and speak clearly so an audience will receive your communication.
It helps Scientologists to appear confident. And a reoccurring theme with all the conditioned behavior of Scientologists is that it reduces normal human body language and eye contact, and looking away and normal voice changes due to emotions are all altered, reduced, inhibited or removed to some degree in Scientology. So, Scientologists are less expressive through normal means and often become less receptive to normal people, particularly if isolated from normal people in the cult for extended periods of months, years or even decades.
People that spend decades in Scientology as staff or Sea Org members, or in the most extreme cases get raised in the cult separate from normal people entirely, are likely to have difficulties in relationships and communication due to the conditioned behavior in Scientology and lack of social cues, or diminished or suppressed social cues, and their impaired ability to read cues from others even on an unconscious level. For normal people reading the cues and reacting is automatic and routine.
Mlodinow wrote on research that supports the hypothesis that social touching increases cooperation. Examples of sports teams actually performing better when teammates touch each other, with high fives or chest bumps as in basketball were found.
We even have nerve endings in our faces and hands and arms that are particularly sensitive to social touching and we find it pleasurable.
Of relevance regarding Scientology is the fact that Scientologists touch in ways that increase cooperation and trust between them.
In certain training drills Scientologists lead each other around and practice controlling a person. They use auditing methods like assists in which they touch one another. The Scientology culture includes touching and it is often touching a person is only used to in close relationships. I am not saying anything improper of a sexual nature occurs, I am saying we usually don't have people we are not very familiar with and trusting of touch us as closely as Scientologists touch each other in auditing and training unless we are very close and comfortable with them.
The touching during auditing and indoctrination in my opinion helps to build trust in an uninspected manner. If we are comfortable and trusting of someone, we usually don't say "I trust you because I am used to letting you touch my hand and back in training." We just think of people and go with our feelings, without inspecting the origin of those feelings.
Many of us feel like we are rational, take all the facts into consideration and make a wise and informed decision when voting. Um-hmm.
The debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in the US presidential campaign is famous for the fact that people that listened to the radio overwhelmingly felt Nixon won while people that saw the debate on television saw the healthy and tan Kennedy as the winner and the pale and sick Nixon as the loser.
Research has shown people generally prefer more attractive candidates when voting. If a more attractive candidate gets 59% of the vote, on average, that wins the election.
Students in one experiment were asked to predict the winners of elections with no knowledge of issues or who the candidates are. These were children and not political experts. They picked the winners of elections around seventy percent of the time. They merely picked the more attractive candidate.
Mlodinow described a 2005 study at Princeton in which volunteers judged black and white head shots of candidates and chose the more competent looking candidate. These were candidates that had competed for ninety five senate seats and six hundred congressional seats in 2000, 2002 and 2004. The more competent looking candidates in the volunteers opinions won 72 percent of senate seats and 67 percent of congressional seats.
In 2006 an experiment was done with candidates before the election and the more competent looking candidates won 69 percent of gubernatorial races and 72 percent of senate races. Our politics sadly are only skin deep.
We are sadly biased towards favoring more attractive people and letting them be our leaders.
The Scientology culture is not immune to this. I have heard of Sea Org members being assigned positions based on being attractive. I have seen that Sea Org members can be told to change their appearance or lose weight to properly represent the Sea Org.
I have seen staff being assigned more visible positions based on being attractive. Scientology places strong emphasis on projecting an image of healthy, happy and attractive people being Scientologists and downplaying the average looking or heaven forbid unattractive members of their group.
We can get to know people as individuals very closely and understand their character. This takes time and communication and occurs rarely. Most people we meet are ones we will judge rapidly, and often inaccurately, and never get to know well.
Our unconscious minds instantly forms impressions of people. They are guided by the slightest of cues and primed by details so subtle we aren't aware on a conscious level. We may know how we feel about someone, but not why. The origins of our thoughts and feelings are often hidden and guessed incorrectly.
If a person is attractive and acts confident, touches us in a way inspiring ease or even liking it's easy to relax, let your guard down and want to trust them.
And that is all exploited in Scientology.
In chapter 7 (Sorting People and Things) of his book Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow took on the human tendency to place people and things in categories. He started with the example of a list of twenty groceries being difficult to remember just from hearing them said aloud. But if they are sorted into categories like vegetables, cereals, meats, snacks etc then it's easier to remember them.
Mlodinow wrote, "categorization is a strategy our brains use to more efficiently store information." (Page 145)
"Every object and person we encounter in the world is unique, but we wouldn't function very well if we perceived them that way. We don't have the time or the mental bandwidth to observe and consider each detail of every item in our environment." (Page 146)
Mlodinow made the example of a hypothetical situation - if one encountered a bear and took the time to evaluate every detail of sensory information in full we would likely be eaten before we got through deciding what is going on, never reaching a decision to leave.
In every day life for most of the last fifty thousand years human beings have needed to get a thousand to three thousand calories of food and some water and protect themselves from predators, the weather and other people. To be efficient and fast enough in decision making people must take a shortcut, so we use categories as shortcuts to survive.
Even young children can tell a tiny chihuahua, a medium pit bull and a huge Saint Bernard are all dogs while a tiny kitten is a cat which is different from a dog despite there being many differences in the broad category of "dog."
Mlodinow described the focus we have on specific details in categories to distinguish between items in categories. The difference between a "b" and d" is the direction the curve goes in and we instinctively key on this to see which we are dealing with.
Similarly we key on other differences in categories. I look at the air and ground to see if it's raining, if I am not sure due to darkness I look at puddles to see if they are responding to falling rain by moving or if they are still. I may assume that indicates no rain or light rain. These are subtle differences in otherwise identical environments.
Mlodinow wrote, "If we conclude that a certain set of objects belongs to one group and a second set of objects to another, we may then perceive those in different groups as less similar than they really are. Merely placing objects in groups can affect our judgment of those objects. So while categorization is a natural and crucial shortcut, like our brain's other survival-oriented tricks, it has its drawbacks." (Page 147)
Mlodinow described an experiment in which people were asked to judge the length of lines. Researchers put several lines in a group A and others in a group B. Researchers found people thought lines that are in a group together are closer in length than they actually are and the difference in length between lines from different groups is different than it really is. Similar experiments with color differences and groups and guessing temperature changes in a thirty day period within one month or from the middle of a month to the middle of the next month is seen as more extreme. Same number of days but just saying it's a different month increases the estimate of change.
The implications are stunning. If people can be placed in categories and thought of as fundamentally defined by those categories we easily can misjudge people.
This reminds me of a terrible quote:
“The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category. ” ―Adolf Hitler
That's a reminder of a terrible problem with human behavior and categorization.
Mlodinow wrote, "In all these examples, when we categorize, we polarize. Things that for one arbitrary reason or another are identified as belonging to the same category seem more similar to each other than they really are, while those in different categories seem more different than they really are. The unconscious mind transforms fuzzy differences and subtle nuances into clear-cut distinctions. Its goal is to erase irrelevant detail while maintaining information on what is important. When that's done successfully, we simplify our environment and make it easier and faster to navigate. When it's done inappropriately, we distort our perceptions, sometimes with results harmful to ourselves and others. That's especially true when our tendency to categorize affects our view of other humans--when we view the doctors in a given practice, the attorneys in a given law firm, the fans of a certain sports team, or the people in a given race or ethnic group as more alike than they really are." (Page 148)
Mlodinow wrote on how the term "stereotype" was created by French printer Firmin Didot in 1794. It was a printing process that created duplicate plates for printing. With these plates mass production via printing was possible.
It got its modern use by Walter Lippmann in his 1922 book Public Opinion. Lippmann is perhaps best known nowadays as a person frequently quoted by noted intellectual and American dissident Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has criticized the use of propaganda to manage populations by the government, wealthy individuals, corporations and media.
From Subliminal Mlodinow quoted Lippmann, "The real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance...And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it." (Page 149) Lippmann called that model stereotype.
Lippmann in Mlodinow's estimation correctly recognized the source of stereotypes as cultural exposure. In his time newspapers, magazines and the new medium of film communicated in simplified characters and easily understood concepts for audiences. Lippmann noted stock characters were used to be easily understood and character actors were recruited to fill stereotypes.
Darell J. Steffensmeier and H.T. Himmelweit , two social psychologists performed an experiment in a large department store in Iowa city. A person in either fine clothes, like a nice suit with a tie or modest clothes like dirty, patched jeans and a workman's shirt would walk down an aisle and place a small item of clothing in his pocket in front of a customer. The thief then walked out of hearing range but stayed within sight of the customer. A store employee then came near the witness and began rearranging shelves. The thief remained within sight and the witness could report the crime, unheard or ignore it. This was repeated over a hundred and fifty times at stores throughout the area. Both the thieves and employees that rearranged shelves were actors, and everything was done with the permission of the stores.
The witnesses reported the well dressed thieves less often and in their descriptions the scruffy looking thieves were described in far harsher terms. This is the accumulation of results of our vision missing elements we fill in and our hearing filling in sounds we don't hear and our memories fill in gaps with details that seem appropriate and consistent with our knowledge and our brains fill in details on faces which we only remember a few general features of.
Mlodinow wrote, "In each of these cases our subliminal minds take incomplete data, use context or other cues to complete the picture, make educated guesses, and produce a result that is sometimes accurate, sometimes not, but always convincing. Our minds also fill in the blanks when we judge people, and a person's category membership is part of the data we use to do that." (Page 152)
Mlodinow described how psychologist Henri Tajfel was behind the realization that perceptual biases of categorization lie at the root of prejudice. Tajfel was behind the line length studies that support his hypothesis. Tajfel was a Polish Jew captured in France in World War II. He knew a Frenchman would be treated as an enemy by the Nazis while a French Jew would be treated as an animal and a Polish Jew would be killed.
He knew how he would be treated was entirely limited by the category he was placed in. Being a Polish Jew was a guarantee of death and so he impersonated a French Jew and was liberated in 1945. Mlodinow wrote, "According to the psychologist William Peter Robinson, today's theoretical understanding of those subjects "can almost without exception be traced back to Tajfel's theorizing and direct research intervention." (Page 153)
Mlodinow wrote, "Unfortunately, as was the case with other pioneers, it took the field many years to catch up with Tajfel's insights. Even well into the 1980s, many psychologists viewed discrimination as a conscious and intentional behavior, rather than one commonly arising from normal and avoidable cognitive processes related to the brain's vital propensity to categorize." (Page 153)
In 1998 Tajfel was vindicated. Researchers at the University of Washington published a paper on the Implicit Association Test.
In the test a person is presented words like "brother" or "aunt" and respond with "hello" to male terms and "goodbye" to female ones. You proceed as quickly as possible and try to avoid errors.
Next you are given names of unambiguous gender to respond to like "Dick" and "Jane.
Finally the real test begins in the third part of the exercise. You get names and relatives to respond to:
Joan, John, granddaughter, Beth, daughter, Mike, niece, Richard, Leonard, son, aunt, grandfather, Brian, Donna, father, mother, Gary, Kathy.
In another phase you are asked to say "hello" to a male name or female relative and "goodbye" to a female name or male relative.
The time it takes to do the answering in this phase consistently is longer than the earlier phases. You have to sort by four categories now where before it was simply two categories of male or female.
Mlodinow wrote, "That is the crux of the IAT: when the labeling you asked to do follows your mental associations, it speeds you up, but when it mixes across associations, it slows you down. As a result, by examining the difference in speed between the two ways you are asked to label, researchers can probe how strongly a person associates traits with a social category." (Page 155)
As an example Mlodinow described lists with male and female names and terms from science and art. He said if you had no association between men and science or women and art the time it would take to respond to male names and art terms with "hello" and female names and science terms with "goodbye" would be identical to the time to respond to female names and art terms with "hello" and male names and science terms with goodbye."
Many people associate women with art and associate men with science. The times to respond for the counterintuitive associations of men with art and women with science are longer for many people than the time for men with science and women with art, even among people that exhibit low gender bias via self reporting.
The test has also been performed with black faces, white faces and positive terms (peace, joy, love, happy, etc) or negative terms (awful, failure, evil, nasty etc) if you have pro white and anti black bias it will be counterintuitive for you to associate positive terms with black faces and negative terms with white faces. According to Mlodinow about 70% of white people tested show significant time increases when matching black faces to positive terms and negative terms to white faces over the time it takes to associate white faces and positive terms and black faces to negative terms. This stuns some people who report not consciously holding racial bias.
It even shows up for some black people. They are exposed to stereotypes via media and it has some effect. I have seen evidence that the media over represents black and Hispanic folks as criminal, lazy, dishonest, drug addicts and prostitutes. The New Jim Crow and Age Of Propaganda both go into detail on this far more.
Even some Jewish people display antisemitism immersed in a culture with antisemitism as a component.
There's a portion of the brain that professor Robert Sapolsky associates with very emotional reactions and decisions, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex or VMPC. It's got a counterpart called the DLPC. Sapolsky describes the VMPC as very emotional and the DLPC as deliberate. It's associated with careful and logical decisions.
Mlodinow wrote, "Though your evaluation of another person may feel rational and deliberate, it is heavily informed by automatic, unconscious processes--the kind of emotion-regulating processes carried out within the prefrontal cortex." (Page 156)
It's been found that damage to the VMPC eliminates unconscious gender stereotypes and other associations in a variety of situations.
Lippmann was correct that the culture through movies, T.V. shows, magazines, newspapers and now memes online creates and reinforces categories we absorb and retain. Significant research described in Robert Cialdini's book Influence and Age Of Propaganda establishes that repetition of messages strengthens their impact and media specifically heightens belief in stereotypes the media present and that includes inaccurate stereotypes used often.
Mlodinow wrote, "The challenge is not how to stop categorizing but how to become aware of when we do it in ways that prevent us from being able to see individual people for who they really are." (Page 157)
He described how psychology pioneer Gordon Allport wrote that categories saturate all they contain with the same "ideational and emotional flavor." (Page 157) He cited a 1948 experiment. A Canadian social scientist wrote letters to a hundred resorts that advertised in papers around the holidays. The resorts each got two identical letters asking for accommodations - with one difference. One letter was from Mr. Lockwood and the other from Mr. Greenberg. 95% of the resorts offered Mr. Lockwood a room and 36% offered Mr. Greenberg a room. The perceived religion of Christian or Jewish obviously explains the discrepancy.
Mlodinow listed quotes that show extreme racist attitudes by historical champions of the oppressed Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara and even Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is noteworthy for giving a variety of statements on race and not all were free of bias and discrimination.
Hopefully we have made some progress regarding conscious discrimination for much of the population but unconscious bias is just beginning to acknowledged. We have to recognize our tendency to use categories and work to find differences within categories.
Mlodinow is optimistic about reducing bias and uses the fact that for minor crimes more attractive people get far less severe punishments but for serious crimes the punishment is more even. For murder you typically get a longer trial and more of a chance to look closely at details.
I think we may never eliminate unconscious racial and gender bias completely, certainly not in my lifetime. But acknowledging that reality and honestly facing scientific evidence that supports the fact that we are biased and social and historical evidence like that described in The New Jim Crow is a beginning. I think the best way to deal with unpleasant realities is to start with honesty about them and speak out. Complacency is the first enemy to overcome in society and ourselves.
I have been lucky enough to know women that have been much smarter than me, overcoming gender stereotypes and black folks that are also much smarter and harder working than me and of honest and admirable character, also overcoming racial stereotypes and Muslims that are just interested in the same things as anyone else like having a decent job, taking care of their families and enjoying time off. I could go on but the point is that despite bias evidence that it's inaccurate on every level is available.
I think the human race now with nuclear weapons needs to overcome bias in a way that is more dire and urgent than ever before. In earlier times even a Hitler or Stalin or other leader couldn't kill the human race if they devoted all their resources to it for their entire lives. Now several countries could exterminate the entire human race if they used their nuclear arsenals. Certainly Russia and the United States with over three or four thousand powerful nuclear weapons each could do that. In a few hours either one could unleash enough destruction to render earth uninhabitable for humans and destroy hundreds of millions immediately and billions in the aftermath of one day of attack.
We can't afford the immaturity of racial and religious discrimination at the levels we have displayed in the past or we guarantee ourselves no future. Curbing our genocidal tendencies is now a matter of species survival.
I have to comment here on the implications this chapter has on Scientology. In Scientology Hubbard tried to use categories to control the thoughts and behavior of his followers.
Here are a few of Hubbard's quotes to show his intention:
"Psychiatry" and "psychiatrist" are easily redefined to mean "an anti-social enemy of the people". This takes the kill crazy psychiatrist off the preferred list of professions … The redefinition of words is done by associating different emotions and symbols with the word than were intended...Scientologists are redefining "doctor", "Psychiatry" and "psychology" to mean "undesirable antisocial elements"...The way to redefine a word is to get the new definition repeated as often as possible. Thus it is necessary to redefine medicine, psychiatry and psychology downward and define Dianetics and Scientology upwards. This, so far as words are concerned, is the public opinion battle for belief in your definitions, and not those of the opposition. A consistent, repeated effort is the key to any success with this technique of propaganda. "Propaganda by Redefinition of Words" (5 October 1971) L Ron Hubbard
The only safe public opinion to head for is they love us and are in a frenzy of hate against the enemy, this means standard wartime propaganda is what one is doing, complete with atrocity, war crimes trials, the lot. Know the mores of your public opinion, what they hate. That’s the enemy. What they love. That’s you. You preserve the image or increase it of your own troops and degrade the image of the enemy to beast level. February 16, 1969 policy letter Battle Tactics L Ron Hubbard
In any event, any person from 2.0 down on the tone scale should not have, in any thinking society, any civil rights of any kind, because by abusing those rights he brings into being arduous and strenuous laws which are oppressive to those who need no such restraints." Science of Survival L Ron Hubbard
"There are only two answers for the handling of people from 2.0 down on the tone scale, neither one of which has anything to do with reasoning with them or listening to their justification of their acts. The first is to raise them on the tone scale by un-enturbulating some of their theta by any one of the three valid processes. The other is to dispose of them quietly and without sorrow." Science of Survival L Ron Hubbard
THE PERSONAL ENEMYUnfortunately, the person who does not want you to study Scientology is your enemy as well as ours.
When he harangues against us to you as a “cult,” as a “hoax,” as a very bad thing done by very bad people, he or she is only saying, “Please, please, please don’t try to find me out.”Thousands of such protesting people carefully investigated by us have been found to have unsavory pasts and sordid motives they did not dare (they felt) permit to come to light. The wife or mother who rails against a family member who takes up Scientology is, we regret to have to say, guided by very impure motives, generated in the morass of dread secrets long withheld. The father, husband or friend who frowns upon one knowing more about the mind is hiding something that he feels would damage him.“You had better leave Scientology alone!” is an instinctive defense, prompted in all cases investigated by a guilty conscience. CERTAINTY
The Official Publication of DIANETICS and SCIENTOLOGY in the British Isles
The Official Publication of DIANETICS and SCIENTOLOGY in the British Isles
Vol. 7 No. 2 1960 L Ron Hubbard
Degraded beings are about eighteen to one over Big Beings in the human race (minimum ratio). So those who keep things going are few. HCO POLICY LETTER OF 22 MARCH 1967 Alter-Is and Degraded Beings L. Ron Hubbard
Some thetans are bigger than others. None are truly equal Degraded beings, taking a cue from SP associates, instinctively resent, hate and seek to obstruct any person in charge of anything or any Big Being. HCO POLICY LETTER OF 22 MARCH 1967 Alter-Is and Degraded Beings L. Ron Hubbard
Some thetans are bigger than others. None are truly equal Degraded beings, taking a cue from SP associates, instinctively resent, hate and seek to obstruct any person in charge of anything or any Big Being. HCO POLICY LETTER OF 22 MARCH 1967 Alter-Is and Degraded Beings L. Ron Hubbard
Hubbard in hundreds of references put his enemies and critics in broad categories of evil. His critics are all portrayed as liars and criminals without exception.
This ends up permeating the thinking of Scientologists. He also portrays all confusion and disagreements in indoctrination as being due to misunderstood words and all desires to leave as always being motivated by hidden evil acts and misunderstood words. No valid reason for wishing to leave Scientology is recognized.
Hubbard in one set of references defines social personalities as helping constructive groups and hurting destructive groups and antisocial personalities as helping destructive groups and hurting constructive groups. He shifts this in his definition of suppressive persons to people that otherwise are identical but hurt Scientology and don't help it. He calls the antisocial personality the suppressive person and the anti Scientologist.
He praises Scientologists in comparison to all others and proclaimed there is no more ethical group on the planet than Scientologists. He stresses the broad categories and denies nuances within categories.
His view of pure good and evil is reinforced in hundreds of references on crimes and ethics and the tone scale and numerous other topics.
Scientologists increasingly see cult members in good standing as acceptable and outsiders as evil, degraded, criminal and unaware.
In the elite Sea Org a recruitment poster had a line that I will paraphrase. It said for every Sea Org member working to make it go right there are a million people that don't even know what right is. Outsiders are seen as completely incompetent and unethical, like children that refuse to grow up and have to be led to even survive.
Overcoming the negative aspects of bias regarding categorization is a tremendous challenge for each individual and society. It's a much, much more extreme challenge for members of the Scientology cult, proportional to their fanatical zealotry and degree of indoctrination. Children raised in Scientology face particularly unique and difficult challenges compared to adults that became cult members.
I hope this helps some people move from the category of unaware about prejudice and helps some ex Scientologists move towards recovery.
In chapter 8 (In-Groups and Out-Groups) of the book Subliminal Leonard Mlodinow took on the subject of in-group bias and out-group bias.
It's a subject that we all need to understand to function in society and be able to make ethical decisions regarding how to treat people and what traps are easy to fall into in relationships.
Mlodinow described the Robber's cave experiments. These are very famous in social psychology and in fact this book is the fifth one I have read that references the Robber's cave experiments.
In the 1950s twenty two eleven year old boys went to camp. They were in two separate camps and formed teams and chose the names Rattlers and Eagles, they designed their own flags and competed fiercely in sports against each other.
They were kept separate the first week and didn't even know of each other's existence. The second week they met and engaged in a sports tournament featuring baseball, tug of war, tent pitching contests a treasure hunt. Awards were given including trophies, medals and prizes for winners.
On the first day of competition the Eagles lost a tug of war contest and two chose to take the Rattlers flag and burn it then raise it back up. The Rattlers saw this the next morning and plotted revenge.
A mass brawl broke out when the Eagles arrived. At ten thirty the next night the Rattlers raided the Eagles cabins. They rushed in ripping down mosquito nets, yelling insults, and grabbing a pair of jeans. The researchers devised situations that required cooperation like moving a "stalled" truck by working together and several other rigged situations.
Several boys from the two sides became friendly with each other, and hostilities lessened. It's an experiment that is still discussed in social psychology today.
Mlodinow wrote, "Humans have always lived in bands. If competing in a tug-of-war contest generated intergroup hostility, imagine the hostility between bands of humans with too many mouths to feed and too few elephant carcasses to dine on. Today we think of war as being at least in part based on ideology. Long before communism, democracy, or theories of racial superiority were invented, neighboring groups of people regularly fought with and even massacred each other, inspired by the competition for resources. In such an environment, a highly evolved sense of "us versus them" would have been crucial to survival.
There was also a sense of "us versus them" within bands, for, as in other hominid species, prehistoric humans formed alliances and coalitions within groups"..."So if the ability to pick up cues that signal political allegiances is important in contemporary work, in prehistoric times it was vital, for the equivalent of being fired was being dead." (Page 164)
Mlodinow went on to describe how in-group and out-group are defined in science. In-group means any group a person considers themself a part of and out-group means any group a person considers themself to not belong to. It's not about what is popular as in sometimes means.
What groups we put others in determines how we view them and how we treat them as does what groups we put ourselves in does as well.
Mlodinow described something I have seen strong evidence for in other places. An individual usually sees themself as belonging to many groups based on gender, education, race, religion, philosophy family, immediate family, class or favorite sports teams or hobbies.
Something very interesting that Mlodinow and others have pointed out is a tendency humans have. We like to have a positive self-image usually.
We have different opinions on the groups we are in and our status in them that change over time. We pick the group that gives us the highest or best self-image in our opinion at the moment.
I have met guys that identity by political affiliation or education level or status of military veteran or talk about having played football years ago. Some people talk about the bands that they saw and see themselves as music fans and not their education level or profession.
Of course in Scientology virtually anyone can be an executive or post with a fancy title. They might not get any pay or benefits, but they can claim high status in Scientology very often by simply giving their mind, time, labor and life to Scientology.
It's worth noting that cults use a false high status to keep members in. After all, leaving and becoming a nobody or worse a failure is almost unbearable.
Mlodinow wrote, "Both experimental and field studies have found, in fact, that people will make large financial sacrifices to help establish a feeling of belonging to an in-group they aspire to feel part of." (Page 165)
There are country clubs people pay huge amounts to be members at, in which they never go to the club, but are known as a member.
It's worth noting that many Scientologists pay money to be a high status member of the IAS or other groups that give huge donations.
The man behind the Robber's Cave experiment, Muzafer Sherif, came up with an experiment in which he demonstrated that people in groups will agree to having seen the same thing.
He knew that if a person is in a room that is completely dark except for a dot of light that is still the brain will play a kind of trick that makes the dot seem to move to a person.
Sherif came up with an experiment in which people were put in groups and asked how much the dot moved. The results varied greatly between groups but within groups who were together spoke in response to the perception of motion in front of each other. They settled on agreement within a narrow range of the movement. Then if group members came back to look again individually they stuck with the group agreement on the range. Agreement colored perception.
Mlodinow wrote, "The perception of the subjects' in-group had become their perception." (Page 166)
Studies have found people tend to like people in their own profession more than people in other professions quite often. People also in surveys find people in their in-group to have variation and different individual qualities. It's been supported by studies on race, religion and other qualities.
We see us as a bunch of individuals with great variety and them as pretty much the same, or awfully close to it.
Our emphasis on which in-group we consider as identifying us can have a profound effect on our behavior.
A fascinating study on unconscious priming (getting someone to think about something and be focused on it is priming) demonstrated the reality of priming as powerful and the impact of in-group orientation.
Three Harvard researchers came up with a clever experiment. They had Asian American women take a difficult math test. The subjects belonged to two groups. Asian Americans are thought of as proficient at math and woman are thought of as bad at math.
Before they took the test one group of participants answered a questionnaire about their parents, grandparents and topics related to their identity as Asian Americans and another group of participants answered questions about gender related issues.
The questions were designed to trigger either the identity of being Asian Americans or women, for each group.
A third group was asked questions about their cable service, designed as neutral and a control group.
The women saw no conscious effects of the questions. The women that focused on being Asian Americans did best, the control group did second best and the women that focused on being women did worst. Being unconsciously primed to either be confident or not affected their performance.
We belong to many in-groups and they have conflicting norms. This gives us as individuals contradictions in thought, feelings and behavior.
It's a very worthwhile subject to consider at length and books like Leon Festinger's A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance cover this in fine detail. I wrote an extensive eleven part series on that book and Scientology here.
Mlodinow described an interesting phenomenon that to me highlighted our tendency to conform with our in-group.
Mlodinow described a study done on public service announcements. One ad denounced littering according to Mlodinow and resulted in less littering and another ad with the phrase "Americans will produce more litter than ever!" resulted in increased litter.
In a related study researchers made a sign discouraging visitors from stealing wood at Petrified Fire Forest National Park. The sign was on a popular path with secretly marked pieces of wood.
They found with no sign about 3 percent of wood was taken in a ten hour period. With the warning it jumped to 8 percent of the wood.
The effect on human beings of telling them a behavior is frequent or normal or what their peers do is to increase their participation in that behavior, even if a warning comes with that information.
This has stunning implications for a variety of history and communication. I could go on at length about the impact but won't take that on in full here. I will say there have been times in places like England in which members of the government said warning the public about Scientology would result in increased membership in Scientology and they were correct. Giving publicity to Scientology when most people never heard of Scientology resulted in some buying Scientology books or services to understand Scientology. Even when that publicity was a warning.
Mlodinow wrote, "It is the simple act of knowing that you belong to a group that triggers your in-group affinity."
Mlodinow described how a lot of research supports the fact that any group membership is sufficient to trigger the bias for an in-group and against an out-group. People in research who have the same color rubber bands display it as do people who like the same paintings or bands or sports teams or are cat people or dog people or prefer Pepsi or Coke.
Significant research by hundreds of researchers has supported this. The book Age Of Propaganda covers this in detail and I similarly wrote a long series of blog posts on this here as well.
Mlodinow described a study that shows a couple things that are extremely important in understanding human behavior. There was a long and complex experiment with over a dozen stages. Members were divided into an in-group and out-group. They were allowed to pick between different options that awarded points. Sometimes they could do different things and sometimes they could pick between different results.
If they had no bias the most logical thing to do would be to award the most points possible for both people. They however showed in-group bias.
When awarding two in-group members people chose to award the most points possible. When awarding out-group members they chose to award far fewer points.
Mlodinow wrote, "And what is really extraordinary is that when the options required awarders to divide points between one in-group member and one out-group, they tended to make choices that maximized the difference between the rewards they gave to the group members, even if that action resulted in a lesser reward for their own group member." (Page 173)
"That's right: as a trend, over dozens of individual reward decisions, subjects sought not to maximize their own group's reward but the difference between the reward their group would receive and that which the other group would be awarded. Remember, this experiment has been replicated many times, with subject pools of all ages and many different nationalities, and all have reached the same conclusion: we are highly invested in feeling different from one another--and superior--no matter how flimsy the grounds for our sense of superiority, and no matter how self-sabotaging that may end up being." (Page 174)
This shows we will accept a penalty to punish the out-group. It's reminding me of the joke about the man who bitterly hated his ex wife who found a magic lamp. He rubbed it and out popped a genie.
The genie informed the man he would grant him three wishes but give his ex wife double whatever the man wished for. The man wished for a million dollars. Poof - a million dollars appears and his ex wife has two million dollars appear. The man wished for a beautiful house. Poof - a beautiful house appears for him and two are there for his ex wife. The man finally made his third wish "I want you to beat me half to death !" He told the genie with grim determination.
He could have asked for more benefits but needed his enemy to suffer more than he wanted to prosper. This is an aspect of human behavior that may damn us. We now have weapons that can certainly destroy the human race completely.
If a group leader feels that not striking can leave too much of a benefit to an enemy he may launch a nuclear strike, despite the inevitable retaliation leading to extinction. That's not hyperbole.
Obviously massive nuclear weapons reduction to a much, much lower quantity - perhaps less than even one or two hundred nuclear weapons worldwide may be the only certain protection against this threat. That's a huge challenge but honestly it won't happen unless it's pointed out as necessary and why first.
A lot of economists and philosophers and psychologists have assumed human beings are rational actors that act for maximum personal or social benefit and this evidence shows that is simply not true. We are not purely rational, not by a long shot.
Back in the Robber's Cave experiment the boys were put in artificially created situations to encourage teamwork. The water for camp was shut off and blocked and the boys had to work together and a truck of supplies was "stalled" and the boys had to work together to pull the truck to free it.
Several other situations were created to require cooperation and they found that the relationships between them had a tremendous change. Some of the boys from the two groups even exchanged souvenirs and became friends.
Similarly when 911 came New Yorkers who never normally would associate banded together to help each other and other people.
Several T.V. shows, comic books and novels have dreamed of the potential of using one huge threat to mankind to end our wars and unite us as one.
It's an interesting and unfortunately in my opinion real situation today. I believe nuclear weapons present such a threat. It may take a unified effort by millions or billions of people to eliminate this threat. Arguably climate change is a threat of the same order of magnitude, or even higher, and similarly requires a huge effort by an equally large number of people.
Other threats to our survival may inspire overcoming in-group and out-group bias not out of pure compassion but cold blooded survival.
Einstein had remarked on humanity overcoming nationality and it's necessity. He was likely correct.
The implications of this information for Scientology is tremendous and vital. Scientology absolutely promotes bias for Scientology and against enemies.
I could pull up dozens of Scientology references from Hubbard that repeat and vary this theme. Both from promoting Scientology and stating Scientologists are saner, smarter and more ethical than everyone else, by a lot and also condemning everyone not in Scientology as degraded, not even trying in life and blinded by a number of factors that renders them dumb animals sleep walking through life in a dim fog of delusions.
The full effects of these biases are difficult to fully understand or communicate. I don't think I or anyone will totally get it. But I can try to understand them and myself as well.
In chapter 9 of his book Subliminal Leonard Mlodinow takes on Feelings.
He started with the case of a twenty five year old woman in the 1950s who displayed convincing evidence she had different identities with different names and distinct personalities. She was found to have one personality that was passive, weak, and bad in her own opinion. She had another with a different name who saw herself as active, strong and good. She reportedly took eighteen years of therapy to be cured.
Mlodinow described how we all have many identities. We are different at fifty than thirty and even change throughout the day. We have been shown to behave differently when in a good mood from a bad one, Mlodinow described how studies have shown people make different decisions after seeing a happy film. Women behave differently when ovulating and men behave differently around women when they are ovulating.
Mlodinow wrote, "Our character is not indelibly stamped on us but is dynamic and changing."
Mlodinow pointed out how implicit bias tests strongly support the hypothesis that we can hold unconscious racial and religious and gender bias while consciously abhoring prejudice. It's the humbling truth.
Mlodinow pointed out that no matter how introspective we are we can't directly access the information in the physical structures of our brains and nervous systems and related systems in our bodies and interview them for answers as to what they do and how they do it. They aren't talking.
Mlodinow described how we need to understand the reasons for our decisions and actions and more fundamentally our feelings and where they come from.
A simple feeling to examine is pain. It's easy to understand when you are in pain and when you aren't. We know Tylenol (acetaminophen) and a placebo will provide relief to some people in some circumstances equally well. Not all, but a significant and consistent number of people.
A more extreme example is available than a headache. In the 1950s doctors tried to treat chest pain pain from angina pectoris, which causes severe pain in your heart, by tying off arteries to cause new arteries to grow. They discovered the surgery reportedly relieved pain, but upon examining the patients after death the doctors realized no new arteries grew. But how were patients relieved with no improvement to their hearts ?
Several patients had an operation and five were unknowingly experimental subjects. They had two groups, people who actually received the surgery and five who were cut open and sewed shut with no operation at all, but told they had received the operation.
76% of the people that received the genuine operation reported less pain and all five patients with the bogus operation claimed relief. They had a suggestion of relief and apparently that was enough to prompt a lessening or removal of excruciating pain. Wow.
William James came up with many aspects of the view of emotions that we embrace today. Mlodinow spoke of neuroscientists and psychologists and people like myself who read lots of books on the current and past theories of the mind tend to see these ideas and hypotheses as plausible and likely true.
William James was born in New York city in 1842 and completed a medical degree in 1869 at twenty seven years old from Harvard. By 1872 he ended up teaching at Harvard. In 1884 his crucial ideas for understanding emotions where presented in the article "What Is an Emotion ?"
Mlodinow explained James' perspective, "we don't tremble because we're angry or cry because we feel sad; rather, we are aware of feeling angry because we tremble, and we feel sad because we cry. James was proposing a physiological basis for emotion, an idea that has gained currency today-thanks in part to the brain-imaging technology that allows us to watch the physical processes involved in emotion as they are actually occurring in the brain.
Emotions, in today's neo-Jamesian view, are like perceptions and memories-they are reconstructed from the data at hand. Much of that data comes from your unconscious mind, as it processes environmental stimuli picked up by your senses and creates a physiological response. The brain also employs other data, such as your preexisting beliefs and expectations, and information about the current circumstances. All of that information is processed, and a conscious feeling of emotion is produced. " (Page 182)
James wrote the Principles of Psychology which became a classic and is considered one of the most influential books in the history of psychology.
But I can't overstate the importance of Mlodinow's description, that is why I recreated the long quote in full.
Our emotions and even physical experiences are shaped by our internal world. Our beliefs and expectations contribute to our feelings and perception. That's stunning.
In Scientology the implications are incredible. Scientology is packed with suggestions from Hubbard that he expressed with repetition and variation to load the minds, including the unconscious mind with preexisting beliefs and expectations. So, they were ready to interpret the experience of life as consistent with Scientology doctrine. And to feel the emotions they saw as consistent with Scientology as well.
James himself wasn't thrilled with his book nor were many of his contemporaries who focused on experiments with measurable components. Since James didn't share their focus in that way his ideas faced obstacles. His ideas got some consideration but eventually fell out of style and other ideas were popular.
In the 1960s James' ideas found new life. A famous experiment by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer explored an intriguing idea. If we create memory and perception from limited information and fill in the blanks and smooth over rough edges as an active internal process of the unconscious that is usually completely hidden then perhaps we create emotions in a similar way.
Mlodinow described that perhaps the mind fills the gaps in information and sometimes gets emotions wrong, just as we mistakenly remember details as incorrect memories and interviews of witnesses who sincerely believe they are being honest supports this. Numerous experiments support the idea that we construct our perceptions from a combination of sensory information and internal contributions by the unconscious. We sometimes mistake seeing or hearing one thing for another, so "emotional illusions" can be created as well.
Schachter and Singer created an experiment to see if emotional illusions could be induced. They wanted to see if people could be tricked into experiencing emotions. They dreamed up an experiment for using physiological phenomena and suggestions to influence people.
They told experimental subjects they were using an injection of a vitamin called "Suproxin" which may affect their visual skills. They used adrenaline and it produces increased heart rate and blood pressure, flushing, and accelerated breathing which all accompany emotional arousal.
They had three groups, one was the informed who were told the actual effects of the injection. The second, the ignorant, were told nothing and given the adrenaline. The third, a control group, was given an inert saline solution which did nothing and they were told nothing.
The experiment, like many psychology experiments used deception. The research subject was given an injection, the researcher left the subject with another researcher posing as another test subject. In a happy condition the covert researcher acted euphoric and happy. They used an anger condition in which the covert researcher when left with some people acted angry.
The researchers supposed people that knew why the other person was angry or happy would observe that but not feel that way themselves and that the ignorant subjects would interpret their reactions as the same as the emotions that the person before them displayed. They were watched by hidden observers to judge emotions and answered questions about their emotions after the experiment.
The predicted results occurred, informed and control subjects observed the emotions in the other person but didn't display or report them in themselves and in the ignorant group who received adrenaline and felt the effects similar to emotional arousal while watching another person they thought was undergoing the same treatment. When the covert researcher faked anger the subjects thought they were angry while the ones who saw happiness thought they became happy. An "emotional illusion" was successfully created of either anger or happiness. Many other experiments have used gentler methods to create physiological phenomena and see if people would mistake them for emotional or even sexual arousal. Mlodinow wrote on a few and it's well established that we can react to emotional illusions or arousal priming and be completely unaware.
We like to think of ourselves as consistent in temperament and as above bias and variation in mood based on hidden or unrelated influences. But sadly it's just not true. I might be angry at a coworker or family member because of an emotional leftover from a different person or experience or overly impatient because I am tired or hungry or just feel poorly. It's important to consider when you look at professions with power that need to make sound and just decisions like police officers, judges and political leaders.
Mlodinow wrote, "The examples I've talked about so far imply that we often don't understand our feelings. Despite that, we usually think that we do. Moreover, when asked to explain why we feel a certain way, most of us, after giving it some thought, have no trouble supplying reasons. Where do we find those reasons, for feelings that may not even be what we think they are? We make them up." (Page 188)
Numerous experiments and patients with memory issues have demonstrated that people will create explanations for situations and emotions with no evidence. Mlodinow described several examples and I will include one.
Oliver Sacks had a patient named Mr Thompson who had Korsakoff's syndrome which created a kind of amnesia in which generating new memories is knocked out. The poor patients forget what is said and done in seconds or minutes.
They however make up explanations for the experiences they have. Mr Thompson would see Oliver Sacks and not remember him, no matter how many times they met. He would see a white apron and say Sacks was a grocer or forget that a few minutes later and remember him a few minutes later as a butcher or later as a customer he knew. He made up the information he lacked.
Mlodinow wrote, "The term "confabulation" often signifies the replacement of a gap in one's memory by a falsification that one believes to be true. But we also confabulate to fill in gaps in our knowledge about our feelings. We all have these tendencies." (Page 190)
Mlodinow went on, "When you come up with an explanation for your feelings and behavior, your brain performs an action that would probably surprise you: it searches your mental database of cultural norms and picks something plausible" (Page 191)
And, "That might sound like the lazy way, but studies suggest we take it: when asked how we felt, or will feel, we tend to reply with descriptions or predictions that conform to a set of standard reasons, expectations and cultural and societal explanations for a given feeling." (Page 191)
This has amazing implications regarding cults. In a cult like Scientology your cultural norms are set by Scientology doctrine. You rapidly are given explanations for hundreds of behaviors and feelings in Scientology. As someone entering Scientology as an adult student you are routinely in the initial indoctrination for example informed about Hubbard's study technology in which being exasperated, confused, feeling blank, doping off, wanting to leave Scientology or stop studying Scientology or feeling bored are ALL explained as being due to barriers to study which of course are all handled by Scientology and never stopping or leaving. It's the cultural norm in Scientology indoctrination. Similarly in Scientology auditing the norm is to see doping off as being caused by running off past hypnosis and recovering, despite it being caused on course by barriers to study in the form of misunderstood words. And wanting to leave auditing is described as being caused by hidden acts that weren't revealed. And wanting to leave staff is seen as being caused by hidden evil acts too.
So the norm in Scientology is to see the same phenomena or behavior as being magically caused by different reasons depending on if you are on course or in auditing or on staff (as if walking from one room to another changes the nature of your mind) ...but the cultural norm is accepted, because it is enforced as the only plausible explanation in Scientology culture.
The explanation being illogical and to people outside Scientology unscientific and ludicrous and frankly possibly insane is irrelevant. When you have adopted the culture of Scientology the explanations in Scientology from Hubbard's doctrine are your explanations.
This is sadly not limited to Scientology or even cults. Often people simply support actions and people because they feel it's normal for members of their group to do it or condemn people and actions because they see the condemnation as normal in their group. The power of obedience to authority and conformity to group norms is astounding.
It's enough to give one pause and carefully consider the effects of our decisions. Mlodinow listed very plausible evidence from other experiments that strongly supports the idea that we act for reasons we are unaware of and confidently believe the explanations we dream up for our behavior. We don't say "I do what someone in my culture would usually do in my situation as much as I can, and don't deviate from that much." It's counterintuitive but true for me and you.
But this pinpoints how you get the radical transformation in cults. The cult recruit is uncertain and slowly learns the cultural norms of the group. They learn that Scientologists believe Dianetics is a legitimate science of the mind and has helped millions of people to be saner and happier because it's a valid subject. They learn that in Scientology Hubbard's ideas are seen as uniquely brilliant and validated by millions of people getting life changing results. They learn all disagreements and confusion or emotional upsets regarding Scientology materials are seen as never due to flaws in Scientology or Hubbard's ideas, but always, always, always due to misunderstood words in the student or other barriers to study or deficiencies in the student.
That's reinforced literally thousands and thousands of times in even a short period in Scientology. Within months a Scientologist experiences this personally and witnesses it done routinely to others. It's absolutely the cultural norm in Scientology. It's a defining characteristic of being a Scientologist.
So, as a Scientologist learns the cultural norms of both behavior and explanations of behavior in Scientology they face a dilemma - either be an outsider or heretic in Scientology or leave or be an orthodox Scientologist and step into obedience to Hubbard's authority and conform to the group norms. Unfortunately those norms are a hidden trap and forge a prison of the mind rapidly and effectively for many people, especially the people that are indoctrinated for hundreds of hours and stay for many years or decades. I hope this chapter has illuminated some of the human tendencies that make being persuaded by Scientology or other lies possible. Our minds evolved to help us survive as Mlodinow pointed out. They aren't supposed to be perfect truth finders and couldn't be, we need to process far too much information far too rapidly and to somehow store enough information to make sense but not overwhelm our minds. It's an imperfect compromise but nature doesn't make perfect products. It makes what survives until it doesn't survive anymore. I have to accept that my feelings and behavior get influenced and my explanation for it is often wrong. I also have to accept that everyone else has these biases and obstacles. We are all imperfect and get a lot of things wrong. It's unavoidable.
I hope to have a bit more patience and empathy for other people. They truly bear burdens I will never see, they often won't see them either.
The final chapter of the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow was titled Self. He ended his examination of the unconscious mind with this.
He started with this quote: "The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes." George Orwell (Page 196)
Mlodinow pointed out how several people have admitted no error or wrongdoing, even if admitting that might lessen punishment or penalties.
Mlodinow wrote, "The stronger the threat to feeling good about yourself, it seems, the greater the tendency to view reality through a distortion lens." (Page 197)
As compelling examples Mlodinow wrote on how folks like notorious gangsters of the 1930s like Dutch Schultz, Al Capone and notorious murderer "Two Gun" Crowley all saw themselves as public benefactors or hunted men or innocent despite having killed many people.
Mlodinow gave descriptions of how we see ourselves as doing good work even if our business fails when following our plans, we think we did a good job as an attorney even when our client got the death penalty, we preserve an image of competence and good character for ourselves often despite any evidence otherwise.
Mlodinow wrote, "Consider a survey of nearly one million high school high school seniors. When asked to judge their ability to get along with others, 100 percent rated themselves as at least average, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent considered themselves in the top 1 percent. And when asked about their leadership skills, only 2 percent rate themselves as below average. Teachers aren't any more realistic: 94 percent of college professors say they do above average work." (Page 198)
Psychologists call this tendency for optimism in self evaluation " the above average effect." Mlodinow gave numerous examples of other professions and surveys that show this is a universal human trait.
He also noted how people can recognize this trait, but of course only in other people. We resist seeing our own overestimating of our abilities. It's called the bias blind spot. One author said biases are like foreheads - it's far easier to see someone else's than my own. If I could see my bias it wouldn't bias me, because it has to be outside conscious direct thought to function as a bias.
Mlodinow wrote, "Normal and healthy individuals-students, professors, engineers, lieutenant colonels, doctors, business executives-tend to think of themselves as not just competent but proficient, even if they aren't." (Page 200)
"As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt put it, there are two ways to get at the truth: the way of the scientist and the way of the lawyer. Scientists gather evidence, look for regularities, form theories explaining their observations, and test them. Attorneys begin with a conclusion they want to convince others of and then seek evidence that supports it, while also attempting to discredit evidence that doesn't. The human mind is designed to be both a scientist and an attorney, both a conscious seeker of objective truth and an unconscious, impassioned advocate for what we want to believe. Together these approaches vie to create our worldview." (Page 200)
Mlodinow went on, "As it turns out, the brain is a decent scientist but an absolutely outstanding lawyer. The result is that in the struggle to fashion a coherent, convincing view of ourselves and the rest of the world, it is the impassioned advocate that usually wins over the truth seeker." (Page 201)
Mlodinow described how we combine parts of perception and filling in blanks with self approving illusions. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt unconsciously and do it over and over in hundreds of tiny ways without conscious awareness. Then, our conscious mind innocently looks at the distorted final product and sees a seemingly perfect, consistent and logical representation of reality as memories with no clue it's not anything but a pure recording of the past.
Mlodinow described how psychologists call this kind of thought "motivated reasoning." He explained how the way we easily get this is due to ambiguity. Lots of things that we sense aren't perfectly and absolutely clear. We can acknowledge some degree of reality but somewhat reasonably see unclear things in ways that give ourselves every benefit of the doubt. We can do it for allies, particularly in comparison to our enemies. We can see in-group members as good, if it's unclear and out-group members as bad if it's unclear. We can set standards extremely high to accept negative evidence against ourselves and our groups or set standards extremely low to accept negative evidence against out-groups. We can act reasonable about it, but really are using how we feel about beliefs to determine our acceptance of those beliefs, substituting comfort with acceptance for proof being established.
Mlodinow described how ambiguity helps us to understand stereotypes for people we don't know well and be overly positive in looking at ourselves. He described studies and experiments that strongly support the idea we are incorporating bias in our decisions unknowingly.
Crucially Mlodinow added, "Because motivated reasoning is unconscious, people's claims that they are unaffected by bias or self-interest can be sincere, even as they make decisions that are in reality self-serving." (Page 205)
Mlodinow described how recent brain scans show our emotions are tied up in motivated reasoning. The parts of the brain that are active in emotional decisions are used when motivated reasoning occurs, and we can't in any easy way divorce ourselves from that human nature.
Numerous studies have shown we set impossibly high standards to disconfirm our beliefs, particularly deeply held emotional beliefs like religious and political beliefs. We set impossibly low standards for evidence to confirm our beliefs.
We also find fallacies or weaknesses in arguments, claims and sources of information we disagree with while dropping those standards if the information supports our positions. It's so natural we often don't see it in ourselves but sharply see it in people with opposite beliefs. They look biased and frankly dimwitted. But they aren't alone in this.
We see ourselves as being rational and forming conclusions based on patterns of evidence and sound reason, like scientists but really have more lawyer in us as we start with conclusions that favor us and our current beliefs, feelings, attitudes and behaviors and work to find a rational and coherent story to support it.
Mlodinow described research that has shown people who are unrealistically optimistic about themselves tend to be happy, have high hopes for their careers and accomplishments and start companies, create inventions and expect to be treated well and so inspire positive treatment often for themselves and treat others well in turn. More realistic views lead to higher depression and lower lifespan.
In human evolution if a person thousands of years ago was realistic they would have seen a life with lots of suffering, probable losses of children before they grew up and a struggle to simply have a decent life with modest chances of success. But the people that persisted with life and saw their chances optimistically succeeded over generations and so evolution has selected these traits over tens of thousands of years. Modern humans have probably had this behavior selected for at least a hundred thousand years. Perhaps much longer.
So, it is truly human nature to be overly optimistic about yourself. Life is hard and has lots of suffering but evolution has largely solved the depressing reality of this challenge by ignoring it or having people see themselves as up to the challenge, whatever it may be.
Mlodinow ended his book, "We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers, and spouses not just because of the way we perceive them but because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose to believe. It is a gift of the human mind to be extraordinarily open to accepting the theory of ourselves that pushes us in the direction of survival, and even happiness." (Page 218)
I want to emphasize that regarding Scientology this chapter is like this entire book extremely relevant. It spotlights the weaknesses and vulnerabilities Scientology or any false doctrine exploits but also answered questions Hubbard claimed to answer in Dianetics and Scientology with far more scientific and in my opinion accurate information.
I also wanted to emphasize that I think the information in alternatives to Scientology is chosen to provide information everyone should have an opportunity to examine. We all won't agree with everything in these books but should at least get to see these ideas so we can form educated opinions on these important subjects.
I plan to include more future posts in the alternatives to Scientology series on other books.
Mockingbird's Greatest Hits
I have reached nearly two hundred posts online and thousands of comments as well. In looking back at all that I realized a very small number of posts have been consistently the most viewed and likely most helpful for people seeking to understand Scientology.
I certainly hope they are helping people. Here I will try to present the short list of the posts that best explain my ideas and can introduce you to information that I hope will help begin beneficial examination of Scientology.
1)Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology
2)Basic Introduction To Hypnosis in Scientology
3)Pissed It's Not Your Fault !!!
4)The Secret Of Scientology Part 1 Control Via Contradiction
5)Burning Down Hell - How Commands Are Hidden, Varied And Repeated To Control You As Hypnotic Implants
6)Why Hubbard Never Claimed OT Feats And The Rock Bottom Basis Of Scientology
7)A Million Years In Hell
8-10)OT III And Beyond: Sources Plagiarized From Part 1, 2 and 3
11)Propaganda By Reversal Of Meaning In Scientology
12)Scientology's Parallel In Nature - Malignant Narcissism
13)OT VIII Delusion Fulfilled
14)There Is No Irony In Scientology
15 - 16)Why Lying And Murder Are Justified In Scientology part 1 and 2
Why Lying And Murder Are Justified In Scientology part 3
17)Unraveling Scientology - A Missing Vital Ingredient
18)Loving A Lie
20)Orders Of Magnitude Part 1
These twenty posts have been both popular and give a very good grounding in many of my ideas on Scientology