Emotion

republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing that we got the Trump crime family out of the Oval Office, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives? How has political polarization gotten this bad?

These are some of the resources that have helped me continue grappling with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. How can we understand this era of polarization, this age of tribalism? This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is both a personality type and a form of government — it operates at both the interpersonal and the societal level. The words authoritarian and fascist are often used interchangeably, but fascism is a more specific type of authoritarianism, and far more historically recent.

America has had flavors of authoritarianism since its founding, and when fascism came along the right-wing authoritarians ate it up — and deeply wanted the United States to be a part of it. Only after they became social pariahs did they change position to support American involvement in World War II — and some persisted even after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Scholars of authoritarianism

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident CzesΕ‚aw MiΕ‚osz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis. He also wrote extensively about the mindset of the authoritarian follower in his seminal work, Escape from Freedom.
  • Eric Hoffer — his book The True Believers explores the mind of the authoritarian follower, and the appeal of losing oneself in a totalist movement
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
  • Tyrants and dictators
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand
    • The Fountainhead (1943)
    • Atlas Shrugged (1957)
    • Objectivism ideology
  • Greatness Thinking; heroic individualism
  • Nietszche — will to power; the Uberman
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • George Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)
  • More authoritarianism books
Continue reading Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today
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Words, words, and more words.

In a world of increasing disinformation, it’s more important than ever to be armed with actual information. And being curious about the meaning, nature, and origins of things is a rewarding journey in and of itself.

Think of these dictionaries as tools for your mind — they can help you make connections between concepts, understand the terminology being used in the media and all around you, and feel less lost in a sea of dizzying complexity and rapid change. A fantastic vocabulary also helps you connect with people near and far — as well as get outside your comfort zone and learn something new.

Dictionaries List

This section includes dictionaries and definitions of important terms in important realms — and is continually being built out. Stay tuned!

Terms and Concepts

Authoritarianism and American Fascism

Authoritarianism is a political system where a single leader or a small group holds significant power, often without the consent of the governed. Decisions are made by authorities without public input, and individual freedoms and democratic principles are usually suppressed. The government may control various aspects of life, including media and the economy, without checks and balances. This leads to a concentration of power that can foster corruption and human rights abuses. In an authoritarian regime, obedience to the authorities is often emphasized over personal liberties and democratic participation.

Psychology

Definitions and terms relating to the study of the mind, including ideas from social psychology, political psychology, positive psychology, and Buddhist psychology.

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Why do we do the things we do?

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, encompassing a wide array of topics such as mental processes, emotions, cognition, development, personality, and social interactions. It seeks to understand how individuals think, feel, and act, both individually and in groups.

It fascinates me endlessly and — because you’re here! — I am guessing it fascinates you too.

psychology and the study of the mind

Learn More:

30 Common psychological biases β†—

These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others.

28 Cognitive distortions list β†—

Cognitive distortions are bad mental habits and unhelpful ways of thinking that can limit one’s ability to function in the world.

24 Logical fallacies list β†—

Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies is essential forΒ critical thinkingΒ and effective communication.

Read more

These days the GOP is just 3 cults in a trenchcoat — nevertheless, it’s helpful to understand some of the ideologies and extremist beliefs that folks on the right engage with. Understanding the psychology can help us make predictions about actions, reactions, and other developments in the political landscape.

What is an ideology?

An ideology is a comprehensive set of beliefs, ideas, and values that shape the way individuals or groups perceive the world and interact within it. It serves as a lens through which people interpret social, political, and economic phenomena, guiding their actions and decisions. Ideologies can be as broad as political doctrines like liberalism, conservatism, or socialism, or as specific as belief systems within a particular culture or organization.

Ideologies often manifest in various forms, such as political platforms, religious doctrines, or social movements. They can be explicit, where the principles are clearly outlined, or implicit, subtly influencing behavior without overt expression. Ideologies are not static; they evolve over time, adapting to new information, social changes, or shifts in power dynamics.

In the realm of politics and governance, ideologies play a crucial role. They inform policy decisions, shape public opinion, and influence the behavior of political actors. They can also be divisive, leading to conflict and exclusion of those who do not conform. In the media, ideologies can affect the framing of news and the dissemination of information, subtly shaping public perception.

Right-wing ideologies

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The Stanford Prison Experiment is a seminal study in the field of social psychology, offering profound insights into the dynamics of power, authority, and human behavior. Conducted in 1971 by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, the experiment aimed to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power and authority within a simulated prison environment. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment set the stage for deeper explorations of the ways in which individualist doctrines of western nations tend to overweight the role of the individual (dispensational attribution) while underweighting the role in the situation and social milieu of the setting.

The Experiment Setup

Zimbardo and his team transformed the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building into a mock prison. Participants, who were college students, were randomly assigned roles as either “guards” or “prisoners.” The guards were given uniforms, sunglasses to prevent eye contact, and batons, while the prisoners were stripped of personal identity, referred to by numbers, and subjected to various forms of psychological manipulation and humiliation designed to dehumanize them in the eyes of their faux captors.

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, by Midjourney

The Unfolding

The Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment was initially planned to last two weeks but had to be terminated after just six days due to the extreme and disturbing behavior exhibited by the participants. The guards became increasingly sadistic, employing psychological torture techniques, and the prisoners showed signs of extreme stress, depression, and helplessness. The environment became so toxic that some prisoners had to be released early due to emotional breakdowns.

Ethical Concerns

The study has been widely criticized for its ethical shortcomings. Zimbardo himself acted as the “prison superintendent,” and his failure to intervene has been seen as a significant ethical lapse (he shares this sentiment, and has been vocal about examining his own role in the profoundly disturbing results of his experiment). The lack of informed consent and the emotional and psychological harm caused to the participants have also been points of contention in the academic community.

Before this study, though, I think it was counterintuitive to assume that otherwise decent, law-abiding good people could be turned into snarling sadists so quickly, in the right circumstances. And the reality of that truth disturbs us and the field of social psychology to this day.

Social Psychological Learnings

Despite its ethical issues, the Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment offers invaluable insights into human behavior and social psychology:

  • Deindividuation: The guards’ uniforms and sunglasses served to deindividuate them, making it easier for them to engage in cruel behavior without feeling personally responsible.
  • Social Roles and Conformity: Both guards and prisoners conformed to their assigned roles to a disturbing extent, highlighting the power of social roles in shaping behavior.
conformity, by Midjourney
  • Authority and Obedience: The experiment showed how ordinary people could commit atrocious acts when they perceive themselves to be following authoritative commands.
  • Situational vs. Dispositional Factors: The study emphasized the influence of situational factors over dispositional ones in determining behavior. It argued that the environment could significantly impact how individuals act, as opposed to inherent personality traits.
  • Ethical Considerations in Research: The study serves as a cautionary tale for ethical considerations in psychological experiments, leading to stricter guidelines and review boards for research involving human subjects.

Implications and Legacy

The Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment has had a lasting impact on psychology, ethics, and our understanding of human behavior. It has been cited in various contexts, from understanding the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison to corporate misconduct a la Enron, et al. While the study’s ethical lapses have led to ongoing debates, its findings remain a crucial part of social psychology curricula and continue to inform our understanding of the human psyche.

Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment serves as both a revealing exploration of the dark corners of human behavior and a cautionary tale for ethical conduct in scientific research. It provides a complex, multifaceted look into the social psychological mechanisms that can lead ordinary people to commit extraordinary acts of cruelty or submission.

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emotional predator, by Midjourney

Chances are you’ve had an encounter with an emotional predator — whether you’re aware of it or not. Most everyone is familiar with the physical abuser: typically the man who beats his wife or female partner. But emotional abuse, and psychological abuse, are also integral components of abuse and are often present with, and precursors to, intimate partner physical violence.

Often individuals who abuse others have a personality disorder that increases their chances of becoming an abuser. Many of these personality disorders have narcissism at their roots — a psychological defense mechanism in which an individual harbors grandiose fantasies about themselves and feels selfishly entitled to having all their demands met.

Narcissists require a constant stream of admiration, or “narcissistic supply,” coming their way. They achieve this through charm, emotional and psychological manipulation, and all sorts of shady, unethical, or downright illegal tactics and behaviors. When a narcissist wants something from you, or wants you to do something, he can become a devious emotional predator who takes advantage of your good will for his own ends without thinking twice.

How to identify an emotional predator

One way to protect yourself from emotional predators is to understand how they behave, and become familiar with how to detect manipulative and deceptive behavior as early on as possible. If you see any of the warning signs below in a loved one, coworker, community member, or position of leadership, then use caution in dealings with this individual. Seek external advice and assistance in threat assessment before placing further trust in this person.

Emotional predation can take place at all levels: interpersonal interactions and intimate partnerships, within groups and organizations, as well as at much larger scales on the order of societies, nations, and — increasingly — global networks. If you feel something “off” in an interaction that feels loaded with emotional pressure, stop for a moment and do some critical thinking about whether someone is trying to prey on your emotions, and how to respond.

global network, by Midjourney

Emotional predators are often found leading cults (both small and large), so take a look at those who surround them and ask if they seem like mindless followers in thrall to the cult of personality of one individual. Assess whether you and/or others who interact with the psychic vampire experience the following phenomena:

  • Manipulating your emotions; emotional blackmail A form of manipulation where someone uses your feelings against you to get what they want. It often involves guilt-tripping, fear, and obligation, making you feel trapped in a cycle of compliance.
  • Negging; undermining confidence and self-esteem Negging is a tactic where someone offers backhanded compliments or subtle insults to undermine your self-esteem. The goal is to make you feel vulnerable, so you seek their approval.
  • Creating unnecessary chaos — Some individuals thrive on creating chaos to divert attention from their actions or to keep others off-balance. It’s a control tactic that leaves you feeling disoriented.
  • Consistent inconsistency; intermittent reinforcement — This involves unpredictable behavior, where positive reinforcement is given sporadically. It keeps you guessing and hooked, as you never know when the next “reward” will come; as in gambling, e.g.
  • GrandiosityAn inflated sense of self-importance and superiority over others. It’s often a mask for deep-seated insecurities.
  • One-way street — In a one-way relationship, one person’s needs and wants are prioritized over the other’s. It’s a dynamic that leaves one feeling drained and unappreciated.
  • Masters of deceptive and misleading stories — Some individuals are adept at crafting narratives that bend the truth, often to serve their own interests or manipulate others.
deceptive and misleading stories, by Midjourney
  • Love to play victim and hero — These individuals portray themselves as both the victim and the hero in different narratives, manipulating emotions to gain sympathy or admiration.
  • Diverting attention — Diversion tactics are used to shift focus away from the individual’s actions, often by blaming others or creating new issues.
  • Disregarding the lawSome people view laws as mere suggestions, often rationalizing illegal actions for personal gain or out of a sense of entitlement. The so-called Sovereign Citizens movement essentially codified this as an ideology the group believes in, and tries to use as legal argument in court (failing each time).
  • Denying plain facts; denialism — Denialism involves refusing to accept proven facts, often to protect one’s ego or agenda.
  • Assert the opposite of reality — This tactic involves making claims that are directly contradicted by observable facts, creating a confusing and disorienting environment.
  • Magical thinkingMagical thinking is the belief that one’s thoughts or actions can influence unrelated events. It’s often a way to avoid responsibility.
  • Projection — Assigning their own feelings or imputing their own motives into you. Projection involves attributing one’s own undesirable feelings or motives to another person, often as a defense mechanism.
  • See the world as with them or against them (splitting) — Splitting is a cognitive distortion where people are categorized as all good or all bad, with no middle ground or nuance.
  • Nurturing and maintaining enemies (paranoia) — Some individuals maintain a sense of purpose or identity by creating and nurturing perceived enemies, often based on exaggerated or imagined threats.
paranoia, by Midjourney
  • Moves the goalposts — Changing the criteria for success or approval, making it difficult for others to meet expectations.
  • Refuses to take responsibility or admit fault — Some folks deflect blame and never admit fault, often rationalizing their actions to avoid accountability.
  • Gaslightingcausing you to question your own sanity. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where someone tries to make you doubt your own perceptions and sanity.
  • BullyingBullying involves repeated, intentional harm or intimidation, often to assert control or superiority over someone else.
  • Frequent liar / compulsive liar — Some individuals lie habitually, either to manipulate others or sometimes without any apparent reason.
  • Aggressive and easily angered — These individuals have low tolerance for frustration and may resort to aggression or anger to assert control or mask insecurities.
aggressive and easily angered -- by Midjourney

Arm yourself with as much information as you can about emotional predators and the tactics of undue influence they use, as well as the real world history of cults and their consequences — and how to get people out of them via deprogramming techniques. Here’s a cults and mind control book list to get you started:

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by (as the name implies) narcissism, including a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for admiration. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are special or unique in some way. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, beauty, or ideal love. However, behind their grandiose façade, they often have fragile self-esteem and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection.

NPD is part of the Cluster B family of personality disorders. People with NPD tend to exhibit odd, sometimes bizarre behaviors — including word salad, emotional abuse, and other tactics of emotional predators — that are offputting to others and tend to have serious effects on the individual’s life.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

NPD diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the following diagnostic criteria for NPD:

  1. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, characterized by a sense of self-importance and an exaggerated sense of achievements and talents.
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by other high-status people or institutions.
  4. Need for excessive admiration.
  5. Sense of entitlement, expecting to be treated in a special way or given priority.
  6. Exploitation of others for personal gain; using the tactics of emotional predators; narcissistic abuse.
  7. Lack of empathy, an inability to recognize or care about the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them.
  9. Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The symptoms of NPD may vary in intensity and presentation, but they are typically stable and longstanding. The condition may start in early adulthood and may be diagnosed only after adolescence, as it is difficult to differentiate between normal developmental narcissism and pathological narcissism in childhood.

NPD: Lack of empathy

People with NPD may have difficulty in maintaining close relationships because of their lack of empathy and preoccupation with themselves. They may feel entitled to special treatment and have unrealistic expectations of others. They may exploit others for personal gain and may become angry or hostile when their expectations are not met. Additionally, they may struggle with criticism or rejection and may react with rage or humiliation.

NPD is often co-occurring with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It may also be comorbid with other personality disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder, as individuals with BPD may exhibit traits of NPD, such as a need for attention and admiration.

Treatment for NPD often involves psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies, which aim to explore the underlying psychological factors contributing to the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may also be effective in addressing maladaptive beliefs and behaviors associated with NPD. However, individuals with NPD may be resistant to therapy, as they may not recognize the need for treatment or may be unwilling to acknowledge their role in the dysfunction.

Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  1. Grandiose Narcissism: This form is characterized by arrogance, dominance, and a need for admiration. Individuals may appear self-confident and assertive but are often preoccupied with fantasies of success and power. This is the classic version of the narcissist that most people think of when they think of NPD.
  2. Vulnerable Narcissism: Unlike the grandiose type, vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and insecure, often feeling unrecognized and inadequate. They may harbor intense envy and resentment towards others and are prone to feeling victimized.
  3. Malignant Narcissism: Malignant narcissists combine aspects of NPD with antisocial behavior, aggression, and sometimes even sadism. This type can be dangerous, as they lack empathy and remorse and may exploit or manipulate others without concern.
  4. Covert Narcissism: This type manifests as hidden or masked narcissism, where individuals may not outwardly display arrogance but still harbor grandiose fantasies and exhibit a lack of empathy. They often feel misunderstood and neglected, leading to passive-aggressive behavior.
  5. Communal Narcissism: Communal narcissists see themselves as especially caring or altruistic, often emphasizing their contributions to others. However, these acts are driven by a desire for recognition and praise rather than genuine empathy or compassion.

Please note that narcissistic personality disorder is a complex and multifaceted condition, and these categories may overlap or manifest differently in each individual. If you have concerns about this disorder or would like more detailed information, consulting a mental health professional would be the appropriate step.

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phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation and other tactics of emotional predators as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority — invoking authoritarianism. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to wield undue influence over followers, and prevent them from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus. Be sure to be on the lookout for any cult warning signs in groups and messaging all around you.

Sociopaths and other types of emotional predators are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in American politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-Critical Race Theory hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government types, anti-science, Lost Cause-revival zombie MAGA footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination tactics

Strategies of phobia indoctrination include Repetition and Conditioning, where fears are built through constant exposure; Misinformation and Propaganda, using false information to paint something as dangerous; Utilizing Existing Fears, exaggerating known fears or anxieties; and Social Pressure and Group Dynamics, leveraging social influences to convince others that irrational fears are common.

Other tactics include Authority and Expert Manipulation, where false credentials are used to lend legitimacy; Emotional Manipulation, appealing directly to emotions; Isolation and Control, where a person’s environment is manipulated; and Media Manipulation, using media to provoke fear.

Phobia indoctrination and cults book list:

Cult Dictionary β†—

We had better get familiar with the lexicon and vocabulary of the coming era, so we can fight the creeping scourge of thought control roiling the land.

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies β†—

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder; the enemy at the gates is us.

Cult Warning Signs: How to recognize cultish groups β†—

Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a group who may not have your best interests in mind.

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Two psychologists ended up unlocking important keys to both the mind and to economics. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman created the field of behavioral economics and revolutionized cognitive psychology with the discovery of a set of cognitive and psychological biases that affect our decision-making abilities.

These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others. For more on this topic, please also see the Cognitive Distortions and Logical Fallacies data sets.

Heuristics: Mental shortcuts

Psychological biases are often the result of heuristics, which are mental shortcuts that help people make decisions quickly, but sometimes at the expense of accuracy.

One of the most well-known biases is confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. This can lead individuals to ignore or dismiss evidence that challenges their views.

Another common bias is the anchoring effect, where individuals rely too heavily on an initial piece of information, known as the “anchor,” when making decisions. For example, if you are told that a shirt is on sale for $50, down from $100, you might perceive it as a good deal, even if the shirt is not worth $50.

The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that leads people to overestimate the likelihood of events that are easily recalled. For instance, if someone recently heard about a plane crash, they might overestimate the dangers of flying, even though statistically, it is much safer than driving.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where individuals with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. Essentially, they are not skilled enough to recognize their own incompetence. On the flip side, highly competent individuals may underestimate their relative competence.

The halo effect is a type of bias where the perception of one positive trait of a person or thing influences the perception of other traits. For example, if someone is physically attractive, they are often perceived as more intelligent, talented, or kind.

Loss aversion is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains. People are generally more upset about losing $20 than they are happy about gaining $20. This bias can lead to risk-averse behavior.

The bandwagon effect refers to the tendency of people to align their beliefs and behaviors with those of a group. This can be seen in various social phenomena such as fashion trends and political movements.

The hindsight bias is the inclination to see events as being more predictable after they have happened. People often believe that they β€œknew it all along,” which can create overconfidence in their ability to predict events.

These are just a handful of the full list of 30 psychological biases detailed below in the dictionary table. Arm yourself with awareness of these biases, as striving to think critically can help in making more rational and informed decisions.

Psychological biases dictionary

Psychological biasExplanationExample
action biasBelief that when we're faced with an ambiguous situation or challenge, that we must take some action vs. doing nothing, whether doing something is a good idea or not (and often quickly, without taking the time to fully examine the problem); also known as "naive interventionism"sports enthusiasts rooting for their favorite teams are notorious for the superstitious rituals they are in psychological anguish if not able to perform, despite the objective fact that they have no ability whatsoever to affect the outcome (in pop culture, Robert DeNiro's character in Silver Linings Playbook exemplifies this)
adjustment heuristicTendency to start from an implicitly suggested reference point when assessing probabilities (the "anchor") and making adjustments to that reference point to reach an estimate
affect heuristicWe tend to underestimate the role of feelings of liking & disliking in our judgments and decision-makingInstead of considering risks and benefits independently, individuals with a negative attitude towards nuclear power may consider its benefits as low and risks as high, thereby leading to a more negative risk-benefit correlation than would be evident under conditions without time pressure (Finucane, Alhakami, Slovic, & Johnson, 2000)
anchoring effectFixating on a value or # that gets compared to everything else, b/c we tend to compare/contrast limited sets of items (aka β€œrelativity trap”) β€” store sale items take advantage of this (so we compare the new value to the old, but not the old value on its own as a measure of worth)
availability heuristicTendency to make quick "intuitive" judgments about the size of given categories by the ease with which particular instances/examples of the class come to mind
bandwagon effectSimilar to groupthink, arising from our built-in desire to fit in and conform, we tend to "go along with the trend" when it becomes apparent to us
contagion heuristicTendency to avoid contact with people or objects viewed as "contaminated" by previous contact with someone or something else viewed as "bad"Related to/inclusive of magical thinking β€” believing a person's sweater still carries their "essence," e.g.
confirmation biasWe tend to agree w/those who agree with us & avoid associating with those who don't, to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance (the Internet has sadly made this worse)
conjunction fallacyA formal fallacy that occurs when one believes a specific condition is more probable than a general one
current moment biasPreference to experience pleasure now, & put off the β€œpain” til later; lack of ability to imagine ourselves in the future & altering today's behaviors accordingly
disjunction fallacyMisjudging that the disjunction of two events must be as likely as either of the events individually (as definitionally, via probability theory)
false consensus effectPeople tend to overestimate the degree to which the general public shares their beliefs and opinionspotentially related to the availability heuristic, the self-serving bias, and naive realism
focusing illusionPlacing too much emphasis on one aspect of an event, outweighing its importance and causing error in judgment
Gambler's fallacyPutting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)also frequently a logical fallacy
Identifiable Victim EffectTendency for people to care deeply about a single, specific tragedy but seem disinterested in vast atrocities affecting thousands or millions of peoplemore broadly, abstract concepts motivate us less than individual cases (especially when given visual evidence)
ingroup biasOverestimating abilities and values of our immediate group & underestimating that of outgroups (oxytocin plays a role)
naive realismThe belief that each one of us sees the world objectively, while the people who disagree with us must be either uninformed or irrational"Everyone is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are."
negativity biasWe pay more attention to bad news
neglecting probabilityReason we're afraid to fly even though it's statistically far more likely to be in a car accident (same way we fear terrorism but not more mundane accidents that are far more likely)
observational selection biasSuddenly noticing things we didn't notice before & assuming frequency has increased (also contributes to feeling appearance of certain things or events can't be coincidence)
optimism biasTendency to believe that good things happen more often than bad things
planning fallacySystematic tendency toward unrealistic optimism about the time it takes to comple
positive expectation biasSense that our luck has to change for the better
post-purchase rationalizationMaking ourselves feel better after we make crappy decisions (aka Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome)
projection biasAssumption that most people think just like us (false consensus bias is related: thinking that others agree with us)
resemblance biasTendency to ignore statistical facts and use resemblance as a simplifying heuristic to make difficult judgments
self-serving biasTendency to evaluate ambiguous or complex information in a way that is beneficial to the speaker's interests, as well as to claim responsibility for successes and attribute failures to others or to uncontrollable external factors
shifting baseline syndromeWe tend to use very recent data points in our research (even when more data is available) and thus can miss picking up on some long-term trends
status-quo biasWe fear change, so tend to make choices that guarantee things remain the same (& by extension, assume that any other choice will be inferior, or make things worse)
treadmill effectOur desire for the new version of a product or service is acute, even if upgrades are minor & incremental; but the pleasure we get from the new object wears off quickly to leave us back at the original satisfaction baseline

Read More:

Top Mental Models for Thinkers β†—

Model thinkingΒ is an excellent way of improving our cognition andΒ decision making abilities.

28 Cognitive distortions list β†—

Cognitive distortions are bad mental habits and unhelpful ways of thinking that can limit one’s ability to function in the world.

24 Logical fallacies list β†—

Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies is essential for critical thinking and effective communication.

Read more

Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers paramilitary group, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count. It’s the harshest punishment so far resulting from the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and is especially significant because Rhodes himself was not present at the Capitol that day. Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, was convicted last November of the politically charged sedition charge and multiple other felonies.

Rhodes’s conduct was found to amount to terrorism by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a first in a case related to the Jan. 6th attack. This factored into his calculations under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated that the sentences reflect the grave threat these actions posed to democratic institutions.

Ongoing danger of political violence

Rhodes, who never entered the Capitol building during the siege, was nevertheless described as presiding over the action like a general on the battlefield. Even after his arrest, he repeatedly invoked the prospect of political violence — including during his sentencing hearing. Judge Mehta cited Rhodes’s intelligence and charisma as factors that made him dangerous, as they inspired dozens of people to travel to Washington for the electoral count.

Rhodes plans to appeal his conviction and sentence. He testified in his own defense last year, but this decision backfired after inconsistencies were pointed out in his account of his actions leading up to the Capitol siege and his penchant for conspiracy theories.

Kelly Meggs, a co-defendant also convicted of seditious conspiracy and a former leader of Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judge heard emotional accounts from police and congressional staffers who continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the assault on their workplace.

Key takeaways from the Rhodes verdict

  1. The Impact of the Verdict: The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group, will face on the same charge later this summer. This case sets a precedent for future cases related to the Jan. 6th attack.
  2. The Role of Rhodes in the Capitol Siege: Despite not entering the Capitol building, Rhodes played a significant role in the events of January 6. His leadership and influence over the Oath Keepers were highlighted during the trial.
  3. The Aftermath of the Assault: The emotional trauma inflicted on the police and congressional staffers present during the assault continues to be felt. The sentencing of Rhodes and Meggs is one important step towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
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tunnel vision model

Tunnel vision is both an actual physical condition, and a metaphor for a myopic type of thinking. In the former, people who experience tunnel vision have a loss of peripheral vision that results in a constricted, circular field of vision akin to looking through a tunnel. In the cognitive metaphor, tunnel vision refers to a resistance to considering alternative points of view or potential solutions to a problem. Whether due to conviction in one’s position or mental laziness in exploring other options, tunnel vision can be dangerous and lead to deleterious outcomes.

Motivated reasoning is a closely related concept to tunnel vision, in that both phenomena feature someone being predisposed to a specific belief or outcome. In both there is a tendency to back a certain course of action even before evidence is available or fully examined, and to continue to hold that position regardless of any new evidence that may come in that challenges the preferred narrative. Tunnel vision can lead to bad decisions, because focus is being placed on a favored outcome while ignoring potentially much better solutions or courses of action.

Key aspects of tunnel vision

  1. Limited perspective: Tunnel vision in decision-making occurs when people fail to consider the bigger picture or explore alternative viewpoints. They may become fixated on a specific goal, approach, or outcome, which prevents them from recognizing other potentially more effective or beneficial options.
  2. Confirmation bias: This cognitive bias occurs when people selectively focus on information that supports their pre-existing beliefs or assumptions, while disregarding or downplaying evidence that contradicts them. This biased thinking reinforces tunnel vision and leads to poor decision-making. Related to: motivated reasoning.
  3. Groupthink: In group settings, tunnel vision can be amplified by groupthink, a psychological phenomenon where members of a group prioritize conformity and harmony over critical evaluation and independent thinking. This can result in a narrow-minded consensus that overlooks important information and alternative perspectives.
  4. Emotional factors: Strong emotions, such as fear, stress, or overconfidence, can also contribute to tunnel vision in decision-making. These emotions may cloud judgment, cause people to fixate on specific aspects of a situation, and prevent them from thinking objectively and rationally.
  5. Inability to adapt: Tunnel vision can lead to rigidity and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Decision-makers may stubbornly cling to their initial plans or beliefs, even when faced with new information or challenges that call for a different approach.

How to avoid tunnel vision

To mitigate tunnel vision in decision-making, it’s essential to cultivate self-awareness, engage in critical thinking, and actively seek out diverse perspectives and alternative solutions. By challenging assumptions, being open to new information, and considering a broader range of factors, individuals and groups can make more informed and effective decisions.

brainstorming, by Midjourney
  • Get a second opinion
  • Have a brainstorming session to evaluate other points of view
  • Take a break for a while and come back to the problem or issue again after some time away from it
  • Do thought experiment exercises where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to imagine how they would solve the problem, or what decision they might make given their own interests and beliefs.

More about how we think:

Think Better β†—

Mental models are a kind of strategic building blocks we can use to make sense of the world around us.

Mental Self-Defense β†—

You may not know it yet but you’ve been drafted into a war. A conflict of cognitive warfare, in which the battlefield is your mind.

30 Common Psychological Biases β†—

These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others.

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Psychological projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when an individual unconsciously attributes their own feelings, thoughts, or attributes to another person. Projection is a way for people to cope with and protect themselves from unwanted or uncomfortable emotions such as guilt, anger, or anxiety. In essence, psychological projection involves transferring one’s own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto someone else, as a means to avoid confronting or dealing with them directly.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, initially conceptualized projection as a defense mechanism. According to Freud, the mind has various ways to protect itself from psychological distress or anxiety, and projection is one of many methods. While Freud’s work laid the foundation for understanding projection, our understanding of the concept has evolved over time, with many modern psychologists examining its cognitive, social, and emotional aspects.

Several factors contribute to the likelihood of an individual engaging in psychological projection. These factors include personality traits, social and cultural influences, and situational factors. People who are more prone to projection often have a higher level of neuroticism or difficulty regulating their emotions. Social and cultural factors can also play a role, as people may be more likely to project certain emotions or traits onto others depending on societal norms and expectations. Situational factors, such as stress or emotional conflict, can further exacerbate the tendency to project.

Types of projection

There are various types of psychological projection, including:

  1. Complementary projection: This occurs when an individual projects their own feelings or thoughts onto someone who has a complementary role in their life, such as a partner or coworker. This type of projection can often be seen in relationships, where one person may accuse their partner of being unfaithful when, in fact, they are the ones who are struggling with feelings of infidelity.
  2. Complimentary projection: In this form of projection, an individual attributes positive qualities or traits that they themselves possess onto someone else. This may be done to reinforce a positive self-image or to maintain a sense of self-worth.
  3. Projective identification: This is a more complex form of projection in which an individual not only attributes their own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto another person but also manipulates the other person into actually exhibiting those characteristics. This can be seen in interpersonal relationships where one person tries to control or manipulate the other to confirm their own beliefs or fears.
  4. Collective projection: This occurs when a group of individuals projects their shared feelings, thoughts, or motives onto another group, often as a means of maintaining group cohesion or protecting the group’s image. This type of projection can be seen in situations of intergroup conflict, where one group might blame another for problems that actually stem from within their own group.

Negative consequences of projection

Psychological projection can have several negative consequences, both for the individual engaging in projection and for those on the receiving end. For the projector, it can prevent them from taking responsibility for their actions, feelings, or thoughts, thereby hindering their personal growth and emotional development. It can also distort their perception of reality, leading to poor decision-making and strained relationships.

For those on the receiving end, psychological projection can be confusing, hurtful, and damaging. It can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and emotional distress. Additionally, being subjected to projection can cause individuals to question their own reality and self-worth, potentially leading to feelings of self-doubt or depression.

Projection in politics

Politicians and their supporters often engage in projection as a way to deflect criticism, discredit opponents, and maintain a positive image of themselves or their party. Projection in politics can manifest in various ways, including the following:

  1. Accusing opponents of misconduct: Politicians may accuse their opponents of engaging in unethical or illegal activities that they themselves are involved in, as a way to deflect attention from their own actions and create doubt about the opposition (classic example: when then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich waged a campaign against then-President Bill Clinton for having an affair, while he himself was having an affair with a Congressional aide on his staff).
  2. Misattributing motives: Politicians might project their own motives or goals onto their opponents, suggesting that the other side is pursuing an agenda driven by selfish or malicious intent. This can be a way to delegitimize the opposition’s policy proposals or campaign messaging.
  3. Stereotyping and scapegoating: Projection can also be seen in the form of stereotyping and scapegoating minority groups or other marginalized communities. Politicians may project their own insecurities, fears, bigotries, or prejudices onto these groups, blaming them for social or economic problems, as a way to rally support and distract from the real issues at hand.
  4. Groupthink and collective projection: Political parties, factions, or movements may engage in collective projection, projecting their own faults or shortcomings onto rival groups. This can help maintain group cohesion and reinforce a shared identity, but it can also contribute to political polarization and conflict.

Projection in politics can have several negative consequences, including the distortion of facts and reality, the exacerbation of political polarization, and the perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudice. It can also hinder constructive dialogue and compromise, making it more difficult for politicians and policymakers to address pressing issues and find solutions to problems.

To counteract the influence of projection in politics, it is essential for individuals to remain vigilant and critically examine the claims and accusations made by politicians and political parties. Media outlets and journalists also play a crucial role in fact-checking and holding politicians accountable for their statements and actions. Encouraging open and honest dialogue, promoting empathy and understanding, and fostering critical thinking can help mitigate the impact of projection in the political arena.

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Emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to exert control and undue influence over others by exploiting their emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities. It typically involves the use of threats, guilt, or negative emotions to pressure someone into complying with the manipulator’s demands or desires.

Forms of emotional blackmail

  1. Threats: The manipulator may threaten to harm themselves, the victim, or someone the victim cares about if their demands are not met.
  2. Guilt-tripping: The manipulator may try to make the victim feel guilty for not complying with their wishes, suggesting that their refusal indicates a lack of love, care, or loyalty.
  3. Fear: The manipulator may use the victim’s insecurities, anxieties, or fears to manipulate them into submission.
  4. Obligation: The manipulator may insist that the victim “owes” them something, such as a favor or support, in order to pressure them into compliance.

Emotional predators use blackmail

Emotional blackmail can be subtle or overt and may occur in various types of relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, family, and professional settings. Emotional predators (often people with personality disorders) tends to use psychological manipulation techniques to get what they want from you — without much (or any) regard for your own feelings in the matter, or the ethical dubiousness of doing so.

Recognizing and addressing emotional blackmail is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.

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Negging is a manipulative tactic often used in the context of dating and interpersonal relationships. It involves making backhanded compliments or subtle insults aimed at undermining someone’s confidence and self-esteem. The term “negging” is derived from the word “negative,” and it is typically employed to make the target feel insecure or uncertain, causing them to seek validation from the person employing the tactic.

Negging is often associated with pickup artists (PUAs) and their strategies for attracting romantic partners. The idea behind negging is that by lowering a person’s self-esteem, they become more susceptible to the manipulator’s advances and more likely to seek approval or validation.

Negging examples

  1. “You’re really pretty for a girl with glasses.”
  2. “I like how you don’t care about what people think of your outfit.”
  3. “You’re surprisingly intelligent for someone who talks so much.”

Negging is part of the broad pantheon of tactics used by emotional predators. It can have negative consequences on the target’s emotional well-being and can potentially lead to toxic or abusive relationships. It’s essential to recognize negging as a manipulative tactic and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. If you encounter negging, it is crucial to assert yourself, disengage from the interaction, or seek support from friends, family, or professionals if necessary.

Negging also falls within the realm of cult warning signs. If a group engages collectively in a lot of negging and flaw-finding, you should investigate them thoroughly and closely. They may be a high control group or cult who is interested in extracting things from you in the guise of “helping” you.

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Propaganda is a form of communication that aims to influence people’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors towards a particular cause, idea, or ideology. It involves the use of persuasive techniques to shape public opinion and to create a favorable image of a person, group, or organization, while discrediting or demonizing its opponents.

Propaganda can take many different forms, including posters, speeches, films, radio broadcasts, social media posts, and news articles. It can be used for political, social, religious, or commercial purposes, and it is often associated with authoritarian regimes or totalitarian societies.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is its use of emotional appeals, rather than rational arguments, to sway people’s opinions. Propagandists often appeal to people’s fears, hopes, bigotries, or prejudices, and use catchy slogans, symbols, or images to make their message more memorable and persuasive. They may also use repetition, exaggeration, or distortion of facts to reinforce their message and to create a sense of urgency or crisis.

Disinformation at scale

Another key feature of propaganda is its use of selective or biased information to support its claims and to discredit opposing views. Propagandists may use half-truths, rumors, lies, or Big Lies to create a false or misleading picture of the situation, and to manipulate people’s perceptions of reality. They may also use censorship or propaganda techniques such as suppression of dissent, demonization of opponents, or use of fear to create a chilling climate of fear and intimidation.

Propaganda can also be used to create a sense of unity or identity among a group of people, by emphasizing their shared values, beliefs, or interests, and by portraying outsiders or enemies as a threat to their well-being. Propaganda can thus be used to mobilize people for a common cause, such as a war or a political campaign, or to reinforce existing social norms and values.

However, propaganda can also have negative consequences, such as creating divisions, fostering hatred, or suppressing dissent. It can lead to the dehumanization of other groups or individuals, and to the justification of violence or discrimination. Propaganda can also undermine democracy by limiting people’s access to accurate information and by creating a distorted view of reality.

To resist propaganda, it is important to be critical of the messages we receive, to question the sources and motives of the information, and to seek out alternative perspectives and sources of information. We should also be aware of our own biases and prejudices, and strive to be open-minded and tolerant of different opinions and viewpoints.

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