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Clear thinking about thinking clearly

            In We See as We Be, Jamie Wheal, who studies and writes on the relationship between culture and the brain, discusses about how more and more people fall for wackier and wackier theories.

            He notes in the post, “So it’s not just a case of intelligence, or education, professional accomplishment, or access to quality information that’s making the difference.”

            He theorizes that more of us are jumping on strange bandwagons because “we grab the ones that feel truthiest.”

            This same theme was featured in a more concrete form in the Sunday New York Times where Robert J. Shiller, an economics professor, cautions investors to be cautious as the markets are clearly overheated, noting that prices of stocks, bonds and real estate “have never been this overpriced simultaneously in modern history.”

            Shiller writes that no single simple reason can explain the irrationally high prices. But one increased factor is the hype, “contagious narratives that excite the imagination.”

             In short he argues that one story about an individual making a killing flipping houses or through cryptocurrency has more impact, relative to boring financial reports, than ever before – especially with all the forums to discuss it.

            Back to Wheal’s theory, people like stories and they will latch on to one closely matching what they already think – or better said, what they want to be correct.

            Wheal goes on to outline several major categories of where the thinking follows patterns into misinformation rather than clear thought.

            Among those types, the title describes them well: The Anti-Establishment Rebel; The Preening Narcissist; The Loyal Foot Soldier and The Guilty Liberal.

            He notes there are plenty more and almost no one would fall into one category 100 percent. We are all some combination of those and others.

            Wheal does an excellent job of describing the different types and it’s well worth further reading (Google We See as We Be Jamie Wheal).

            When perusing the descriptions, it’s easy to immediately start identifying which of your colleagues and family fall into which thinking trap. “Yep, old so-and-so is 100 percent a preening narcissist.” Or, “That sure does explain why mom keeps talking about that horse dewormer to cure COVID.”

            But rather than using the list as a microscope, use it as a mirror.

            Harder but more beneficial is which do you/we fall into?

            Where are we grasping for truthiness rather than looking for reality?

            Not always pleasant but it’s well worthwhile to consider  how we consider things.

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