Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Why prejudice persists

Good explanation of how people’s prejudices are subconsciously affected.


BY CAROL TAVRIS | August 30, 2017 | Skeptic


August 31, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | | Leave a comment

Altering Belief in God


Mind control: Scientists can now make people alter their prejudices and belief in God

October 15, 2015 | International Business Times

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March 28, 2016 Posted by | brain, decision making, religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

Interesting article from Scientific American, reproduced below.

IMHO there is a part of our brain that allows us to make very quick decisions, which has to rely on short and effective heuristics to make quick decisions when there is not enough information and/or time to make rational decisions (called implicit bias in the article below). This is all done instinctively, and as such, we will never be able to get rid of it. But heuristics, although better than nothing, will often lead to erroneous conclusions due to its simplicity, so we need the rational part of our brain to gather more information and evaluate the situation properly whenever there is a chance to do so. Real prejudice and bigotry (explicit bias as they call it in the article below) stems from not performing this second step.

The article below points out that we can modify our implicit biases (that’s like creating new heuristics for the instictive part of our brain). In addition to deliberately performing that second step to make sound long-term decisions, it is in our interest to recognize our implicit biases and improve our heuristic rules to make more accurate quick decisions.

We are all discriminated against in our lives one way or another (some more than others). I think it is also in our interest to recognize this implicit bias in others (including the subconscious body language), and rather than shout discrimination immediately, give the other person a chance to bring in their rational decision making process, and maybe even help them to do so.

It’s especially important to recognize how the media influences our heuristics, and mostly in a negative way. For example, most usually form an incorrect heuristic of “it is more dangerous to fly than to drive” because plane crashes (being rare and highly newsworthy) end up on the front page of newspapers more often than the commonplace car crashes, when statistics clearly shows that flying is a lot safer than driving. So next time you see a muslim suicide bomber on the news, remind yourself to the real statistics of what an incredibly tiny percentage of muslims are actually terrorists.

Anyway, here’s the article:

Scientific American Mind – May 1, 2008

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

Deep within our subconscious, all of us harbor biases that we consciously abhor. And the worst part is: we act on them

By Siri Carpenter

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May 7, 2008 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, psychology | , , , | Leave a comment