Psych 101

The science of human behavior is not as soft as its detractors would have you believe.

Because the experiments of the behavioral sciences repeatably demonstrate that most human beings…

  • are easily distracted by events outside themselves.
  • are readily hypnotized by the superficial and conspicuous.
  • respond quite predictably to all manner of rewards and punishments.
  • tend to over-value immediate pleasures and disregard future consequences.
  • are quick to overgeneralize based on very limited experience.
  • readily jump to self-serving conclusions.
  • easily stereotype others based on their most salient characteristics.
  • greatly underestimate the ways and degrees to which the presence of others affects their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • tend to mimic the behaviors of the herd that engulfs them.
  • look first to others, not to themselves, for cues about right and wrong.
  • easily relinquish the responsibility to act when others are present.
  • behave themselves only when they think they are being watched.
  • are more apt to base their self-worth on what others think of them, not what they think of themselves.
  • over-estimate their own competence and under-estimate the competence of others.
  • ascribe their accomplishments to hard work and virtue and the accomplishments of others to good fortune.
  • judge themselves by their best intentions while judging others by the worst they have done.
  • are quick to blame their mistakes and failures on bad luck or injustice while blaming the mistakes and failures of others on their dysfunctional characters.
  • over-estimate the role they play in their successes and under-estimate the role they play in their failures.
  • are swift to accept the data that validates their preconceptions and swift to ignore, reject, or deny the data that doesn’t.
  • readily stigmatize and scapegoat the innocent and defenseless to justify their own shortcomings.
  • are more inclined to do something immoral or stupid than to disobey “authority”.
  • and are more inclined to do something immoral or stupid than to risk becoming unpopular.

Three takeaways for your deadly serious consideration:

  1. We are all simple animals to a larger degree than we care to admit— easily led this way or that by our genetic predispositions and by the myths, norms, rewards, and punishments of the culture we are born to.
  2. The preachers, politicians, and oligarchs understand the behaviors above quite well— adeptly using them to exploit the masses in service to their own selfish ends.
  3. A basic understanding of how your brain works— especially how easily it can be fooled and manipulated— is the bedrock of an educated mind. Anything less leaves you forever at the mercy of those who would profit from your ignorance.

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