Choosing not to See

I watched a very thought provoking episode of ‘Breaking the Set’ on RT last night. Margaret Heffernan, the author of the recently published book ‘Wilful Blindness’ was interviewed and some very interesting points were covered, which, as a psychologist I find profoundly important.

“Feeding peoples’ established biases and prejudice’s” (9:55)

I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, we live in a climate today where for many, opinions are all too shallow. Heffernan described the press to use nothing more than polarised prejudices to rope people in to a very artificial form of debate. I support this statement and I believe that the angry mob who read the headlines either do not think beyond what political ideology is being chased, or they consider it in terms of ‘hunches’ and how it relates to themselves.

People Don’t Think

So many end up tranquilised by the emotive or political talk used by the biased media, however a second key argument that was made in this interview was that the free markets do not always ensure the best will reach the top. The assumption that natural selection will root out the crooks and the bad eggs just doesn’t work. Social psychology tells us why.

When hierarchy ensues, conformity magnifies. That that magnification of conformity takes place means really, the valuable critical thinking and expression of caution are lost. A study by New York University suggests up to 85% of senior executives in large businesses (see interview – 4:47) admit to have withheld expression of critical thought at least once.

Now if that takes place in all our competition regulated businesses and services, that is, our schools, industries, hospitals, military outfits and above all, governments, it need be no surprise that corruption is rife and inequality is at large. This is because often enough we don’t think, and when we do think, we don’t express that thought.

And that might be the solution to many of today’s challenges: getting everybody to think a whole lot more. It is important for people to critique the rationale of opinions and policy in depth, disregarding left and right political swings. Considering each argument upon its merit across social, economic and above all moral dimensions. With improved rational thinking people could more effectively hold politicians to account, or bring about more responsible business practise. People could recognise that educational policy should be based on what we know about how the brain learns, instead of instead of conformity and league table climbing.

A genuinely free market would be better than the current corporatocracy, however if we properly used our heads (and I mean properly), we could achieve a whole lot better than allowing a phenomena to administer our society.