Vulnerability to and Defenses Against Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Hypnosis

 
burt
 
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burt
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26 June 2012 17:13
 

New thread so Answerer can participate:

Relatively early in his career, Gurdjieff wrote a play called “Battle of the Magicians.”  How do magicians fight?  Is it with balls of fire and floods of water, whirlwinds of air and avalanches of earth?  Not really.  They cast spells.  That is, they produce memeplexes—complex narratives that, from inside, seem to be true.  Self-reinforcing narratives.  Stories that can ensnare a person, leading them to view reality in only a particular way.  The magician works not through direct control of material elements, but by controlling the way that other people see the world. 

“The human mind is capable of views of reality and systems of explanation completely satisfactory and satisfying to one’s common sense and emotions even though they are utterly wrong.  The brain automatically smooths over the logical or perceptual rough spots.  Given an apparently reasonable explanation, small and large inconsistencies pale before the vividness and apparent harmony of the accepted view.  Then there is no incentive for a reasonable person to question, to look beyond.  In many cases it would even be emotionally or socially threatening to tamper with personal or social perceptions.”  (Philip J. Regal, The Anatomy of Judgment, 1990, p.9)

“There is no incentive to agnosticism.  All their beliefs hang together, and were a Zande to give up faith in witch-doctorhood he would have to surrender equally his faith in witchcraft and oracles:.  In this web of belief, every strand depends upon every other strand, and a Zande cannot get out if its meshes because it is the only world he knows.  The web is not an external structure in which he is enclosed.  It is the texture of his thought and he cannot think that his thought is wrong.”E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, p.194

There are lots of old and new memplexes of varying strength and scope floating about in the Cloud, contradicting each other, just sitting there waiting for young minds to infest.  And people get caught up in them all the time and assume that whatever thought system they’ve taken on is universally valid.  At present, science doesn’t have methods for dealing with this sort of idea.  In part, this is teleological, particular ways of looking at the world are better for achieving specific goals and science doesn’t yet have methods to deal with teleology or with values.  I had an interesting conversation about this a few days ago with my brother.  He mentioned a tv program he’d seen recently where a Rabbi, a Priest, and a (supposed) Sufi had been on a panel.  “I wanted to strangle him every time he started talking” my brother said, referring to the guy posing as a Sufi, “he never said anything but warmed over trivia, and he’d start off with ‘Well, the Sufis say….’ and then spout some platitude that was totally irrelevant.  You can’t make generalizations like that.  The only way to be accurate is to say something like: In this particular context, speaking to these particular people at a particular time, this person said….  Everything depends on time, place, and people and what is necessary given the circumstances.  Otherwise all you’re doing is reinforcing fixed beliefs.” 

So what seems worth talking about, rather than cave walls, vertical directions, and our wretched condition down here wallowing in a cave is what sort of educational methods are available, or can be developed to help people learn to avoid falling into fixed belief systems of any sort, without developing automatic mechanisms of rejection since a memeplex that is irrelevant at one time may become a necessary point of view at another time, under different conditions.  Perhaps a useful place to start would be to look at the various tricks used by advertisers and opinion manipulators (modern magicians) to get people to buy their products.  And, also at the aspects of a persons psychological makeup that leave us vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

Example: Right now there are major economic/political battles over the question of stimulus vs. austerity.  Conservatives push austerity as the panacea for all economic ills, liberals push stimulus and more stimulus and economists on each side produce arguments supporting their chosen position and point out faults in the other sides reasoning and assumptions.  Not too many people actually ask themselves: given this particular national economy (for whatever country they are in) at this time and under existing circumstances, what is the best way to proceed.  Not the best ideological way, but the way that will be most effective in promoting sustainable economic well-being.

 
goodgraydrab
 
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goodgraydrab
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26 June 2012 19:37
 

burt, your stuff got moved to the NO BM Zone.

 
 
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burt
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26 June 2012 22:59
 
Answerer - 26 June 2012 05:37 PM

burt, your stuff got moved to the NO BM Zone.

Yeah, I noticed.  But I’d like to keep this thread going, here.

 
Skipshot
 
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27 June 2012 04:33
 
burt - 26 June 2012 03:13 PM

Perhaps a useful place to start would be to look at the various tricks used by advertisers and opinion manipulators (modern magicians) to get people to buy their products.  And, also at the aspects of a persons psychological makeup that leave us vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

Good luck overcoming the adage, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. The goal of philosophy through the ages is to find the solution to the problem you’ve posed, however, with the rise of communication through the internet there is a chance to break social barriers holding people back from expressing themselves in an expanded marketplace of ideas, although the results may take a long time to come in.

I agree that not all rules are fixed and one must be able to make changes to the circumstances, but the difficulty is knowing when to rigidly keep to the rules and when not to.  The best answer I can give is to know change is constant and to prepare your mind for it.

 
burt
 
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burt
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27 June 2012 14:29
 
Skipshot - 27 June 2012 02:33 AM
burt - 26 June 2012 03:13 PM

Perhaps a useful place to start would be to look at the various tricks used by advertisers and opinion manipulators (modern magicians) to get people to buy their products.  And, also at the aspects of a persons psychological makeup that leave us vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

Good luck overcoming the adage, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. The goal of philosophy through the ages is to find the solution to the problem you’ve posed, however, with the rise of communication through the internet there is a chance to break social barriers holding people back from expressing themselves in an expanded marketplace of ideas, although the results may take a long time to come in.

I agree that not all rules are fixed and one must be able to make changes to the circumstances, but the difficulty is knowing when to rigidly keep to the rules and when not to.  The best answer I can give is to know change is constant and to prepare your mind for it.

 

Yes, I think being prepared to change is very important.  Knowing when to change is the catch.  I’m wondering about the sort of curriculum for schools that could help at least provide a start for kids.  Given that kids often need constancy and introducing ideas of change at some stages of development might do more harm than good.  It seems also that this blends over into the various threads on morality that have gone on - a person with a well developed moral sense (or also an aesthetic sense) might be able to recognize points where change is necessary more easily than somebody who just tries to work it out logically.

 
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goodgraydrab
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27 June 2012 14:39
 
burt - 26 June 2012 03:13 PM

New thread so Answerer can participate:

Relatively early in his career, Gurdjieff wrote a play called “Battle of the Magicians.”  How do magicians fight?  Is it with balls of fire and floods of water, whirlwinds of air and avalanches of earth?  Not really.  They cast spells.  That is, they produce memeplexes—complex narratives that, from inside, seem to be true.  Self-reinforcing narratives.  Stories that can ensnare a person, leading them to view reality in only a particular way.  The magician works not through direct control of material elements, but by controlling the way that other people see the world. 

“The human mind is capable of views of reality and systems of explanation completely satisfactory and satisfying to one’s common sense and emotions even though they are utterly wrong.  The brain automatically smooths over the logical or perceptual rough spots.  Given an apparently reasonable explanation, small and large inconsistencies pale before the vividness and apparent harmony of the accepted view.  Then there is no incentive for a reasonable person to question, to look beyond.  In many cases it would even be emotionally or socially threatening to tamper with personal or social perceptions.”  (Philip J. Regal, The Anatomy of Judgment, 1990, p.9)

“There is no incentive to agnosticism.  All their beliefs hang together, and were a Zande to give up faith in witch-doctorhood he would have to surrender equally his faith in witchcraft and oracles:.  In this web of belief, every strand depends upon every other strand, and a Zande cannot get out if its meshes because it is the only world he knows.  The web is not an external structure in which he is enclosed.  It is the texture of his thought and he cannot think that his thought is wrong.”E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, p.194

There are lots of old and new memplexes of varying strength and scope floating about in the Cloud, contradicting each other, just sitting there waiting for young minds to infest.  And people get caught up in them all the time and assume that whatever thought system they’ve taken on is universally valid.  At present, science doesn’t have methods for dealing with this sort of idea.  In part, this is teleological, particular ways of looking at the world are better for achieving specific goals and science doesn’t yet have methods to deal with teleology or with values.  I had an interesting conversation about this a few days ago with my brother.  He mentioned a tv program he’d seen recently where a Rabbi, a Priest, and a (supposed) Sufi had been on a panel.  “I wanted to strangle him every time he started talking” my brother said, referring to the guy posing as a Sufi, “he never said anything but warmed over trivia, and he’d start off with ‘Well, the Sufis say….’ and then spout some platitude that was totally irrelevant.  You can’t make generalizations like that.  The only way to be accurate is to say something like: In this particular context, speaking to these particular people at a particular time, this person said….  Everything depends on time, place, and people and what is necessary given the circumstances.  Otherwise all you’re doing is reinforcing fixed beliefs.” 

So what seems worth talking about, rather than cave walls, vertical directions, and our wretched condition down here wallowing in a cave is what sort of educational methods are available, or can be developed to help people learn to avoid falling into fixed belief systems of any sort, without developing automatic mechanisms of rejection since a memeplex that is irrelevant at one time may become a necessary point of view at another time, under different conditions.  Perhaps a useful place to start would be to look at the various tricks used by advertisers and opinion manipulators (modern magicians) to get people to buy their products.  And, also at the aspects of a persons psychological makeup that leave us vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

Example: Right now there are major economic/political battles over the question of stimulus vs. austerity.  Conservatives push austerity as the panacea for all economic ills, liberals push stimulus and more stimulus and economists on each side produce arguments supporting their chosen position and point out faults in the other sides reasoning and assumptions.  Not too many people actually ask themselves: given this particular national economy (for whatever country they are in) at this time and under existing circumstances, what is the best way to proceed.  Not the best ideological way, but the way that will be most effective in promoting sustainable economic well-being.

burt, I don’t agree that, ” At present, science doesn’t have methods for dealing with this sort of idea.” This is the point I was trying to make on my last post on the other new thread regarding an archaic framework bogged-down in religious and philosophical limitations of the past. I think it is Harris’ point in TML. Also, there are other means of dealing with it. Meditation, as saralynn generally and flowerly described it on another thread, also deals with these ideas or problems, it is more than peace, serenity, well-being, etc.

Firstly, the benefits of meditation deal directly with it. When she mentions clarity of thought, this is part of what I describe as “enlightenment.” The mind is trained in concentration and single-pointedness in order to eliminate and control all those superfluous thoughts that influence us in the ways you describe. The practice and mastery of single-pointedness using external and internal stimuli is only the training required to apply to experience of life. The objective is to experience every moment with the same single-pointedness. With this ‘clarity of thought’, one should be able to overcome and/or sort out those subjective biases that distort our perceptions of reality. It doesn’t mean that we do away with our thoughts, nor does it mean we don’t use the thoughts/information that are necessary to apply to the mundane tasks of living. It means we are able to more accurately use the right ones. Simply put, it is a tool for grounding.

Secondly, science is the best tool we have to verify our ideas as they correspond with reality. [see TML]. Years ago, I saw a lecture by a USF professor of communication that covered the idea of media’s influence (“The Screen” - which referred to all communciation, not just TV, computer, etc). So, we have the knowledge and continue to gain more and more that address the issues you present. It’s a matter of education that we learn and apply these tools and not stay mired in the delusional states to which you refer.

Take your political example, it is the reason I’m not particularly enamored with the process of formal debate. The whole idea of debate is not to get to the whole truth of the matter, it’s simply to present ideas that support opposing contentions usually at the extremes in order to weigh and judge its persuasiveness on one side vs the other. I heard a medical doctor who is a professor at some university a couple of weeks ago on NPR (can’t remember his name and can’t find the interview, may have been Fisher or Rogers), he is a Republican who was formerly head of or high up in the Dept of Medicare/Medicaid and who served in Reagan, Bush I and Bush II’s administrations. He candidly described the state of healthcare in this country as he sees it (and I’d say he’s a qualified expert). He qualified that he has nothing to lose, no party allegiences as he’s out of the political arena and just signed for his last term at the university before he retires. I was blown away and have to say this is the type of republican that I can respect and agree with, which is rare, not because of my potential political biases, but because he was right. He presented the entire problem with the system realistically, accurately, sensibly, and verifiably in great detail, and the solutions that keep both a conservative and liberal perspective in mind. He was in support of a single-payer system. More importantly, it was almost completely in line with the Democrats’ perspective. He didn’t present it as an issue of left or right, it was a matter of objective right and wrong regarding outcomes.

You make good points and accurately describe the crux of the problem, but the tools are there that can address the issues of teleology and values, but first, one must value truth above all else. Science moves the discussion in that direction and ‘education’ facilitates it. We have to get over the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ standard of the past precisely because we have the tools and should ‘know better.’

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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28 June 2012 13:17
 
Answerer - 27 June 2012 12:39 PM
burt - 26 June 2012 03:13 PM

New thread so Answerer can participate:

Relatively early in his career, Gurdjieff wrote a play called “Battle of the Magicians.”  How do magicians fight?  Is it with balls of fire and floods of water, whirlwinds of air and avalanches of earth?  Not really.  They cast spells.  That is, they produce memeplexes—complex narratives that, from inside, seem to be true.  Self-reinforcing narratives.  Stories that can ensnare a person, leading them to view reality in only a particular way.  The magician works not through direct control of material elements, but by controlling the way that other people see the world. 

“The human mind is capable of views of reality and systems of explanation completely satisfactory and satisfying to one’s common sense and emotions even though they are utterly wrong.  The brain automatically smooths over the logical or perceptual rough spots.  Given an apparently reasonable explanation, small and large inconsistencies pale before the vividness and apparent harmony of the accepted view.  Then there is no incentive for a reasonable person to question, to look beyond.  In many cases it would even be emotionally or socially threatening to tamper with personal or social perceptions.”  (Philip J. Regal, The Anatomy of Judgment, 1990, p.9)

“There is no incentive to agnosticism.  All their beliefs hang together, and were a Zande to give up faith in witch-doctorhood he would have to surrender equally his faith in witchcraft and oracles:.  In this web of belief, every strand depends upon every other strand, and a Zande cannot get out if its meshes because it is the only world he knows.  The web is not an external structure in which he is enclosed.  It is the texture of his thought and he cannot think that his thought is wrong.”E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, p.194

There are lots of old and new memplexes of varying strength and scope floating about in the Cloud, contradicting each other, just sitting there waiting for young minds to infest.  And people get caught up in them all the time and assume that whatever thought system they’ve taken on is universally valid.  At present, science doesn’t have methods for dealing with this sort of idea.  In part, this is teleological, particular ways of looking at the world are better for achieving specific goals and science doesn’t yet have methods to deal with teleology or with values.  I had an interesting conversation about this a few days ago with my brother.  He mentioned a tv program he’d seen recently where a Rabbi, a Priest, and a (supposed) Sufi had been on a panel.  “I wanted to strangle him every time he started talking” my brother said, referring to the guy posing as a Sufi, “he never said anything but warmed over trivia, and he’d start off with ‘Well, the Sufis say….’ and then spout some platitude that was totally irrelevant.  You can’t make generalizations like that.  The only way to be accurate is to say something like: In this particular context, speaking to these particular people at a particular time, this person said….  Everything depends on time, place, and people and what is necessary given the circumstances.  Otherwise all you’re doing is reinforcing fixed beliefs.” 

So what seems worth talking about, rather than cave walls, vertical directions, and our wretched condition down here wallowing in a cave is what sort of educational methods are available, or can be developed to help people learn to avoid falling into fixed belief systems of any sort, without developing automatic mechanisms of rejection since a memeplex that is irrelevant at one time may become a necessary point of view at another time, under different conditions.  Perhaps a useful place to start would be to look at the various tricks used by advertisers and opinion manipulators (modern magicians) to get people to buy their products.  And, also at the aspects of a persons psychological makeup that leave us vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

Example: Right now there are major economic/political battles over the question of stimulus vs. austerity.  Conservatives push austerity as the panacea for all economic ills, liberals push stimulus and more stimulus and economists on each side produce arguments supporting their chosen position and point out faults in the other sides reasoning and assumptions.  Not too many people actually ask themselves: given this particular national economy (for whatever country they are in) at this time and under existing circumstances, what is the best way to proceed.  Not the best ideological way, but the way that will be most effective in promoting sustainable economic well-being.

burt, I don’t agree that, ” At present, science doesn’t have methods for dealing with this sort of idea.” This is the point I was trying to make on my last post on the other new thread regarding an archaic framework bogged-down in religious and philosophical limitations of the past. I think it is Harris’ point in TML. Also, there are other means of dealing with it. Meditation, as saralynn generally and flowerly described it on another thread, also deals with these ideas or problems, it is more than peace, serenity, well-being, etc.

Firstly, the benefits of meditation deal directly with it. When she mentions clarity of thought, this is part of what I describe as “enlightenment.” The mind is trained in concentration and single-pointedness in order to eliminate and control all those superfluous thoughts that influence us in the ways you describe. The practice and mastery of single-pointedness using external and internal stimuli is only the training required to apply to experience of life. The objective is to experience every moment with the same single-pointedness. With this ‘clarity of thought’, one should be able to overcome and/or sort out those subjective biases that distort our perceptions of reality. It doesn’t mean that we do away with our thoughts, nor does it mean we don’t use the thoughts/information that are necessary to apply to the mundane tasks of living. It means we are able to more accurately use the right ones. Simply put, it is a tool for grounding.

Secondly, science is the best tool we have to verify our ideas as they correspond with reality. [see TML]. Years ago, I saw a lecture by a USF professor of communication that covered the idea of media’s influence (“The Screen” - which referred to all communciation, not just TV, computer, etc). So, we have the knowledge and continue to gain more and more that address the issues you present. It’s a matter of education that we learn and apply these tools and not stay mired in the delusional states to which you refer.

Take your political example, it is the reason I’m not particularly enamored with the process of formal debate. The whole idea of debate is not to get to the whole truth of the matter, it’s simply to present ideas that support opposing contentions usually at the extremes in order to weigh and judge its persuasiveness on one side vs the other. I heard a medical doctor who is a professor at some university a couple of weeks ago on NPR (can’t remember his name and can’t find the interview, may have been Fisher or Rogers), he is a Republican who was formerly head of or high up in the Dept of Medicare/Medicaid and who served in Reagan, Bush I and Bush II’s administrations. He candidly described the state of healthcare in this country as he sees it (and I’d say he’s a qualified expert). He qualified that he has nothing to lose, no party allegiences as he’s out of the political arena and just signed for his last term at the university before he retires. I was blown away and have to say this is the type of republican that I can respect and agree with, which is rare, not because of my potential political biases, but because he was right. He presented the entire problem with the system realistically, accurately, sensibly, and verifiably in great detail, and the solutions that keep both a conservative and liberal perspective in mind. He was in support of a single-payer system. More importantly, it was almost completely in line with the Democrats’ perspective. He didn’t present it as an issue of left or right, it was a matter of objective right and wrong regarding outcomes.

You make good points and accurately describe the crux of the problem, but the tools are there that can address the issues of teleology and values, but first, one must value truth above all else. Science moves the discussion in that direction and ‘education’ facilitates it. We have to get over the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ standard of the past precisely because we have the tools and should ‘know better.’

Very good points, I’m in complete agreement with the value of meditation and one-pointed presence.  What I don’t think science can deal with, at least completely, at the moment are things like values (“well-being of conscious creatures” is a value statement, not a scientific one) and how different value-based narratives can be compared and evaluated.  For example, A says that X is the way to promote WBCC and Mr. B says no, Y is the best way to do it.  We can partially do this through logical analysis and empirical testing, but that still doesn’t get us far when there are several narratives that satisfy logical and empirical criteria but still seem to contradict each other.  Back in the mid-70s I was a research assistant for a psychologist who had a theory of “Psycho-epistemology” that identified three “ways of knowing” that he called rationalism, empiricism, and metaphorism.  The validity criterion for the last was “universality” (e.g., does everybody agree that it’s valid) which was pretty vague.  But that’s part of what started me thinking along these lines.