Tag Archives | delusion

Everyone Is Self-Deluded But Me

1649928_300John Horgan writes at Scientific American’s Cross-Check blog:

In 1995, I critiqued evolutionary psychology in “The New Social Darwinists,” an article in the December issue of Scientific American. Afterwards I got a scathing letter from Robert Trivers, whose work on altruism, parent-offspring conflict and other tendencies helped lay the foundations for evolutionary psychology, which like its precursor sociobiology attempts to explain human thought and behavior in Darwinian terms. Trivers called my article “shallow” and accused me of “acting out the old Scientific American‘s long-standing inability to look at human sociobiology objectively.” I was annoyed at the implication that I was just parroting the magazine’s party line. And yet the letter stung, not because I agreed with Trivers but because I respected him; unlike some of the hacks who jumped on the Darwinian bandwagon, he is a truly original thinker.

I recalled that letter when I reviewed Triver’s book The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life (Basic Books, 2011) for The New York Times.

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Crazy People Make Sense

Picture: Aries Author (CC)

Quinn O’Neill writes at 3quarksdaily:

Given the amount of senseless and stupid behavior that we perceive, it might seem outrageous to claim that people – all people – make perfect sense. The crux of my argument rests on the idea that behaviors are caused, and to the extent that they are caused – fully, I believe – they will always make sense if the causal factors are understood.

This seems to be the approach that we intuitively take when we observe unusual behavior in animals. We don’t blame the animal and label it a dumbass, we assume there’s something causing the behavior, like an illness, the presence of another animal, or the animal’s having been trained by humans. A bizarre behavior could also have a strong genetic component; maybe it’s evolved because it’s adaptive or maybe it’s the result of a spontanteous deleterious mutation. In any case, we’re likely to attribute the behavior to material causes rather than to blame the animal.

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We Are All Susceptible To Delusions

Former psychologist Frank Tallis on “monosymptomatic delusion” — in which an otherwise sane person latches onto one big outlandish idea. It is possibly responsible for both demonic possession and falling in love. Via New Scientist:

Once a patient came in and said: “I am possessed by a demon.” This guy wasn’t insane, he wasn’t schizophrenic – he just had this particular belief. In my day we called it “monosymptomatic delusion”, but now it would be called something like “delusional disorder”. That’s when you’re completely sound and reasonable in every respect except you have one belief that is absolutely bonkers.

You have to have an openness to it. Lots of people are open to all kinds of spiritual and magical beliefs. An individual could have a perfectly harmless interest in the supernatural but then something happens that triggers this delusion and they get stuck with it, reinforcing it by piling up one misinterpretation after another.

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