Feelings don’t care about facts

Published June 15, 2017

In the U.S., in the overwhelming majority of neighborhoods, you can walk down any sidewalk, or on any street, and never once fear an attack, regardless how many people, or vehicles, pass you. (For evidence, see here: Why the world isn’t as bad as we think…) This is not a fact reserved to the United States. Indeed, any big picture look at crime and violence would show that we are affected mentally (fear, stress, anxiety, etc.) by crime and violence much more than we are affected physically by crime and violence. (For evidence, compare the statistics on American fears of being a victim to statistics on the actual number of victims.) Open and shut case, right?

But the perception of crime and violence, among other things, doesn’t seem to be influenced much by statistics. There are millions of people who believe that chaos is a word to describe the current state of affairs. Our current president masterfully used this to his advantage during his campaign. He seemed to paint a picture that dealing with crime and violence would be a factor in making America great again. Never mind the fact that crime has decreased over time. Never mind the statistics across the country that clearly show the majority of humans in the U.S. are law-abiding citizens who aren’t physically harming anyone.

So, what’s the deal? EMOTIONS!
Seemingly, none of what I mentioned in the last two sentences of the previous paragraph matters when you get emotions involved. And the president is an expert at getting emotions involved. Anecdotally, visions of our worst cities for crime and violence were pushed into the forefront of voters’ minds. Trump was brilliant in using this tactic for more than crime and violence. This isn’t just my opinion. Read up on the list of books below, or search ‘the science of emotion’ on the internet. (A relevant article: Trump’s victory and the Neuroscience of Rage.) Any of these sources, coupled with observation, would highlight our current president’s skill at evoking emotions. Families across the country experience elevated emotions simply by discussing the president. Anything Trump tweets receives thousands of emotional replies. ‘Trump’ and ’emotion,’ arguably, are interconnected. If he knew about this avenue through emotion toward the presidency, and that avenue was taken purposefully, the man deserves some sort of applause for that entrepreneurial move, although applauding the divisive results doesn’t work too well. I didn’t vote for him, due mainly to his rhetoric against people unlike him, but that doesn’t mean credit shouldn’t be given where it’s due.

To be clear, I’m not insinuating we, as a country, are divided because of president Trump. He may have helped to unearth the closeted prejudices in our society, but polarization certainly isn’t a direct result of the current president. If you focus on the current collective mentality of “us vs them,” which certainly existed long before Trump was even born, it’s not too surprising that facts are at times not relevant. Evoking emotions seems to help reduce facts to ‘I don’t agree with that.’

Can you disagree with facts? Apparently, in modern-day America, you can. And it happens every day. All you have to do to witness this phenomenon is to follow a far-left leaning liberal on Twitter, also follow a far-right leaning conservative, and then watch their feeds. It’s highly likely the words stupid, immature, uneducated, and ignorant are adjectives used to describe the opposing side of EVERY argument. And it’s not reserved to politics. Atheists face off against theists, Christians and Muslims insult each other, black versus white happens daily, etc. Both sides tout that the other is highly biased, yet both suppress anything that is contradictory to their respective arguments, which would be the very definition of a particular kind of bias, confirmation bias. (Here’s a fun article on confirmation bias and facts.) When I was in 4th grade, I learned the definition of hypocrisy. At 37 years old, I feel sad that people who have decades on me still don’t seem to understand the definition of hypocrisy.

Collective consciousness:
These people have thousands of followers. I am no gift to critical thinking, as I am often absent-minded, forgetting a second pair of shoes during weekend trips at times, but if these constituents, whether Democrat, Republican, or any of the other categories mentioned above, are pushing agendas that do not take an unbiased approach to real problems, and hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, are following, sharing, witnessing, and responding to these approaches, it’s pretty clear that collective consciousness isn’t just a phrase Deepak Chopra writes about.

So, given all this, what can be done?

Well, if you agree this whole collective consciousness of competitiveness, one-upping the next guy, and suppressing facts to spread an agenda is getting out of hand, I am willing to bet the reading list below is a subset of what you’ve already read.

But if you disagree with my post, I would suggest reading some of the book titles below, and, if you still disagree, keep reading. Reading, reading, and reading some more: that’s the answer. This will probably change your opinion, dramatically. (Please note: list below is a miniscule fraction of what you can find at most FREE libraries.)

List below in alphabetical order:

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us about Ourselves – Robert A. Burton
Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People – Mahzarin R. Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald
The Buddha Walks Into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood – Lodro Rinzler
Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change – George Marshall
Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ – Daniel Goleman
Freakonomics, and, also, Superfreakonomics – both books co-written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves – Dan Ariely
How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain – Lisa Feldman Barrett
How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain: The New Science of Transformation – Andrew Newberg, Mark Robert Waldman
Influencer: The Power to Change Anything – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences – John Allen Paulos
Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results – Drew Boyd, Jacob Goldenberg
The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us – Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons
Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior – Jonah Berger
It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace – Anne Kreamer
It’s Not about the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems – David Niven
Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior – Bart D. Ehrman (If you are questioning why this title is in this lot, the author details some science behind memories.)
The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control – Walter Mischel
Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations – Chris Berdik
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey – Jill Bolte Taylor
Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear – Seth Mnookin
Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics – Rick Shenkman
QBQ!: The Question Behind the Question – John G. Miller
Reclaim Your Brain: How to Calm Your Thoughts, Heal Your Mind, and Bring Your Life Back Under Control – Joseph A. Annibali
Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories – Rob Brotherton
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
This is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, The Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon – L. Jon Wertheim, Sam Sommers
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds – Michael Lewis
The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science – Will Storr
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures – Malcolm Gladwell
Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking – Matthew E. May
The World from Outside Its Box – Brent Lang
You are Not so Smart: Why You have too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself – David McRaney
You are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself – David McRaney