Millions of years of physical evolution and our complex societal behaviour patterns are no further on from cavemen. A recent article in the New Scientist magazine pulls together studies from eminent psychologists and neuroscientists the world over, in support of a single simple premise – we have all become ‘sloppy thinkers’.
The art of critical thinking is a learned craft that requires constant use to prevent a dulling of its edge. Questioning the validity of reports, weighing all sides of an argument or empathising with people deemed different from ourselves are shunted into redundancy in the face of inflammatory social media posts. The snap decisions made during our speed of light online communications, do not allow time for our frontal lobes to catch up and evaluate the onslaught of stimuli reaching our brains. We allow our base instincts to kick in, often responding in haste and repenting our replies at leisure, to paraphrase an old saying.
Much of our antagonism stems from a perception that another person’s actions or gains, in some way lessens our own. In hunter-gatherer times, resources were in short supply, leading to conflict over territory. Now, it seems, that the mere suggestion of losing out is enough to spark far right leaning and building walls between countries.
The folk theories of our past, irrational minds, begin to overwhelm our more enlightened selves. “Isn’t it terrible that those immigrants have used up our primary school places?” The rational argument that schools can expand, doctors surgeries can take on more staff or that net migration numbers often equal that of immigration, drifts into the ether.
These invalid arguments stoke fear among the insecure and vulnerable until tribalism spills over from rhetoric to actual violence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could take these Christmas holidays and use them to ignite a spark of real goodwill and cheer; to dust off their frontal lobes and allow complex reasoning to flourish? Let us quash our baser instincts and not banish our logic until we reach a perpetual state of sloppy thinkers.
Here’s wishing you all a logic filled, empathetic Christmas, and a well reasoned new year.
Sam Nash is the author of the sci-fi conspiracy thriller, The Aurora Mandate. Release date TBA. You can find her at https://www.samnash.org or on Twitter @samnashauthor or Facebook.com/samnash.author.