by clicking the "Next" arrow.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Mindful : October 2017
even threat, because the foundation of the belief (Saddam: evil; invasion: justified) is now shaky. As I wrote in the earlier column, “Misinforma- tion is sticky because evicting it from our belief system requires cog nitive effort,” and if it “fits with our worldview, then...the debunking clashes with that view” and makes us uncomfortable. All of these factors are still in play. But so is a growing phenomenon: call it cog nitive tribalism. We have many ways to identify ourselves as part of a community that gives us a sense of belonging and purpose. Nationality. Religion. Gender. Even sports-team allegiance. We all want, and even need, to feel part of something larger than ourselves. The many reasons for our need to belong are worthy of a future column, but one of the key drivers is our desire to lessen the sting of mortality: I will die, but the commu- nities of which I am a part and to which I have contributed will live on. “ We are relational beings,” said Drew Pate, a psychiatrist at Maryland-based Sheppard Pratt Health System. “ Finding ways to be connected is something we seek out.” In a time of hyperpar- tisanship in the United States, people are using “ideology or politics as a means to connection and a way to self-identify” just as much as they use ethnicity, nationality, or other traditional affiliations, according to Pate. Such affiliations have enormous power to shape our thinking and belief. Consider a sports bar debate over who is the greatest quarter- back ever: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? New Englanders who consider their Patriots allegiance a core part of their identity will go to their graves insisting it’s Brady—even though in the five play- off games where the two faced off Manning won three times. “ You may not totally believe some- thing,” said Pate, “but you feel you have to agree with it to affirm your sense of identity.” Some of us are more prone to this than others. In a 2017 study in the journal Applied Cog nitive Psychology, Jan-Willem van Prooijen of Vrije University Amsterdam queried some 5,000 people about whether they believed conspiracy theories, such as “there has been a free energy source for a long time, but the oil industry tries to keep this a secret,” or that astronauts “never really landed on the moon; everything was recorded in TV studios.” Those who had received more education were less likely to believe these claims than people who had received less education. But the discrepancy he uncovered is not about intelligence. One of the strongest predictors of belief was feeling powerless, and that is asso- ciated with education: People who drop out of school are less likely to get jobs and live lives that make them feel empowered. When you feel that forces beyond your control are buffeting you, you can be driven to believe in even conclusively debunked conspiracies, van Prooijen concluded. But feeling powerless does something else, too: it strengthens one’s affiliation to a g roup. Such chosen affiliations are independently correlated with believing debunked claims. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, for instance, researchers led by David Weise, then at the University of Arizona, found that the more people focused on their group identity—or “social category”—the more likely they were to accept the validity of an untruth that painted those outside the g roup in a bad light. Which brings us to my unicorn poll responder. For years she gleefully told pollsters that yes, she believes Obama is Muslim and that he wasn’t born in the United States. On the first, according to a 2010 Newsweek poll, she was in the company of about one-quarter of US adults. On the second, 72% of Republicans doubted or flat-out disagreed with the statement that Obama was born in the US, according to a 2016 NBC News poll. But when I asked if she really and truly believed either, she hedged. She “wanted to show them” (the pollsters) that there were many who opposed Obama’s policies (she disliked the Affordable Care Act), and answering as she did to questions about his faith and birth seemed like a good way to do that. It was also, she said, a way for her to feel part of the bloc that opposed him, cementing an identity that had become important to her...like Patriots fans will profess their eternal belief in Brady’s greatness even if they harbor doubts. Belonging to and aligning with a community is a stronger drive than abso- lute truth about one’s beliefs. Such cognitive tribalism is manifesting itself ever more strongly. Political divisions in the US and elsewhere are growing sharper, becoming what psychologists call salient, or top-of-mind, The affiliations we have (such as our favorite sports team or our dietary choices) create filters that govern how we perceive other people’s actions and assertions. It makes it hard to see eye to eye. 22 mindful October 2017 brain science