Reasoning is the servant of emotions! 

We all have an image of ourselves we try to maintain – to feel good about ourselves and to show others. The drive to maintain this self-image is very strong – a very fundamental goal we work towards every second of our life, consciously and non-consciously (majorly). At the same time, our past behaviours <recent to way past> and previously held beliefs influence our current beliefs and actions more than we think.

So, what happens when a piece of new information is available? <could be fake, unverified, believable or actually true, but lacks data to confirm*> 
We tend to think that being intelligent helps us sift through information better – judge the quality better, call out misinformation. Not really. The smarter me <using logic> can use any piece of information to tell a story that fits well with my prior beliefs. Given my non-conscious is always in an auto-pilot mode to keep my thoughts and self-image consistent, my conscious self can rationalise almost anything to justify an opinion formed by my non-conscious. Some stories may come across as a completely new belief, but, they may in fact be a result of some previously untied sets of beliefs. 

What is involved in the process?
Emotions and memory reconstruction -> motivated reasoning
Most of our decisions and belief formations are driven by underlying emotions and memories invoked by them. Upon receiving new information – based on some emotions that we wouldn’t have had time to process, the non-conscious, which is by the way super-duper fast <faster than a blink>, could very well come to strong conclusions – a coherent story stored in brain. This is in many cases, also accompanied by a process of memory reconstruction to support the conclusion. The reasoning <conscious & deliberate process> part tends to come after this.

What to be wary of? 
The opinions we hold, tend to be what make us happy and others around us happy, but not necessarily well reasoned. Since majority of this happens so non-consciously, an under the surface process, it is hard even for the smart to put a finger on it. Credentials, confidence and storytelling skills help me in making others around me believe in my narrative. The goal to maintain a self-image and a logical bent of mind, can make anything look genuine. One can easily engage in virtue signalling even in casual conversations – subtly claiming a moral high ground. 

**Of course, if we were to be truly smart, we’d be mindful of these tendencies and not let it affect our evaluations. Or, engage in it consciously – an example being strategic outrage. 

Read more
The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail
Correlation between Intelligence and Politically Polarized Decision Making
Strategic Outrage

#emotions #morality #heursitcs #judgement #misinformation #self-image

2 thoughts on “Being smart makes it worse!

  1. This is what Taleb talks about it in Fooled by randomness also right? He quotes how neurobiologists found evidence that we feel emotions first and then try to rationalize it. With a warning to “intelligent/smart” people.

    1. It’s been a while since I read the book but I’m sure he said that at some point 🙂 and some other people before that. But it still doesn’t seem to be taken seriously.

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