“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written (Elizabeth Kolbert), before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon (emphais ed.). Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring. ♦
“This is how a community of knowledge (emphasis ed.) can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe.
My response to Ms Kolbert:
Do you not see that this thought takes your discussion dangerously close to sociology and culture and sliding away from psychology? (“vast psychological experiment”) It sounds like you do but how is the ‘academic psychology community’ taking this?
Yes psychology is involved, but your reference to a response being ‘unlocked’ is a good observation which should be a catalyst to look more broadly than psychology. To understand the Trump, Brexit, etc phenomina requires a sociological look. Individuals need to be understood in a sociological sense as well as a psychological sense. This type of effect should be expected to be more prominant in times of fundamental change and fast change which we are in today.
I recently saw an academic role I’ve never heard of which may be useful for looking at this sociological, or cultural, angle: sociocutural anthropologist
What do you think?
Where we need to step up here is to recognize that it is not only psychology (of the individual) at play, but also the sociology of existing within a culture. Today that is probably more noticeable than usual as we are experiencing fundamental change and fast change to our way of life to an unprecedented degree. Those kind of things are experienced more at the culture level than the individual. People, rich and poor, are terrified of the changes mooted by climate change; changes that will effect everyone. This does not reflect a change “in the way we think.”