Two Modes Of Thinking
Many of us would like to be able to predict, with some reasonable degree of accuracy, future outcomes regarding matters of importance. We live in increasingly uncertain times where the recent past is little guide to the near future. Unfortunately, our evolutionary hardwiring ensures that for the most part our ability to understand causal chains is at best very limited and more often entirely non-existent. Most people are extremely poor at grasping causality and therefore tend to make extremely low-quality predictions about matters of importance. Yet, most people are also quite satisfied with their beliefs. Clearly this contradiction is a problem for our species now that we live in a highly complex technological interconnected world.
Studies have shown that people who are most successful at predicting likely future outcomes first gather plenty of relevant and reliable data, then study it to see what conclusions can be drawn, then — and only then — begin to form opinions regarding the probable consequences. A tiny minority of human beings, known in the jargon as Competent Predictors, can operate in this way because they are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.
The vast majority of people, however, find ambiguity and uncertainty intolerable. The psychological discomfort caused by “not knowing” is so great that nearly everyone leaps into mere belief in order to escape from the anxiety caused by insufficient information. Thus most people on Earth believe in all manner of simple-minded nonsense such as ghosts, ghouls, gods, goblins, and gremlins. People believe in Myers-Briggs and “the power of attraction” and Enneagrams and so many other truly inane pseudo-concepts that merely enumerating them leads to loss of all confidence in the human capacity for anything even remotely resembling coherent thought.
Beliefs invariably are extremely simple. How did the universe come into existence? God made it. Why did X happen to Mary? Because of karma (in former times, “because she was cursed by a witch!”). Provided something can be packaged into an inane soundbite, it will capture the minds of ordinary people. This phenomenon of rushing to belief in order to avoid the psychological discomfort of not knowing is also why conspiracy…