You are currently browsing the Steven Sashen — The Anti-Guru Blog weblog archives for November, 2007.

AddThis Feed Button

Recent Posts

  • Sprinting to Enlightenment
  • Once more, with barely any feeling
  • You’re not intuitive, you’re lazy
  • Now this really bugs me
  • Homicidal Homeopaths!
  • 98-pound positive thinking weaklings
  • Oh, and let’s be prepared for 12/22/2012
  • Add this to my 11 year history of alien abduction
  • You heard it here first
  • The Confidence Con Game
  • I couldn’t care less. Really. I tried.
  • Sitting in a room all alone
  • Spiritual Schmiritual
  • Do what you love and the money WON’T follow
  • Mantra power from Sweden
  • Start watching TV, Maitreya is coming, Maitreya is coming!
  • I’m not leaving, but I am moving… ish
  • Oh, those wacky Buddhists…
  • How to be successful in anything… finally, the truth revealed!
  • I think I can’t. I think I can’t. Oh… oops, I was wrong.
  • Who you are really… AS IF!
  • Buddha the Internet Marketer
  • Attractive ways to attract attraction-attracting attractiveness
  • Die your potential
  • Shoot me. Shoot me now! Why? It’s beyond a secret.
  • Water is not water (and other things Quantum Physics DOES NOT say)
  • What science says about enlightenment
  • You can be Tony Robbins!
  • Semper Ube Sub Ube
  • The Three Stooges of Truth…
  • Fundamentalist Physicists and Religious Atheists
  • Well, I’ll be reintarnated!
  • Mike Myers (as The Love Guru) is the root of all evil
  • Does my cat have free will… or is that a hairball?
  • Questioning Questions
  • Brain Waves Goodbye
  • You don’t deserve your rights
  • Physics Schmysics!
  • Why, yes, I AM rubber!
  • You can have ANYTHING you want… NOT!
  • I’m all blocked up…
  • Wrong about being right
  • Develop a New Habit? Give me 21 days, and I’ll give you… three weeks
  • What me spiritual?
  • You’re special… SO special
  • In fact, I DON’T want to ATTRACT anything to me
  • Okay, Oprah, let’s settle this once and for all…
  • Hoping to be a successhole
  • Manifrustration
  • If you think you can, or you think you can’t… who cares what you think!
  • Archives

  • March 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • May 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • July 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007
  • November 2006
  • October 2006
  • September 2006
  • August 2006
  • Categories

  • argument (8)
  • atheism (1)
  • atheists (1)
  • binaural beat (1)
  • brain wave (1)
  • Buddhism (3)
  • cognitive psychology (11)
  • creationism (2)
  • debate (3)
  • deepak chopra (1)
  • Evolutionary Psychology (12)
  • goal setting (6)
  • Gurus (19)
  • homeopathy (2)
  • intelligent design (2)
  • manifestation (13)
  • Marianne Willamson (1)
  • Meditation (15)
  • mike myers (1)
  • Nelson Mandela (1)
  • New Age (12)
  • New Age thinking (22)
  • new word (1)
  • oprah (2)
  • past lives (1)
  • positive thinking (2)
  • Prescriptions for living (3)
  • Psychology (19)
  • quantum physics (4)
  • reincarnation (1)
  • self-help (7)
  • Self-Improvement (33)
  • sloppy thinking (20)
  • Spiritual Growth (28)
  • spirituality (4)
  • stupid science (3)
  • the love guru (1)
  • the secret (6)
  • Uncategorized (2)


    Archive for November, 2007

    We *are* in the Matrix

    Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

    What follows is a book review for a book I haven’t read yet (I just ordered it). I’m reprinting this here not only to point to what seems like a great read, but because the review itself highlights some of my all-time favorite cognitive biases and thinking errors. While neither the book nor the review highlight how these thinking glitches affect people in the spiritual and psychological growth game (those playing the game and those who think they’re running the game or making up the rules), I’m sure you’ll be able to make the connections yourself.

    In fact, as you read about these biases, notice if you think, “I don’t do that one.”

    If you have that thought, let me suggest the following: “Yes, actually, you do.”

    And if you get offended by *that*, remember, I don’t know who you are! It’s not personal 😉 Oh, and also remember: Self-righteous indignation is usually (like, always) a sign of guilt 😉

    I know you do these things because we ALL do these things. You, me, and all the other 112 billion people who’ve ever been on the planet. And one of my favorite cognitive biases is the thought that while every other human being who has ever lived does it… *I* don’t because *I* am special.

    So, with that, may I present:

    The Matrix of the Brain

    a book review by David Ludden
    originally published in the eSkeptic Newsletter

    In the 1999 science-fantasy film The Matrix, people have been plugged into a giant computer that creates a virtual reality that is both pleasing and plausible. A few renegade humans have unplugged themselves from the Matrix, only to wake up to a miserable underground existence below a war-scorched Earth. In a similar fashion, our brains generate a comforting version of reality that protects us from the desolation and despair of the real world.

    We implicitly trust the products of our brains — our perceptions, our memories, our judgments, our sense of self. We say, “I know what I saw,” and we ask, “How could I forget?” After all, if you cannot trust your own brain, who can you trust? But all is not as it seems. More than half a century of cognitive and social psychology research has shown that much of what we see, remember, and think is an illusion. In her new book A Mind of its Own, Cordelia Fine lays out in a highly entertaining fashion the myriad ways in which our vain, immoral, pig-headed brains are constantly deceiving us.

    Although we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, our brains covertly strive to create for us a view of the world and of ourselves that is self serving but not necessarily consistent with reality. Beliefs and opinions are formed quickly and become part of how we define ourselves, so the brain selectively perceives and recalls evidence that supports cherished beliefs while disregarding or forgetting evidence that contradicts our beliefs. Fine calls this “motivated skepticism.” We are naturally skeptical of anything that challenges our beliefs, but accepting of anything that bolsters our beliefs, and hence our egos. For example, it is for us easy to mock the tenets of other religions — “How could they possibly believe that?” — while swallowing whole the equally far-fetched teachings of our own church.

    Motivated skepticism can even lead to belief polarization, a process whereby counterevidence only strengthens the convictions of our beliefs. The counterevidence is strenuously scrutinized for any weakness, which is then used to diminish the validity of evidence for our opponent’s point of view. Our selective perceptions are further bolstered by illusory correlations. These are caused largely by selective memory, in which we remember only supporting examples but not counterexamples. For instance, if you already believe the stereotype that all Asians are shy, you will only recall experiences that support this stereotype. When confronted with an assertive Asian, the reaction is likely to be: “Yes, but she grew up in America.” In such a fashion, counterexamples are simply dismissed as aberrations.

    Our brains also trick us into believing we have more control over situations than we really do. We blow on dice and perform other rituals to influence events. We also feel safer driving than flying because we think we are in control behind the steering wheel. This is especially true when things turn out in our favor. For instance, we take the credit for picking a winning lottery ticket, but blame a losing ticket on bad luck. It would seem that going through life deluded by our own brains would not be a good thing, but that is not necessarily the case. Some people have markedly more balanced self-perceptions than normal people — they know clearly what their limitations are and how little control they actually have over their lives. They are also clinically depressed, and seeing reality for what it is, they become overwhelmed and lose the desire to go on living. So it seems that our brains delude us to keep us happy, healthy and ready to face life’s challenges. In fact, people who are generally optimistic tend to live longer.

    Emotional arousal also plays an important role in cognitive functions. Brain damage can create a mismatch between emotion and rational thought. People who cannot experience arousal during the decision making process, for example, become incapable of making decisions or consistently make poor choices. It seems that the gut feeling we get when faced with a choice is more important than any rational decision-making process.

    The experience of emotion is also integral to our sense of self. In a condition known as Capgras syndrome, patients no longer feel any sort of arousal in the presence of family members, and so they become convinced that their loved ones have been replaced by impostors. Others lose the ability to feel emotion altogether; they also feel detached from themselves and lose all interest in life. Even healthy individuals experience this depersonalization sometimes, particularly during traumatic experiences. Afterward, people report a feeling of detachment from the events around them and even from themselves. This seems to be a coping mechanism of the brain to keep it from becoming overwhelmed.

    By three quarters of the way through the book, the reader is yearning for a return to blissful ignorance, as there seems to be no escape from what Fine calls “our innate lack of scientific rigor.” But still there is hope. Fine advises that we “[t]reat with the greatest suspicion the proof of [our] own eyes.” In other words, we need to trust in the scientific method to lead us out of the tangle of deceptions our brains weave around us. As with any other behavior, modes of thinking can be practiced until they become automatic, and so Fine is hopeful that practice in critical thinking can help guard us from the extravagances of our own brains.

    One of the strongest points of this book is the way Fine deftly describes how research is done in psychology. She does not just tell what is known about how the brain deceives, she explains how we know it. In friendly terms, she presents hypotheses to test, clearly describes how experiments are set up, and shows us how reasonable conclusions are draw from the data. Thus, she demonstrates how the scientific method can be used to overcome our false beliefs and misconceptions.

    Life is pleasant inside the virtual reality of our minds. So what if we think we are more intelligent or virtuous than others and believe we are more in control than we really are? Such minor self-deceptions are, for the most part, harmless, and they may help us to get through the day. But we are not necessarily prisoners of our minds. When the deceptions become harmful to ourselves and others, there is a way out. Science gives us a way to unplug ourselves from the Matrix of our brains.

    Click here to order > A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives





    Religion Blogs - Blog Top Sites