Thursday, 30 July 2015

No Wonder We Disagree So Much

Here's an interesting neurological study in psychologist Dr. Jeremy Dean's excellent blog to which I'm subscribed, showing that although the brain is well equipped to be both empathetic and logical, it may find it difficult to manage both of those qualities simultaneously. Brain scans revealed that activation in the analytical neuronal network suppresses some of the empathetic neuronal network, and activation in the empathetic neuronal network suppresses some of the analytical neuronal network.

As you may know, I'm a firm believer (with good evidence as backup) that when it comes to objective facts there are no rational disagreements if truth-seeking is pursued with honesty and rigour, and that it is only because of flawed reasoning skills, misinformation, sensory faults, biases and incomplete knowledge that there is so much disagreement in the world.

In addition to that, according to Jeremy Dean's article it would seem that the brain's difficulty in being both simultaneously empathetic and logical is a further barrier to people agreeing on things more freely. If you're empathetic you are likely to be much more empathetic to people who already share your beliefs, which militates against your employing the necessary logical steps to see whatever weight is behind arguments from your opponents. And if you're logical you are likely to be short on empathy regarding your opponents' position.

Consequently, if all these things are stacked against us, it is little wonder that there is so much disagreement out there, and that when two people are having a debate, they are probably going to be hamstrung by being not empathetic enough or not logical enough.

Still, no need to be a Cassandra-esque purveyor of doom on this one; I believe that the brain can be trained to overcome this problem. Once we become aware that when we are being logical we may have to work that bit harder to be empathetic, and vice-versa, we should be able to surmount what is stacked against us and master an adept balance of logical output and careful empathetic considerations of the alternative propositions.

* Photo courtesy of 4thalove