UFO Conjectures

Sunday, June 24, 2012

UFO Group Think? (Of course)

A piece in the June 25th 2012 New Yorker (pictured above) by Ezra Klein, Unpopular Mandate: Why do politicians reverse their positions [Page 30 ff.] has material that is applicable to ufology and many who comment at this blog and especially elsewhere (UFO UpDates and Kevin Randle’s blog).

The material I’m referring to is psychological in nature, and caught my attention with this paragraph on Page 31:

“Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at New York University’s business school, argues, in a new book, “The Righteous Mind,” that to understand human beings, and their politics, you need to understand that we are descended from ancestors who would not have survived if they hadn’t been very good at belonging to groups…our minds contain a variety of mental mechanisms that make us adept at promoting our group’s interests, in competition with other groups…

One of those mechanisms is figuring out how to believe what the group believes…

once group loyalties are engaged, you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments [italics mine]. Thinking is mostly just rationalization, mostly just a search for supporting evidence.

Psychologists have a term for this: “motivated reasoning” which Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale, defines as “when a person is conforming [italics mine] their assessments of information to some interest or goal that is independent of accuracy [italics mine, again].”

Writing about political parties, which I’m applying to UFO groups, Klein says this [Page 32]:

“…parties, though based on a set of principles, aren’t disinterested teachers of truth. They’re organized groups looking to increase their power [me again]. Or, as the psychologists would put it, their reasoning may be motivated by something other than accuracy [yep, italics mine].

Finally (from Page 33) “…we’re increasingly able to choose our information sources based on their tendency to back up whatever we already believe, we don’t even have to hear the arguments from the other side, much less give them serious attention [italics mine, of course].”

Thought-bias among ufologists and UFO mavens is palpable to most, but that bias need not be endemic to the discussion of the UFO phenomenon.

That group-think remains the so strong in the UFO community is distressing, but not unexpected, as the UFO topic has the tendency to attract a large segment of society that doesn’t have any intellectual acumen.

If we can, here, keep our comments (and postings) free of group think or “motivated reasoning,” we’ll be more than pleased with our small effort to upscale UFO thought and hypothetical thinking.



  • In the 21st Century, in an age of information overload, it is the kingdom of the pseudo-serious.
    A vigorous capital market place that requires a lack of focus... to churn the 24 hour news cycle that effectively underlines this pseudo seriousness of group think.
    It keeps the snowball rolling as parodied by Burroughs in his Nova Police. It is more profitable to support group think rather than agnostic perspectives. It sells books and votes.

    No answers are necessary when the discussion offsets a lack of effort or control toward the subject matter in the morbidity of the psychology processed by a proverbial dishwasher cycle demonstrated by the media as a "normal state" of affairs.

    This is the context of group think, in a realm of a growing recognition that there are no experts on anything, therefore, it's a territorial competition of propagandist flavors.

    Whether it is a political party or hard science or ufology, this is the pathology in the territoriality of control by the intellectual hunter gatherer in tribes by social animals.

    Information as a food gathering network in tribes based on taste rather than nutrition. Believing their own propaganda as a safe harbor in a social group to avoid a serious collision with their desires, avoiding disappointment at all cost.

    The illusion of the democratic competition of ideas that have to sell to the lowest common denominator to generate cash to generate more territoriality of pseudo seriousness infotainment based on taste and stereotypes.

    If you don't have a stereotype to wave around, you are an outlier, a monk, a "confused type" who doesn't get it.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • "If you want to get along, go along," that's what my Mamma always said to us. This is hardly anything new and no more than gut-level common sense. Unfortunately, many of us need to read it in The New Yorker for that intuitive knowledge to have any credibility.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • PG:

    You simplify a little bit. The article (and excerpts I've appended here) show that it's not just a matter of getting along....that's the easy part.

    It's how the get-alongers disregard truths or accuracy just to belong.

    You'll find examples galore at UFO UpDates.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • For me,'group-think' can sometimes be alluring. I tend to hold my own views and these are always changing. The 'alluring' element arises from sometimes seeing the certainty of others as making for an easier life.

    A lack of group-think can sometimes lead to a sense of alienation (pun)as it involves independence of thought.

    Where the article strikes a chord is that, whether we are all-the-way 'group-thinkers' or all-the-way independently minded, our social nature still encourages us to *want* to be part of groups.

    In this way, the social drivers that define us all coerce our behaviour by carrots and sticks whether we acknowledge them or not.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • At some level, perhaps, Kandinsky, I also want to be part of a group, but not the group that uses the sobriquet "ufology."

    That bunch is anathema to those with any semblance of class or dignity, not to mention intelligence.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Here's Haidt for the better part of an hour with Bill Moyers:


    I wouldn't argue with any of it, just that he doesn't go far enough and for a psychologist to not identify sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists as important drivers in these divides comes off as weak. I think he knows, just lacks the guts to say it.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • I don't think Haidt wanted to upset Moyers, Frank.

    Moyers has a delicate disposition.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • He would upset a lot of people if he told the truth I'm sure he knows. Wired to be a hypocrite? Go along to get along? He might very well be the living embodiment of what he's preaching about. He does seem like a nice guy though, one you wouldn't mind having a beer with. Believe it or not, Haidt is actually controversial in some circles.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Isn't anyone with a real idea in their head controversial, Frank?

    You're taking a hard view on Haidt, but others quoted in the article, which I've noted, make important, similar points as he has.

    You've sort of taken the argument into another realm.

    The debating point -- for you and others visiting here -- is whether or not you find UFO "clans" abiding erroneous ideas just to remain in the clan.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Hahaha, is that really a debating point Richie? Obviously it is the case, with all sorts of little subgroups with their variations on the proper orthodoxies of thought.

    Clearly some sort of balance needs to be struck, we need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, but at the same time we can't, as individuals be exclusively intellectual islands. There's a time for that too, but there's a time to plug in as well. We feed off each other's ideas and ideally those ideas spark new ones within the group and that moves things forward. Stop moving forward and you stagnate and die.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Frank, you know I luv ya, but you keep missing the point.

    The gist of the piece, which I've tempered to my own ends, is that groups, banded together by a desire to be banded together, will eschew reason, truth, facts, and ratiocination so as not to disturb the banding together, the adopted camaraderie.

    That is, accuracy of information being proffered isn't questioned but is accepted just to maintain the group-integrity.

    Facts and accuracy of ideas are not scrutinized in an intellectual way, so as to not offend the group dynamic.

    Balance has nothing to do with anything.

    There is no balance, just bias.

    Agreeing to disagree is a sop, a bromide of the unthinking, the cowardly.

    Feeding off the group's ideas is eating the mush provided, without actually challenging anything.

    Nothing moves forward. It's stasis, a profound stagnation.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Well Richie, that's not always the case. Some groups and sometimes some very special individuals do move us all forward. It does happen, not often enough or far enough, but it happens and at the same time there are much worse examples of sociopathic group think out there than what you find in the harmless UFO racket. The criminals in this case actually put on a criminal defense that claimed there was nothing wrong with fixing bids on municipal bonds . . . and Taibbi has no problem calling a sociopath a spade.


    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Frank:

    The exception(s) make the rule?

    WE're not talking pathology this time.

    We're talking about "normal" folks trying to remain intact in groups, and sacrificing truth or accuracy of ideas by that group just to belong, to keep belonging.

    The New Yorker article is specific to politics and politicians.

    Maybe my extrapolating the gist of the article for a ufological screed goes to the issue, and some like you find it disconcerting.

    Sociopaths, psychopaths and other psychological reprobates are not the gist of my post and certainly not the gist of Klein's article.

    You've taken us far afield Frank.

    There are no criminals involved in the material or insights presented by Klein or warped by me.

    You're making too much of the matter, and are off the mark I'm afraid.

    Your Rolling Stone/Mafia link is a red-herring and off topic, really.

    (And I tell you that affectionately.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, June 24, 2012  

  • Its been said many times that as a pseudo serious subject, ufology has become a pseudo religion that follows the path in the development of Christianity, with no Council of Nicaea to order books burned for the sake of universality and growing the ranks, making their edited postulates coherent for the majority. We do have the electronic media that does the editing of propagation in a similar manner, not in the conversion of Romans but the conversion of growing a universal mythos into cash with pseudo serious "playing" with themes of existential threat like the Old Testament,envisioned by the priest Dr Hawking with a sword over our heads or trans-personal awe funneled into a technological context of death defying machinery instead of resurection. The desperation to believe our own certainty by creating little havens of self comfort versus it's antithesis
    is much like a form of self and mass hypnosis. Even Laura Croft is food for this phenomenon like a moth. LOL.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, June 25, 2012  

  • Bruce, Et al.
    First off Bruce, thanks for the timely and extremely interesting reference to DR. Ian Stevenson. I will be checking out his work for certain as the whole auto prodigy manifestation has always intrigued me greatly.

    IMO, there is nothing wrong with any form of an ology in a purely intellectual sense. Be it Ufology, Demonology, Cryptozoology, or any other branch of knowledge that ever expands our awareness of matters that are are ultimately absent present certainty, apart from related rudimentary facts. There is however something terribly wrong with espousing the weight of one's speculative considerations pertaining to almost anything, as being endemic to any specific clique, with respect to our subsequent personal motivations. Worse would be the adopted stance within such a clique that speculative considerations, and absolute truths, might be willfully exposed to the unsuspecting and enthusiastically ignorant as being synonymous. To garner false support for even more so false ideas, apart from the open acknowledgement of hypothetically "running with the ball" while in group think, is reprehensible at best.

    It will always be up to the individual to rigorously guard his or her own intellectual gateway. With respect for the absolute integrity of process, relating to progressive speculative consideration of all matters fortean, this gateway is the most sacred entry point into our conscious minds. Influence is the key to the imagination. The imagination is more important than knowledge as it consists of the building blocks of all progress. There is nothing more brutally deficient than tainted influence. The degree of despair, damage, and indeed destruction, is untold.

    Individualism is the most healthy stance one can take in the face of uncertainty. Both input and output are matched in unequaled potential as a result constants related resistance and efficiency. I try and remind myself daily that misery loves company and that the only real power in numbers is that which overrides fear, and not that which overcomes ignorance.

    By Blogger Jeff Davis, at Tuesday, June 26, 2012  

  • 'It will always be up to the individual to rigorously guard his or her own intellectual gateway...etc'

    I agree with much in this paragraph.

    Too much independence can be the way to madness and too little can diminish the individual.

    This area of interest has prised a few good minds from their moorings. Arguably, there are good reasons for anchoring ourselves to aspects of 'group-think' if they off-set the potential to unravel into abstractions.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, June 26, 2012  

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