If One Thing is For Certain, We’ve all Been Searching for Answers In Some Way Since March 2020. Clinging to baseless Conspiracy Theories is Lazy at Best and Here’s why
If you received a diagnosis of glioblastoma from an oncologist who specialized in tumors of the brain, you’d be expectedly pretty shook. You would look for every reason for that diagnosis to be wrong. This cancer doc would encourage you to seek another opinion. If anything, just to try and help you come to grips with what is happening. You visit 20 different doctors, neurologists, cancer specialists, etc. They all came back with the same diagnosis. But then you log onto Facebook. “Samantha” from high school, who sells Scentsy wax bars because she’s an independent businesswoman boss-babe or some shit now, thinks all you need is some bog dirt and a colon cleanse because all cancer is curable by whatever Samantha is selling to her friends this week. She gets roped in by someone else, and has to try and cover her nut before her 3rd husband leaves her and the kids again for wasting hoards of money chasing bullshit get-rich-quick schemes. You either go with science or die broke and confused. What you choose here happens mostly without you even noticing.
We have a lot of “Samanthas” up on our comment section. Dean took us for a tour today. Take the journey with him here before continuing on with me. It’ll help with context.
What the hell is happening? It’s actually completely normal.
I enrolled myself in a basic psych course online at Carleton University in Ottawa earlier this year. I wanted to start to explore the reason behind people adamantly denying the existence of a very real, provable, and evident pandemic we’ve all been living through for the last 2 years. Covid deniers have been really scraping the bottom of the barrel for “ThE tRuTh” lately. This is to be expected as something like Sars-CoV-2 emerges. The unknown threat is identified, isolated, and slowly scrutinized by hundreds, if not thousands of independent experts until we understand it.
They’re stupid! They just want to be assholes! Maybe not…
What happens between those bookends is where the room for unfounded doubt begins to find its hold. It’s bred from uncertainty. Our brains, as fuckin’ stupid as some of them are, really are our best friends and worst enemy if you don’t train it right. They have very primal instincts that exist to keep us safe and happy. Sounds great, right? Not always.
Your brain is wired to solve problems as fast as possible. It relies on a portion of your prefrontal cortex to process shit ASAP. Your brain, by design, is not designed for long-term uncertainty. It relies on shortcuts, also known as confirmation biases. The nuggets of information you’ve stored from experience, received information, brainwashing from indoctrination (i.e., religion) to make those connections and find a solution. Even if it’s wrong. It will do everything in its power to make sense of the situation and what is causing it, thus giving you, right or wrong, the information to “solve the problem.”
Okay, but what is actually going on? In Plain English, Please!
Someone in crisis who is already intellectually “vulnerable” will take the easy route home to comfort. It’s basic psychology. You literally need to make a concerted effort to step out of your bias to see things. It’s hard, and not something you instinctually are driven to do while mitigating a crisis.
The cure is killing far more than the …… https://t.co/ylj7kBvGd1
— Randy Hillier (@randyhillier) October 12, 2021
It takes a lot to put aside your beliefs to consider things you may not be equipped to understand. This isn’t conducive to soothing that primal need for a quick resolution. It’s uncomfortable, it’s time-consuming, and worst of all it’s anxiety-inducing.
Your amygdala signals your hypothalamus to start what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Your endocrine system fires up the adrenal glands in your mid-section to start pumping you full of cortisol. This is what kicks your heart into high gear, dilates your pupils, and makes you breathe heavy. You may even sweat a little and feel shaky – It’s your stress response. This is what you’re combating every time you encounter something that is dangerous that you don’t understand. It’s what has kept our species alive for millions of years. This is your “fight or flight” response explained by physiology according to Dr. Susan Fisk of Dartmouth.
Do I fight, or Do I take Flight?
Working with the #MakeReady team restoring a hunt camp. They want to prevent us from gathering with our family & friends, and punish us with lockdowns afterwards. We will need each other during the hard times ahead. #NoMoreLockdowns #NoVaccinePassports #cdnpoli #onpoli pic.twitter.com/to7W5wymzo
— No More Lockdowns Canada (@NML_Canada) October 11, 2021
Now, your encounter with unknown information of a threat as opposed to a brown bear that is trying to eat you will of course dictate what you do. But the same systems engage. You’ll run from that bear. But, if you have a reasonable expectation of a threat not to be imminent, your brain may decide to engage in the “fight” for a resolution. The only tools your subconscious has at its disposal are what you’ve fed it. If all you’ve consumed is 4-Chan Qanon drivel for years and years, it’s going to be predisposed to finding what isn’t there and making up fantastical conclusions that are screenplay-worthy. If the only book you’ve ever read cover to cover is some adaptation of the bible, you’re heading to a religious explanation. Are you a political junkie with leanings toward a certain party? You’ll probably be seeking those opinions. If you’ve dabbled mostly in centric academia, you’re predisposed to seek facts, data, and those smarter than you to help. It’s here that we find the difference between WHY someone is a Covid denier.
Crisis is Opportunity
Not every person spouting conspiracy theory is wearing the tin-foil hat when the shades get drawn and the lights go out. Ever since history has been recorded, we’ve dealt with opportunists looking for political or personal gain during times of turmoil. Uncertainty is a breeding ground for narrative building, snake-oil salesmen and dangerous group-think. Personally, I think politicians like Randy Hillier are actually too feeble to understand what is happening and fall into the category of limited cognitive capacity. Elected while the sun was shining in their riding, they’ve been handed a situation far above their pay-grade. During a time the constituency they represent needs a leader, they become one of the disillusioned. Forced mostly by that pesky confirmation bias driven by lack of education and a touch of political greed. The good thing about the likes of Hillier is history doesn’t bode well for the likes of him. His riding actually holds the record for the number of fully vaccinated eligible residents. If that isn’t a big ol’ fuck you, Randers I don’t know what is.
Given that 92% of MPP Hillier's constituents voted with their shoulders and got vaccinated, isn't it time that he acknowledges that he no longer represents the voice of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston and steps down?#Cdnpoli #Onpoli https://t.co/pfoAFkfix2
— David Jacobs (@DrJacobsRad) October 14, 2021
How Can I Fix It?
Short answer: You can’t fix someone else’s confirmation bias overnight. Fighting with them, although you may be 100% correct and factual can actually do more harm to progress than good. Within the large umbrella that is confirmation bias lies something called Dunning-Kruger effect. Named after social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the theory suggests someone with very minimal or limited knowledge on a subject (let’s say vaccine science and virology perhaps) will greatly over-estimate their competence and level of knowledge in said subject. We all know someone like this. The minute you bring up a topic, they know everything about it, or know someone who knows someone who blah blah blah….
“The mis-calibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the mis-calibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others” – Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
What you Can do About it
Now that you know a little about it, take a tour of your own biases. Even those who are very self-aware of this still find it challenging to be cognizant of them. But, the more you are, the easier it gets. Don’t shut things down until you can factually back it up. Like an acute respiratory virus that has affected an entire world. It isn’t someone, or some conspiratorial agenda attacking you. It’s something attacking all of us. Full disclosure? I don’t rule out some credible, factual theories about it’s origins. Check out the ‘Origins of Covid’ talk from our own James DiFiore. There ARE a lot of questions still needing answers. Let’s focus on those. You should question everything until you receive a credible answer. Then move on! Be kind to your brain. It needs you just as much as you need it. Feed it well.
COVID: An Origins Story Blackballed w/james difiore https://t.co/Bh6C2ID3BU
— James DiFiore (@jamesdifiore) September 21, 2021