Understanding Ourselves - thanks Wikipedia

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Wikipedia can save the world through helping us understand ourselves better

Some human traits work to block progress in facing problems of Anthropogenic Climate Destabilization

Unique to our species, our human psychology, built from years of survival tests, leaves us with traits unsuited for modern times.  These can explain human inactivity in the face of this impending catastrophe.

Consider a quick sampling of Wikipedia’s social psychology entries :


===  see   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Social_psychology  ===


Denial See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial - postulated by Freud; a condition “in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.”

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Bystander Effect.. A common explanation of this phenomenon is that, with others present, observers all assume that someone else is going to intervene and so they each individually refrain from doing so and feel less responsible. This is an example of how diffusion of responsibility leads to social loafing. People may also assume that other bystanders may be more qualified to help, such as being a doctor or police officer, and their intervention would thus be unneeded. People may also fear losing face in front of the other bystanders, being superseded by a superior helper, offering unwanted assistance, or the legal consequences of offering inferior and possibly dangerous assistance. Another explanation is that bystanders monitor the reactions of other people in an emergency situation to see if others think that it is necessary to intervene. Since others are doing exactly the same, everyone concludes from the inaction of others that other people do not think that help is needed.  

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Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.


The term was coined in 1952 by William H. Whyte in Fortune:  …We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity …what we are talking about is a rationalized conformity — an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.

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The bandwagon effect …is the observation that people often do and believe things because many other people do and believe the same things. The effect is often pejoratively called herding instinct, particularly when applied to adolescents. People tend to follow the crowd without examining the merits of a particular thing. The bandwagon effect is the reason for the bandwagon fallacy’s success.

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Diffusion of responsibility is a social phenomenon which tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size when responsibility is not explicitly assigned.

Diffusion of responsibility can manifest itself:

  • in a group of peers who, through action or inaction, allow events to occur which they would never allow if alone (action is typically referred to as groupthink; inaction is typically referred to as the bystander effect) or
  • in hierarchical organizations as when, for example, underlings claim that they were following orders and supervisors claim that they were just issuing directives and not doing anything per se.

This mindset can be seen in the phrase “No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood”.

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An argumentum ad populum (Latin: “appeal to the people”), in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that “If many believe so, it is so.” In ethics this argument is stated, “If many find it acceptable, it is acceptable.

This type of argument is known by several names[1], including appeal to the massesappeal to beliefappeal to the majorityappeal to the people,argument by consensusauthority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin by the names argumentum ad populum (“appeal to the people”),argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect, the spreading of various religious beliefs, and of the Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger”.

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wisdom of repugnance, or the ‘yuck’ factor  describes the belief that an intuitive (or “deep-seated”) negative response to some thing, idea or practice should be interpreted as evidence for the intrinsically harmful or evil character of that thing. Furthermore, it refers to the notion that wisdom may manifest itself in feelings of disgust towards anything which lacks “goodness” or wisdom, though the feelings or the reasoning of such ‘wisdom’ may not be immediately explicable through reason.

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Somebody Else’s Problem ..is an effect that causes people to ignore matters which are generally important to a group but may not seem specifically important to the individual.

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Optimism bias…  tendency for people to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions…over-estimating the likelihood of positive events and under-estimating the likelihood of negative events.

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The Banality of Evil … describes the thesis that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.

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pluralistic ignorance is a process which involves several members of a group who think that they have different perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes from the rest of the group. While they do not endorse the group norm, the dissenting persons behave like the other group members, because they think that the behaviour of the other group members shows that the opinion of the group is unanimous. In other words, because everyone who disagrees behaves as if he or she agrees, all dissenting members think that the norm is endorsed by every group member but themselves. This in turn reinforces their willingness to conform to the group norm rather than express their disagreement. Because of pluralistic ignorance, people may conform to the perceived consensual opinion of a group, instead of thinking and acting on their own perceptions.

[edit]Consequences of Pluralistic Ignorance

In a series of studies conducted to test the effect of pluralistic ignorance, Prentice and Miller[3] studied the consequences of pluralistic ignorance at Princeton University. They found that, on average, private levels of comfort with drinking practices on campus were much lower than the perceived average. In the case of men, they found a shifting of private attitudes toward this perceived norm, a form of cognitive dissonance. Women, on the other hand, were found to have an increased sense of alienation on the campus but lacked the attitude change detected in men, presumably because norms related to alcohol consumption on campus are much more central for men than for women.

Pluralistic ignorance may partially explain the bystander effect: the observation that people are more likely to intervene in an emergency situation when alone than when other persons are present. If people monitor the reactions of others in such a situation, they may conclude from the inaction of others that other people think that it is not necessary to intervene. Thus no one may take any action, even though some people privately think that they should do something. On the other hand, if one person intervenes, others are more likely to follow and give assistance. For example, in the murder case of Kitty Genovese: About a dozen witnesses failed to help Genovese when she was stabbed to death in 1964. Most of the witnesses only heard the murder (i.e. they were not eye witnesses) and were both unsure of what was happening and unable to monitor the reactions of other people. Nevertheless, pluralistic ignorance may explain their inaction if at the time they were reasoning: “Others must also hear what is happening - if no one else is doing anything about it, then it must not be an emergency.”

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Very helpful in conceptualizing the issues. Thanks.

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