On Alternet: More research confirms that “We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.”
In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions.
The Alternet article is called “The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever,” which I guess it would be, except that it opens up competitive advantage to those who understand the phenomenon and take advantage of it. Think Hitler focusing on the Pas de Calais, and Stalin on explaining away intelligence reports that accurately reported German preparations for Operation Barbarossa (“You are right, Stalin. Germany will not attack the Soviet Union in 1941.” NKVD head Lavrentii Beria, a few days before the attack.) Eventually, though, reality intrudes, but you don’t have to leave it to chance: You are part of reality for your competition.
In OODA “loop” terms, we’re talking about the implicit guidance and control feed from Orientation to Observation, which leads to the behavior known as “incestuous amplification.” For an explanation by the guy who coined the phrase, click here. It’s not that you need to be smarter than your competition in some IQ-score sense. That might not hurt, but it also might just give you better tools for rationalizing what you already believe.
If you see conflict as a contest between Orientations, then the most important thing is understanding how Orientation works and what keeps it from working. Winning the battle of Orientations doesn’t happen by accident. At times, you must relinquish and even discredit institutional positions deeply held by powerful organizational factions, including yourself.
I’ll bet you say you already do this. Suppose I show up on your doorstep and say “Oh really? Show me.” For example, just because other people and organizations see the world differently than you do doesn’t mean that your orientation is the more accurate. Incestuous amplification affects, infects us all.
So Marty Kaplan, author of the Alternet article, concludes that people who do not share his belief that we are experiencing catastrophic anthropomorphic warming are the victims of incestuous amplification:
I keep hoping that one more photo of an iceberg the size of Manhattan calving off of Greenland, one more stretch of record-breaking heat and drought and fires, one more graph of how atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen in the past century, will do the trick.
Kaplan, of course, is himself denigrating evidence that doesn’t support his conclusion, such as the 16-year pause in warming and the conclusions of the IPCC. I don’t know where the truth in this particular debate lies and am just citing it as an example of how incestuous amplification / decision bias can affect us all.*
Finally a caution. Your conclusion that people who don’t agree with you are victims of”incestuous amplification” — orientation all locked up (the idiots) –might as easily reflect your inability to understand their orientation. In his book Sources of Power, Gary Klein reviews the shoot-down of an Iranian Airbus by the USS Vincennes in July 1988. This chapter of the book is well worth your study because although the panel of experts that reviewed the incident concluded that it was a case of incestuous amplification — Klein calls it “expectancy bias — Klein makes a strong case that
As far as I can see, the decision to fire was fairly straightforward, based on mental simulation. The cues were all consistent with hostile aircraft … The story all fits.
In other words, Klein concludes that once you understand what the crew of the Vincennes had to work with, their shared mental model was reasonable and they made reasonable decisions. As I said, worth your study. What Klein doesn’t point out is that it’s not either-or. Once your mental simulation starts to work, that is, what it predicts seems to be happening, it’s easy to become attached to it. At that point, incestuous amplification rears its ugly head. This is exactly what happens in a deception operation, where your story will all fit by design. In other words, your orientation will be reasonable and you may make reasonable decisions in accord with it, but they will be the decisions your opponent wants you to make.
So beware of incestuous amplification, recognize that it exists but is not an explain-all, and put a lot of cold-bloodied effort into devising mechanisms for detecting and mitigating it.
*Fabius Maximus covers this issue in excruciating detail. If you’d like to argue the influence of humans on climate, please do it over there.