Our president-elect has told so many lies to the public, his fibbing has taken on a transparency akin to truth-telling. What’s more, when his followers fail to notice his contradictions, they provide an example of cognitive dissonance working on a massive scale.
Cognitive dissonance is a brain function that allows us to live with contradictions without being disturbed by them. Otherwise, we might suffer a split serious enough to cause mental illness. As a mental bandage, cognitive dissonance has therapeutic value. Still, that it is active in our psyche makes me question how people with deep, philosophical divides can find common ground. Does objective truth exist and can we see it with our flawed minds?
Making the question more complex is our discovery that the mind learns and makes decision before that knowledge is transmitted to our consciousness. In effect, we do not make decisions but are subject to decisions made by the brain by methods we are unable to examine. Recently, however, scientist have begun to experiment with ways to enter these inaccessible regions. (Learning When No One is Watching,” by R. Douglas Fields, Scientific American Mind, Sept/Oct 2016, pg. 61.)
How the brain shapes itself – how it absorbs information and organizes it for the conscious mind — is called unsupervised learning. (Ibid, pg. 58) Thanks to holograms and the virtual world, scientists can expose the brain to simulations to which it can respond as if those simulations were real. With the aid of a skull cap studded with electrodes, the mind’s reaction to new experiences can be measured while the subject interacts with the environment. Recordings from these experiments reveal how various brain waves function. Theta waves, the longest brain waves, serve memory and spatial relations, for example. In addition, they send signals to remote parts of the brain which enables other groups of neurons to fire together. This group firing is the “stuff” of learning. (Ibid pg. 59.)
Researchers have become so adept at mapping Theta functions, they claim they can tell what a person is thinking. Beta waves, shorter waves, have a story to tell, too. People with a high degree of beta wave activity in the right temporal and parietal lobs will be more adept at learning languages than others. Monolinguals take hope. You are superior to bilinguals at metacognition, or thinking about thinking, and you excel at correcting your errors.” (Ibid pg. 63.)
This last bit of information takes me back to the 2016 US Presidential election. Perhaps supporters of Donald Trump are more adept at learning Russian than seeing the contradictions in their thought processes. If so, they may gain an advantage in the new order over the monolinguals who are scratching their heads and wondering, “What just happened?”