Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cracking the Code, Chapter Eleven

Continuing from this post.

We also need to understand why the above works, how our brains function. Our experience is filtered in three ways: deletion, distortion and generalization. When we focus on one thing, like reading this, we delete many sensory input like the temperature of the room or what's on the tellie playing in the next room. We distort experiences in order to simplify and make emotional sense of them, particularly memories. We generalize input based on our predisposed worldviews, like liberal or conservative, friend or enemy etc. Even more broadly, the latter is a function of our basic differentiating categories, like what constitutes a room or a chair.

While these filters are necessary they can also miss some pertinent information. Our filtered perceptions, feelings and thoughts of reality are not that reality. We create our maps of that territory by focusing on what is useful to us about it and filter out the rest. And we do that by creating a story to make sense of our maps. However some stories do this more effectively because they are more useful. The abortion debate is an example. The liberals framed it as pro-choice, the story of modern feminism. Women had to struggle to get the choice of a vote, of equal pay and equality generally. It's a progressive story of gaining rights. Hence the right to choose what happens with their bodies during pregnancy.

The conservatives though frame it as pro-life. That story is about moral decay, about irresponsible women being freed to have sex outside marriage without the consequences of a child. It doesn't want individual freedom but for strong leaders to make choices for us. Hence the frame that religious leaders have decided that abortion is murder, so to support it you must be against life itself. Pro-life is a much more basic human drive than the rights of autonomous individuals, hence it strikes a deeper chord. Never mind that conservatives, while loving the life of the fetus, hate the life of the child. Or that they support the death penalty. Or individual choice in other areas. In this instance their frame of pro-life is more effective, given that far more people operate from these base human emotions than from advanced motivations like self-actualization.

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