Sunday, July 8, 2012

STOP! 15 negative thought patterns to avoid: Part 1

IAFF has this list of positive and negative thinking that you should watch out for. Too bad they didn't list an author, but it's good reading, as it applies both to your self-thoughts and to arguments.

I'll discuss the 15 negative thoughts in three parts, as I explain why these negative thinking will hurt you through illogical thinking and other biases.

Here's part 1, the first 5 negative thought patterns.
1. Filtering:  You take the negative details and magnify them, while filtering  out all positive aspects of a situation.  A single detail may be picked out, and the whole event becomes colored by this detail.  When you pull negative things out of context, isolated from all the good experiences around you, you make them larger and more awful than they really are.

You can also do this in reverse: filter out the negative, and focus only on the positive. This is cherry picking, whether negative or positive, and it's also known as confirmation bias, selective thinking, and so on. This leads to polarizing thinking, which is discussed below. 

Defender of suspect scams are exposed to filtered facts early, and are specifically taught to "ignore negativity", so they automatically filter out anything contrary to what they were taught, and then learn bad arguments to "defend" what they considered to be positivity against the "negativity" people.  

2. Polarized Thinking:  The hallmark of this distortion is an insistence on dichotomous choices.  Things are black or white, good or bad.  You tend to perceive everything at the extremes, with very little room for a middle ground.  The greatest danger in polarized thinking is its impact on how you judge yourself.  For example—You have to be perfect or you're a failure.
Also known as the black and white, either-or, us or them, false dilemma... this is very dangerous, as it also leads you to including filtered thinking (see above). To a polarized thinker, there is no shades of gray. You're either with us or against us. This leads to insular thinking, seeking only people who approves of you, and whom you approve, which leads to FURTHER filtering and polarized thinking. 

Defenders of suspect scams are already in a group, and in general do NOT get exposed to people NOT in that group except as "prospects" to be recruited. Thus, any opponents they meet are to be "deathmatches". Unfortunately, they are not well equipped in the facts and logic department, being mainly taught logical fallacies and derailing tactics, so they generally get slaughtered by a well-armed critical thinker. 
3. Overgeneralization:  You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence.  If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again.  'Always' and 'never' are cues that this style of thinking is being utilized.  This distortion can lead to a restricted life, as you avoid future failures based on the single incident or event.
This is also known as superstition, anecdotal fallacy, and so on. Like wearing a "lucky shirt", or looking out for black cats... Remember the old cliche: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action. Avoiding something from a SINGLE experience is not wise. 

Suspect scam defenders are fond of anecdotal fallacies applied to overgeneralizations, such as income claims and leadership claims that problems are being resolved. The most common form is "it paid me" argument, where they claim that because they got paid, it cannot possibly be a scam. They think success can be reproduced like Xerox (tm) copies. If their upline is making bazillion bucks, they can too. And they will fight anybody suggesting otherwise (see above, Polarized thinking). 
4. Mind Reading:  Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do.  In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you.  Mind reading depends on a process called projection.  You imagine that people feel the same way you do and react to things the same way you do.  Therefore, you don't watch or listen carefully enough to notice that they are actually different.  Mind readers jump to conclusions that are true for them, without checking whether they are true for the other person.
Think of this as the ultimate anecdotal fallacy: you expect everybody to act, think, and FEEL the same way you do, that you can PREDICT how they think, and even WHY they think so. And you react to people based on the way you *thought* they are thinking, instead of actually reading their facial and body language, or listening to the audio queues. 

Suspect scam defenders with this thought pattern are quick to attribute "motives" to their debate opponent, such as "you are just jealous", or "you are just out to make a name / money / whatever for yourself". This is known as the "sour grapes" argument, and is a form of "ad hominem" attack (a type of "red herring"). 
5. Catastrophizing:  You expect disaster.  You notice or hear about a problem and start "what if's."  What if that happens to me?  What if tragedy strikes?  There are no limits to a really fertile catastrophic imagination.  An underlying catalyst for this style of thinking is that you do not trust in yourself and your capacity to adapt to change.
This is generally known as pessimism, or paranoia in more extreme cases. However, the positive version of this, known as pronoia, is just as dangerous. I've previously covered the dangers of seeking positivity and avoiding negativity. 

Suspect scam defenders are often affected by pronoia, and out to combat any one whom they have classified (through 2. Polarized thinking and 3. Overgeneralization) as opposing their views. 

Suspect scam defenders may be out to combat what they perceive to be "negative" information due to fear, as if they can "defeat" this negative info then the good times will continue forever, but if I believe this I will be guilty of 4. Mind reading myself. :D

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