Friday, October 27, 2017

Liking and Liked: More Attribution Biases that Merge Liking and Social Proof

Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion a bit lighter, we've defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).

The previous post detailed a few Attribution Biases that cause us to make errors based on our feelings more than sound reasoning, and we human beings naturally show a prejudice for those things that we already like. If we are good people who seek out other good people to accomplish good things, we don't tend to anticipate certain problems. This expectation intensifies when considering a religious leader because they should be experts in and practitioners of good ethics and morals. And if we seek them out, even apart from any kind of considerations of hierarchy or authority that might influence how we relate to them, we're likely to take for granted that they are ethical. We certainly would not seek out a person whom we didn't like.

Add to the power of liking the power of social interaction and social proof among a group of people who gather to socialize as they contribute to a common goal – and you have a double whammy of an influence. This is critical to understanding spiritual abuse, because thought reform exploits these good traits, especially in really compassionate and trustworthy people. Understanding these tendencies helps us to resist the pitfalls of these traits when we encounter situations that challenge our own sense of appropriate assertiveness and personal power. They make us particularly vulnerable to many attribution errors.

We are predictable creatures who look for patterns in the things that happen around us. As the Cheerleader Effect notes, we have ingrained tendencies that show our anticipation and liking of faces. In our search for these patterns, we are given to create them if they're not apparent, misconceiving and misinterpreting random things as part of a pattern when there likely is none at all.

We also don't like unanswered questions or enigmas, because we rely on answers and clear understanding to develop a safe and proper understanding of the world around us. To give us some structure and ease, we are prone to that self-serving tendency to pay more attention to the the data that helps support to the conclusions that we find most comfortable and are more accepting of it, even if it is ambiguous. And we're generally happy to conveniently forget that data that challenges what we like and would like to think. We will take an incomplete perspective and weave it into meaning that is consistent with what we already believe, and we'll be critical of that which challenges that web of meaning we've created. In a nutshell, that process of following bliss without enough good cause describes Attribution Errors.

Phenomenology or Pattern?

One of my soapbox pet peeves at work has always been the tendency of physicians to draw conclusions about the whole population based on the last half dozen of people who sought them out for a similar problem. It's not representative of liking and social proof, so I think that it makes a good starting point example of just considering the simple attribution error of the availability bias.

The physician who projects what has affected a number of patients with whom they've come into contact more likely owes to the nature of their practice and the types of patients they see. A family doctor who practices near a high school with the largest and most accomplished track team may end up treating lots of sports injuries. Without taking the close proximity into account, it can trick them into believing that the nature of those injuries also occur at the same rate everywhere. A physician across town near a golf course may see none of those injuries or see them among an older population, as golf course condos for older individuals surround his office.

Truth and Consequences

When we mix all of that together, we fall into common related pitfalls. We've already considered many of them, but there are few more related ones that are significant to this convergence of how well we like a person, how we are connected to them socially, and their collective effect on us when we're with them.

More to come on
the Truth Effect, F.O.M.O., the Bandwagon,
and how individual survivors and survivorship itself
can fast-track us into faulty reasoning.

For Further Reading: