The way we think
As we try to understand how we and others think, many of us are at a loss to understand what is going on. How can some believe their eyes and others not see? How can someone accept a fact and others reject it just because the first person stated it as fact? So, let’s consider an example here, the January 6th attack on the US capital. Was it an insurrection, or was it a legitimate protest?
The answer may lie in how you think. For example, I consider myself a critically reflective thinker. I ask myself questions to determine fact from fiction, true from false, and right from wrong. And I think we all think of ourselves that way. But the reality is different. According to the psychological community, there are two general types of thinkers.
“How we think shows through in how we act. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind. They reflect thinking.” David Joseph Schwartz
Critical thinkers are active-mode thinkers. They are listening and evaluating what they hear and see to determine whether it fits into their worldview. Critical thinkers then ask clarifying questions and ultimately decide if their worldview needs to change because they heard or saw. They look at cause and effect. They tend to have seven common traits:
2. Analytic nature
3. Systematic by nature
7. Confident in reasoning
Magical thinking is the linking of events or signs and symbols without any evidence. It is caused by creating associations that don’t exist except in your mind and establishing relations that are not based on facts according to exploring your mind. Magical thinkers can believe they can influence the outside world with just their thoughts. Different branches of science interpret and use this term differently.
Conspiracy theories tend to be held or believed by magical thinkers, according to Joseph Uscinski in the oxford university press. Another interesting but disturbing youtube video on these conspiracy theories was prepared by Jason Kottke and came to a similar conclusion.
Can the two disparate thinkers communicate effectively?
Communication between people is difficult at best. What we say and what the other person hears are not necessarily the same thing. Now, suppose you put a critical thinker (who uses logic and reason) with a magical thinker (who believes things without a causal link). In that case, it is almost impossible for the two to communicate effectively.
Consider Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It is on the table the smells are driving you mad, and your mouth is watering. After eating for a while, a comment is made about how you can’t understand why people would not get vaccinated. Silence ensues. You have broken the holiday dinner taboo by bringing up a topic that you know has views held strongly with high emotion. And the warm feeling of the holiday dinner is destroyed!
This is what happens when a critical thinker tries to reason with a magical thinker. The critical thinker wants to point out facts and cause and effect, and the magical thinker doesn’t care. He believes what he believes.
But we have to have this dialogue without it becoming a personal attack if we want to build the humanism that we need to heal the problems we face in the world today. So, I challenge each of you to ask a magical thinker question to challenge their views (carefully, of course) to see if they can become a part of the solution to our problems.
“You can’t change who you are, but you can change what you have in your head. You can refresh what you’re thinking about. You can put some fresh air in your brain.” Ernesto Bertarelli