Friday, 19 July 2013

Dishonesty reduces applied intelligence: re-wires the brain


Surveying the modern intellectual scene, the world of public discourse among the educational elites, I conclude that dishonesty does not only reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of thinking - but it actually reduces applied intelligence - probably by re-wiring the brain.


What I am suggesting is that, although the fundamental efficiency of neural processing is an hereditary characteristic which is robust to environmental differences and changes (short of something like destructive brain pathology - encephalitis, neurotoxin, head injury, dementia etc) - habitual dishonesty (such as is mainstream among the modern intellectual elite) will generate brain changes, and a long-lasting (although probably, eventually, reversible) pathology in applied intelligence - such that what ought to be simple and obvious inferential reasoning becomes impossible.


I mean impossible.

Habitual dishonesty (most notable political correctness) is a form of learning; and learning strengthens some brain pathways and brain connections; while allowing other pathways and connections to wither and (perhaps eventually) perish.

Therefore, even on those rare occasions when a typical modern intellectual tries to be honest and to think straight - they cannot do it, because their reasoning processes have been sabotaged by their own repeated habits of dishonesty - their attempts at honest thoughts will be inhibited, and instead channelled down the usual lying pathways...


Thus, in modern intellectual life, honesty is punished and dishonesty is rewarded; honest brain pathways decay, dishonest brain pathways enlarge.

After years and years of conditioning in dishonesty, the typical modern intellectual (whether journalist, scientist, lawyer, teacher, doctor or whatever) becomes physically unable to think straight.

Thus the lack of common sense of the 'Clever Sillies' who rule modern societies, and who are driving them into suicide and self-destruction; may, in practice, be intractable - short of mass repentance and long-term rehabilitation and retraining of neural pathways and connections.


Reference: Clever Sillies -


Jonathan said...

This is a fascinating idea.

I find it interesting to consider other examples outside politics and political correctness. It is a commonplace truism of self-help that people often tell fibs about their own feelings and attitudes because they feel shame or guilt about aspects of themselves. So for instance, the boy who is shamed for acting aggressively learns to suppress aggressive words and actions. If you are correct, over time, he begins to believe his own lies (and omissions of action) through the neural wiring you describe. Eventually, he is no longer capable of knowing his own feelings and desires, although they are still present. This is what we mean when we say someone "is not in touch with his desires."

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - This is why - if you want to change your own behaviour - this must involve repentance and repudiation; and then the process of establishing new patterns of wiring can gradually begin.

But habitually dishonest people simply cannot *suddenly* start being honest!

It never happens - does it?

kurt9 said...

I conclude that dishonesty does not only reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of thinking - but it actually reduces applied intelligence - probably by re-wiring the brain.

I am certain you are correct as this is highly plausible.

Bruce Charlton said...

This posting is not really speculative - it is just standard undergraduate psychology of learning, but joining the dots in a slightly unfamiliar way.

The Social Pathologist said...

I disagree with you on a lot of things. But you might find this paper interesting.

John Cunningham said...

I have this quote from Theodore Dalrymple on my wall--

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

Unknown said...

In fact I've seen this in simpler terms with animals affected by their owners more than a few times. A dishonest, two-faced person's family dog that becomes repressed (I observe it wants to be friendly but is scared of benign contact with outsiders and conflicted) and ends up biting another families child, and is destroyed. A parrot that hates men but comes to me when it is injured (I'm male). A horse etc...

Reticulator said...

This explains why I didn't order new phones from Verizon last night. I couldn't stand all the lies. The "upgrade fee" which is really just for deceiving people on price. The idea that I need to "register my computer" when it's just that they want to put their browser-specific cookies on the computer. I got sick of the lying and decided I'll stay with our current phones for a while yet.

Larry Jensen said...

This explains the mindset of "The True Believer" who CANNOT change their mind, even in the face of flawless, overwhelming logic showing the error(s) in their thinking. "Brainwashing" at its' worst! SCARY!!!!

Dave said...

It's related to mood affiliation.

Bryan Townsend said...

Hmm, fascinating idea. I have a friend who says that some people seem to have a perverse relationship with the truth. This seems similar. I am very interested in aesthetics and I am wondering if this might apply there. There seems to be a rule against talking about aesthetic quality, at least in the mainstream media. Writers seem simply incapable of saying that such and such a piece of music is better or worse than another. Same idea?

Bruce Charlton said...

@BT - According to the way neuroscientists discuss learning, any habitual behaviour will tend to change brain circuitry to facilitate some pathways and inhibit others - so, yes!

Bookslinger said...

If the premise is correct, then talk show host Michael Savage would be correct in saying "Liberalism is a mental disorder."

Anonymous said...

It's not only dishonesty that rewires and reduces applied intelligence.

Our subconscious always monitors our conscious thinking and this leads it to generate observations regarding who we are and then fortify this perception through self-suggestions.

We define ourselves with our thoughts and behaviors. If I steal or cheat, the subconscious says "hmm, if I stole this or cheated in that test, then this means I am unable to do this effortlessly through my own creative powers"... the observation registers an admission / self-suggestion of limitation as a consequence of my action and this re-defines me as a parasite / non-creative thinker etc etc.

There is a tremendous list of implications that arise out of our conscious thoughts and behaviors and which will tend to rewire our internal landscape. Dishonesty, stealing, cheating etc are just a couple of them. Some of these implications are very sublime. For example, if you admire someone in a inferior/superior context, it's like admitting you will never reach what his level. Other implications are mind-bending: If you are exercising, getting your vitamins and supplements to have a "good body" it's like telling your body that it is fragile, requiring special treatment (reverse placebo).

The "positive intention" implications are some of the more "dangerous". Positive intention as in "I want to take care of my body". When externally directed, they can be used for making us dumber. Think of the media when they try to dumb-down the content, implying we are dumb. Or a train platform message that warns us to mind the gap or our personal belongings - implying we are idiots with no common sense whatsoever. Even new schoolbooks with all these diagrams and "easy" explanations, that are supposedly good for children, are essentially impriting that the kids are dumb: "If I'm shown all these diagrams and photos and explanations so that I can get a simple concept, perhaps I really am dumb". Same with all our modern devices which help us memorize phone numbers, names etc, implying we can't do it on our own... Just a few decades ago, an ordinary man would memorize tens if not hundreds of names / phones etc. And if you go back prior to the invention of the printing press, men would memorize huge amounts of information as the implication was clear: If you want to retain the information, you'll have to memorize it. Technological "aids" are implying that we are useless, and in this sense uselessness we tend to ...conform - paying the price of reduced intellectual capacity.

In any case, the subconsciously implied suggestions (through observation), if understood, are the basis for a revolution in the way we think. More importantly, they are the basis for the morality of the 21st century and beyond. Religion is weak as a moral standard-bearer and morality, for the sake of it, is not providing real incentives. Religion promises after-life rewards if we are good, social morality promises a pat on our back, but it also has a "you can cheat if you can get away with it - unnoticed" element.

When you know that you can NEVER get away from your own subconscious monitoring and implied self-suggestions out of your own conduct, then you stop acting in self-harming ways, whether these are sublime or more direct. This is a true basis for morality and species self-improvement.

If I follow / admire others as superior = I doubt my own capacity
If I am using a strategy of deception = I believe I lack the intellectual capacity to excel without it
If I am cheating / stealing = I doubt my creative powers as being inadequate to get me where I want or to bring me what I want
If I am harming another to advance myself = I doubt my own capacities to excel on my own - otherwise I wouldn't engage in "eliminating the competition"

...etc etc.

Bruce Charlton said...

@twb - interesting argument - and it has some validity.

But it immediately raises the question 'compared with what?'

These are faults with one kind of cognition, but what is the kind of cognition that lacks these problems, and how does that kind of cognition compared in other respects? Particularly, is that other kind of cognition superior overall?