The Ghosts Of Instincts
- If you know the world, you will know yourself.
- If you know yourself, you will know the world.
Which one is true?
In other words, basic human instincts tell us about how societies will behave, or social relations and events tells us about the nature of the individual person?
It can be argued that relationships create a person’s identity, that an individual can only exist insofar as they have a social role. And therefore, any question about human nature needs to refer to the nature of human relationships. It can also be argued that human relationships do not form out of empty space, but that they are by products of natural instincts, and without these instincts, there would be no basis for human relationships to form.
But in either case, what is undoubtedly true, is that there are two common ways to catch people’s attention. One is to appeal to their survival instincts, and the other is to appeal to their reproductive instincts.
The use of fear works as a tool for propaganda in business and politics because it taps into one’s survival instinct. Since a person has no choice but to preserve their lives, they cannot avoid paying attention to information that concerns their survival.
Why do people care so much about A.I. taking over, nuclear war, famine, disease? Fear.
Why do people care so much about status, recognition, reputation, hierarchy? Sex.
Of course, all this is pointing out the obvious. But what is not obvious is how your instincts are constantly being weaponized against you, by the media, by people, and by yourself. What is even less obvious is how you can hardly resist these instincts, no matter how much you tried.
And like all weapons, these are dangerous and lethal.
In a book called , Gigerenzer argues for the need for an education about risk and psychology.
If you don’t understand the true nature of risks, mathematically, and you don’t understand your own psychology, then you are totally vulnerable to all forms of communication, propaganda or not.
In the domain of health, there is a tendency in the modern world to go for regular checkups, but the evidence shows that doing so does not reduce the chance of dying from diseases in any significant way, and instead, lowers the quality of a person’s life. It further makes them sick by inducing excessive fear and anxiety.
In How Healing Works, we learn about the power of placebos. But we also learn about the power of nocebo’s. If you believe something will harm you, it will. If you are constantly worried about getting sick, you’ll get sick.
When consuming media in the future, ask yourself: is the information being presented deliberately trying to take advantage of my basic human instincts, and thus undercutting my ability to respond rationally?
Originally published at https://unearnedwisdom.com on March 20, 2022.