[Paleopsych] threat and signals of commitment

Thrst4knw at aol.com Thrst4knw at aol.com
Wed Mar 2 16:48:35 UTC 2005

Some thoughts about Alice and Gerry's email.

I'm in agreement with Alice's thought, though I think the situation is 
greatly exacerbated by fear.  Threat shuts down higher planning functions and the 
facilties that make measured evaluation possible, and leans us toward more 
hard-wired action schema.  The need for action draws on our capacity to find 
salient patterns in massive amounts of noise very rapidly.  Most of us have a deep 
revulsion to behavior in people around us who seem to be vacilating or entering 
reflective thought when action seems to be called for.  We recognize that we 
can respond to threat with action or succomb.  Under conditions of fear, it is 
very difficult to persuade anyone that what is needed is calm reflection.  We 
pick up mostly on signals that show people are willing to commit to decisive 
action.  Witness the sudden popularity of firemen and policemen following 

The whole point of much political propaganda is to create this sense of 
threat so that people will pull toward these quick impressions, with the assumption 
that they are then more easily persuaded because this simplifies the decision 
process.  If you instill fear, some people will become paralyzed, but many 
will fall back on instinctive moral realism and their decisions become much more 
predictable.  This greatly facilitates group coordination.  It happens 
naturally, but obviously can be exploited readily.  

Under these conditions, "moderates" are viewed with particularly deep 
suspicion by everyone else, because they don't seem to be willing or able to commit 
to action when needed.  Our idealized belief that wisdom lies somewhere in 
measured reflection and balancing different viewpoints quickly dissolves under 
conditions of perceived threat.  

We recognize the need for commitment to action (or signals of the capacity 
for commitment) in each other.  This is often exploited in politics by confusing 
the capacity for commitment with commitment to particular causes.  

Does that make sense?  It seems to me to explain a lot of our social 

kind regards,


In a message dated 2/23/2005 8:59:35 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
andrewsa at newpaltz.edu writes:
----- Original Message ----- 
From: G. Reinhart-Waller 
To: The new improved paleopsych list 
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2005 9:55 PM
Subject: Re: [Paleopsych] Re: paleopsych Digest, Vol 9, Issue 20

>> Someone beyond the liberal/conservative
dichotomy may be rejected by both sides as a nuisance,
a threat to shared assumptions that define a group
against another.

This is absolutely amazing!  Why would any audience 
reject someone who cannot plop into either the liberal 
or conservative camp?  Please explain the threat you 
feel is apparent.  This I need to hear!

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