[Paleopsych] threat and signals of commitment

G. Reinhart-Waller waluk at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 2 19:28:45 UTC 2005

Gerry, of the Alice & Gerry team, speaks.

I still do not understand Alice's call for all to select either a liberal or conservative focus.  The last time I checked was pre 2004 election and from what the officers at my polling place told me,  I continued having the option to sign my voting preference as Independent.  It's possible that in less than 3 or so months, policies have changed but I would find this fairly unusual since I've heard nothing nor have I been notified by mail.  

My reason for signing up as an Independent is because I saw very little difference in the platforms of Kerry vs. Bush, although I cast my ballot, as always, for the Democrats.  By demanding that everyone takes an either, or position is a sure fire way of again CRACKING our nation into two warring factions.

Commitment to marriage, especially when children are involved, is different from commitment to a particular political party.  

Gerry Reinhart-Waller

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Thrst4knw at aol.com 
To: andrewsa at newpaltz.edu ; waluk at earthlink.net ; paleopsych at paleopsych.org 
Cc: ToddStark at aol.com 
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 8:48 AM
Subject: Re: [Paleopsych] threat and signals of commitment

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 9/11.  

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 behavior.  

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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