Robert M. Ellis [+]
Middle Way Society
a. Repression and Conflict The insight of psychoanalysis is the recognition of conflict between different parts of our psyches that try to repress each other. This basic model, stripped of unnecessary elaborations, can also be supported by neuroscience. Conflict occurs between sets of associated desires and beliefs, emerging at different times, but each using absolutization to maintain its position over the others. This model can also be applied to socio-political conflict, which is between the desires and beliefs that are dominant within individuals at a particular time. b. Projection Projection, as distinguishable from normal features of perception, occurs when we take a particular meaningful feature of an object to be its only relevant feature. We take this feature to be the ‘real’ or essential feature of the object and thus have a metaphysical view that excludes alternatives, with all the other dimensions of absolutization. Such projection can also be reversed into an equally deluded opposite when we assume that that feature is instead totally absent from the object. c. Confirmation Bias ‘Confirmation bias’ is a broad term that covers lots of other biases, all of which refer to our tendency to interpret new information only in terms of existing beliefs. Biases involve the substitution of fast processing for slow. These are absolutizations at the point where alternatives become relevant, but we either remain deceived by the bias, or react by taking the opposite view that our biased view is completely false. Bias at this point is indistinguishable from fallacy. d. Substitution Substitution is typical of absolutization, consisting of the use of an easier process instead of a harder one. In cognitive psychology this is often taken to involve substituting a simpler deductive process for a more complex one. However, once complex deductive processes have been made easier through practice, they start to substitute for more complex inductive or experiential investigations. Even those trained in science may switch to deduction when outside their area of comfort. e. Group Binding Absolutization is a shortcut for binding groups and exerting power, by creating unquestionable shared belief on which group identity is dependent. Four recognized biases provide evidence for group binding: the ingroup-outgroup bias, groupthink, social proof and false consensus. A reaction against group binding may produce negative absolutization for a counter-group or for individualism. This is not an inevitable feature of group relationships, which can instead be based on our experience of solidarity, and even the use of power can be made conditional. f. Archetypal Function The concepts of infinite openness that are often used in absolutizing beliefs can also have a beneficial archetypal function. This function depends on the provisionality of the context in which such concepts are used, and works by creating associations between archetypal symbols and experiences that involve moving beyond a limited identification (such as aesthetic, moral or religious experiences). This function means that religious traditions should not be reductively associated with absolutization, but rather credited as having mixed effects in need of critical differentiation.