Humanity has developed technology to overcome threats like hunger and disease, but perhaps our greatest remaining threat is our own craziness - in particular our capacity for dogmatic delusion, amplified and channeled by political opportunists.
Although the propensity for delusion has amply documented by many writers, and decried by many humanists, we understand very little about how delusions work, and we often spend much effort in vain trying to combat delusions by reasoned argument. If we understand delusions better, then we may be able to better address others, who hold deluded beliefs, and perhaps to identify delusions in ourselves.
This talk will present what evidence we have so far about the neuroscience and social psychology of group delusions, and outline how we might find out more. As with many aspects of our humanity, the roots lie in our evolution for group living. As many astute observers and psychologists have noted, delusions are not really like honest mistakes in reasoning; the false beliefs hold some meaning to the individual, and are resistant to reasoning; shared delusions often hold important social meaning for the group. I'll discuss the recent neuroscientific evidence that suggests some mechanisms for these observations, and some recent quantitative research in social psychology confirming them. I'll discuss the connections beginning to be sketched between false memories and delusion. Finally I'll discuss evidence-based strategies for addressing people in conversations about difficult issues, in which delusions play a large role.
Artist / Speaker: Dr. Mark Reimers
Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm