Blog Post: To What Extent Do You Fall Prey to Common Sociocentric Pathological Tendencies?

Linda Elder
Jul 14, 2021 • 65d ago
To What Extent Do You Fall Prey to Common Sociocentric Pathological Tendencies?

{"ops":[{"insert":"There are multiple interrelated sociocentric dispositions that emerge out of or connect with egocentric tendencies (sociocentricity is focused on getting the most for \"our group\" while egocentric thinking is focused on getting the most for oneself - both sets of tendencies occur without regard to the rights and needs of others). All of us, insofar as we are sociocentric, embody the following pathological dispositions (as well as others that would cluster with them). Critical thinkers are keenly aware of these tendencies and consistently seek to counter them with fairminded reasoning. As you read through these dispositions, ask yourself whether you recognize them as processes that take place regularly in your own mind (if you conclude “not me!”—think again):\n \n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric memory"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to “forget” evidence and information that does not support their thinking, and to “remember” evidence and information that does.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric myopia"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to think in an absolutist way within a narrow “groupish” viewpoint.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric righteousness"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to feel that “our group” is superior in light of our confidence that “we” inherently possess the truth.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric hypocrisy"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to ignore flagrant inconsistencies between what a group professes to believe and the actual beliefs implied by its members’ collective behavior, or between the standards to which they hold their group members and those to which they expect other groups to adhere.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric oversimplification"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to ignore real and important complexities in the world in favor of simplistic, group-interested notions when consideration of those complexities would require the group to modify its beliefs or values.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric blindness"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency not to notice facts and evidence that contradict the group’s favored beliefs or values.\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric immediacy"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to over-generalize immediate group feelings and experiences so that when one significant event, (or a few such events), is experienced by the group as highly favorable or unfavorable, this feeling is generalized to the group’s overall outlook on the world (or view of other groups).\n• "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"sociocentric absurdity"},{"insert":": the natural group tendency to fail to notice group thinking that has “absurd” consequences or implications.\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#268f7b"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Sociocentric Pathological Tendencies Can Be Challenged"},{"insert":"\n\nIt is not enough to recognize abstractly that the human mind has predictable sociocentric pathologies. If we want to live rational lives and create rational societies, we must take concrete steps to correct these pathologies. Routinely identifying these tendencies in action needs to become habitual for us. Those who take this challenge seriously recognize that it is a long-term process, never complete. To some extent, it is analogous to stripping off onion skins. After we remove one layer, we find another beneath it. Therefore, each of the following admonitions should not be taken as simple suggestions that any group could immediately, and effectively, put into action, but rather as strategic formulations of long-range goals. Every group can perform these corrections, but only over time and with considerable practice.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric memory"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct the natural tendency of our group to “forget” evidence that does not support our group’s thinking and “remember” evidence that does by overtly seeking evidence and information that does not support the thinking of the group, and by directing explicit attention to that information. We should especially seek information and evidence that does not place our group in a positive light—information the group would rather forget or not be faced with. (If you “try” but cannot find such evidence, you should probably assume that your sociocentric tendencies are standing in the way of finding it.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric myopia"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct our natural group tendency to think in an absolutistic way within an overly-narrow, group point of view by routinely thinking within points of view that conflict with our group’s viewpoint. For example, if we are “liberals,” we can read books by insightful conservatives. If we are “conservatives,” we can read books by insightful liberals. If we are North Americans, we can study a contrasting South American point of view, or a European, Far-Eastern, Middle-Eastern, or African point of view. (If you don’t discover significant group prejudices in your thought through this process, you should question whether you are acting in good faith in trying to identify your group’s prejudices.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric righteousness"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct our natural sociocentric tendency to feel superior in light of our confidence that our group possesses the truth. We can do this by regularly reminding ourselves of how little our group actually knows. To do so, we can explicitly state the unanswered questions that our group has never openly reasoned through (though our group behavior would imply that we have the truth in answer to those questions). (If, in this process, you don’t discover that your group knows far less than its behavior would imply, you should question the manner in which you pursued these questions.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric hypocrisy"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct the natural tendency of our group to ignore flagrant inconsistencies between what it professes to believe and the actual beliefs its behavior implies. We can uncover inconsistencies between the standards we impose on group members and those we require of those outside the group. We can do this by regularly comparing the criteria and standards by which we judge others with those by which we judge our own group. (If you don’t find many flagrant inconsistencies in your group’s thinking and behavior, you should doubt whether you have dug deeply enough.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric oversimplification"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct our group’s natural tendency to ignore real and important complexities in the world by regularly focusing on those complexities, formulating them explicitly in words, and targeting them. We can look for instances when it is in our group’s interest to simplify the complex in order to maintain a particular view, or to pursue some particular group interest. (If you don’t discover over time that your group has oversimplified many important issues, you should question whether you have really confronted the complexities inherent in the issues.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric blindness"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct our natural tendency to ignore facts or evidence that contradict our group’s favored beliefs or values, by explicitly seeking out those facts and that evidence. We can look for situations when it is in our group’s interest to ignore information it would rather not see or have to face. (If you don’t find yourself experiencing significant discomfort as you pursue these facts, you should question whether you are taking this process seriously. If you discover that your group’s traditional beliefs were all correct from the beginning, you probably moved to a new and more sophisticated level of self-deception.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric immediacy"},{"insert":". We can help correct our natural tendency to overgeneralize our group’s immediate feelings and experiences by developing the habit of putting them into a larger perspective. We can look for examples of times in the past when our group has overgeneralized some event or set of events, whether positive or negative, then examine the consequences of our group having done so. We can consider the implications of our doing so again, should we face similar events in the future. We can strive to avoid\ngroup distortions of any kind. (If, in seeking examples of group or sociocentric immediacy, you come up short, you need to look more closely at your group’s history.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Correcting sociocentric absurdity"},{"insert":". We can take steps to correct our natural tendency to ignore groupthink that has absurd implications by making the important implications of our group’s thinking explicit, then assessing them for their desirability and realism. This requires that we frequently trace the implications of our group beliefs and the consequences of our group’s behavior. For example, we should frequently ask ourselves: “If we really believed this, how would we act? Do we really act that way? Do we want to act that way? Is it ethical for us to act that way?” (If, after what you consider to be a serious search, you find no sociocentric absurdity in the thinking of your groups, think again. You are likely deceiving yourself.)\n \nThis blog is adapted from: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, pp. 153-156). For activities focused on getting command of your sociocentric nature, see the Wall of Barriers in our Critical Thinking Academy.\n"}]}


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