For people to understand a radically new thought, they must hear it many times

Laura G. (who is a physician) writes:

As my first pro-active act of the New Year, I am writing to say how extremely grateful I am to VFR and to all contributing commenters. This site has the most consistently INTERESTING and insightful comments of any of the many other excellent blog sites that are in existence. Here, however, is where the real meat resides. So, many thanks.

The point that LA is making is completely correct. There is no possibility whatsoever that our population can ever think a straight thought on immigration unless they are hearing these issues discussed very repeatedly and on a regular basis. It seldom or never happens that a person hears a completely new concept, even an excellent one that will solve a problem totally, and adopts that concept after an initial careful consideration. The idea has to be heard many times before it can be accepted, much less acted upon. One way to think about this phenomenon is from the neurophysiological point of view. I think this has been dealt with before on VFR, but please indulge me on this.

For all issues that involve the nervous system, greater skill and faster reflexes are the direct result of greater practice. That is why athletes practice their games, and it is why writers are usually benefited from writing. It is the same in intellectual argumentation. If one is dealing with a complex issue (such as immigration), one can understand the issue most fully if the data and concepts come easily to mind, and that happens only if the issue is one that you are discussing and considering on a regular basis. All this better-neurological-function-follows-greater-practice is due to the fact that there is a sheath that covers neuronal pathways. There is a dynamic process of deposition of the sheath along the pathways which connect one nerve with another, and the more often pathways are used, the more dense the sheath. Furthermore, the more dense the sheath, the more rapidly an impulse can travel down that pathway and the more rapidly that pathway is found and utilized. Seldom-used neural connections have a minimal sheath, which means that they are less likely to be found, the impulse travels more slowly, and the outcome of the impulse is less certain. So, concepts that are new are poorly sheathed, and it is more difficult to recall the basis of the new concept or to recall that idea when a related issue comes up. This explains the experience many of us have had after we have had a substantive discussion with someone and introduced them to a new concept, but a week later when the subject comes up again it is as if the person had never heard it before. Those new pathways are poorly sheathed because that person is not using them (i.e., never hearing of the notion that restriction of Muslims is a dignified concept). That is why this issue has to be brought forth time and again in order for our sorry population to begin to get a glimmer of what the range of solutions to Muslim aggression on our society can include. As long as the concept of the exclusion of Muslims from our nation remains unmentionable, no impulse will travel down the poorly-sheathed pathway that represents that concept after the press reports yet another murder by a Muslim. In short, the moral of this story is that, as LA says, we are the ones that have to talk about this issue, bring it up, defend it, and press others to consider the consequences of Muslim immigration and of Muslim exclusion from our nation. We have to do this in order to accelerate the necessary neurological development of our fellow citizens, and without this maturation of those pathways, our citizens will remain incapable of thinking about the issue in an effective manner..

- end of initial entry -

LA replies:

I love the discussion of the neural pathways.

Buck O. writes:

Laura G.’s explanation of the neurophysiological phenomenon of dynamic neuronal pathway sheath density deposition is fascinating. (Sorry, Laura, that assemblage demanded doing.)

I read, just yesterday, an article, “Difficulty in debunking myths rooted in the way the mind works,” from the January 2008 Skeptical Inquirer (here it is at the Washington Post), that I think, sort of, relates to this subject.

The article is about the widespread and routine belief in the many easily debunked myths that are conjured up after important events. It’s as if many people hope for a quick conspiracy theory that fits their world view, or, if I may, travels most easy down their dense sheaths.

The author is talking about the problems that these false notions cause for public policy, since (apparently) denials and clarifications reinforce the myths. He sees it as a paradox.

… the potential paradox in trying to fight bad information with good information.

Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.

Then he says just what Laura said:

Indeed, repetition seems to be a key culprit …

And, he quotes another psychologist:

Another recent study found that when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true …

Here’s more on this.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 03, 2010 04:51 PM | Send

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