Friday, July 01, 2016

The most annoying of all cognitive biases...

In the course of the past week I may have referred to people who voted LEAVE on at least one occasion as ‘ignorant and stupid’. While some undoubtedly are, many surely are not.

The real problem is that many of them belong to the group of people who at almost every stage of my adult life - academic, professional and social - have made me want to shuffle off into a corner and spontaneously combust.

This is that group of people who are unable to see the wood from the trees. (Though sometimes its the trees from the wood!)

For many this does seem to result from some innate cognitive bias.

Some of these people will however be considered otherwise smart and cultured in many of the contexts in which they operate.

The majority within the group as a whole may suffer the condition only occasionally, and then as result of some sort of situational stimulus or distorted perspective.

And this is essentially the problem with trusting a referendum to resolve really vital issues like our membership of the EU. The very nature of the format is sure to produce a sort of compound of limited, localised perspectives, not entirely unlike that of the famous fable of the blind men and the elephant.

Parliamentary democracy is not there to act as some sort of sinister system of control, constantly thwarting our democratic urges, it is there to help our society transcend our individual limitations, to be something more than the sum of our parts.

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