When looking into alternative narratives around Covid-19 infections and in particular vaccination, I am struck by what I might call the ‘seeds of truth’ in many misunderstandings. For example, in my piece ‘Schrödinger’s Virus’ I noted how in ‘This Information Could Destroy the COVID Hoax Forever’, Alex Jones affirms that:
- Does not provide immunity
- Does not eliminate the virus
- Does not prevent death
- Does not guarantee you won’t get it’
The ‘truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’?
On the face of it, each one of these statements is true. So you could argue that it’s ‘the truth’, but certainly not ‘the whole truth’ and probably not even ‘nothing but the truth’. The modern world is increasingly complex and therefore nuanced. Some might argue that it doesn’t need to be that way and indeed I am sure there is material for a future post exploring how it may actually be essential for human survival that we find ways to simplify our ‘modern’ way of living.
But for those facing this complexity now, there can be a variety of reactions to it. Humans evolved with an acute sense of danger – in the Palaeolithic world of our ancestors, any individual that did not develop this did not survive and therefore did not reproduce. Such is evolution by natural selection. Trust is not a virtue and distrust is correspondingly a survival mechanism. Uncertainty is likewise an un-useful trait. If you’re not sure that the sound of movement off to your right is the wind or a hungry carnivore, you would be unwise to ponder the question for too long.
This is proposed as the evolutionary principle behind Daniel Kahneman’s theory of ‘System One’ (reflexive) and ‘System Two’ (reflective) thinking. System One and System Two have evolved in us for quite distinct reasons and therefore function very differently: our System One thinking is automatic, quick, emotional and reactive whereas System Two thinking is conscious, effortful, logical, and deliberate. Instant decisions and snap judgements were needed for survival, so very often we instantly engage System One thinking driven by instinct and past experience, and later, if ever, engage System Two which is slower, reflective and driven by deliberation and logic.
A world seen exclusively through a ‘System One’ lens is simple, binary, black-and-white. In such a binary world, decisions are easier to make because there are only ever two choices, black or white, good or bad, survival or non-survival. Using this two-dimensional lens, we can revisit Alex Jones’s assertion that a vaccination against Covid-19 does not provide immunity. Logically this becomes true in the event of any recipient of a vaccine becoming infected with Covid-19. This can happen, even with the best vaccines, in about 10% of cases. So in a binary universe, a vaccination against Covid-19 does not provide immunity. Case proven – in a binary universe.
Living in a universe in which System Two thinking dominates, however, has other implications. System Two thinking is described as ‘effortful’. It takes specific energy and focus to apply it, a deliberate move onwards from the System One thinking which controls our initial reactions. It’s an analogue, nuanced world of rainbows, which by its very nature teems with variety and possibilities. If System One evolved to help us to survive, it’s System Two which allows us to progress.
It takes effort to explore a System Two universe, but if we find in our explorations that reliable data indicates that vaccination leads to a 90% improvement in the possibility of survival, then we can give ourselves time to reflect, and, driven by deliberation and logic, come to a different, more nuanced decision than that which denizens of Alex Jones’s System One, binary universe might reach.
In all probability, System Two reflection would lead us to consider the question of the 3 R’s – the Risk Reward Ratio…
Hmm, interesting points. However in a world teeming with choice, my brain seems to want to simplify it [the world]. So according to System 1 and System 2 thinking, too much choice just fatigues my brain.
Then it prefers to go into a simple, binary thinking mode to avoid being overloaded.
And it also switches back to old habits and patterns of thinking as that takes less effort!
Good thing I write my blog so you don’t have to do all that hard work, then! (‘CBA’)
Keeping people fearful (not just over virii, but, well, anything really) will push people to System One thinking, which is the preferred type of thinking by governments worldwide. So in that sense they are working with the Alex Jones’s of the world. Just they have to balance that with solving the issues at the same time, which Jones and the media doesn’t need to do.
Here’s to the rainbow world.
Interestingly, marketeers have cottoned on to the System 1 and System 2 model and design their campaigns to appeal to System 1 thinking. And it’s only a short step from that to promoting a politician or a political view and thence a government policy. This might explain the tendency for government policy during the pandemic to be reduced to staccato three part combinations such as ‘Hands, Face, Space’, ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’ or the Japanese Governments list of things to avoid, the 3 C’s: ‘closed spaces, crowded places, close-contact’ (though I’m not sure how ‘3 Cs’ work in Japanese!). Doubtless the contribution of the behavioural scientists on the government advisory committees…