Well, this one will probably piss everyone off…Today’s Bunker Logic and Reason Lesson is a cognitive bias that might surprise you. Most people know SELF-CENTEREDism as perhaps an unattractive character trait that, at some level, we all exhibit. But did you know that it causes a cognitive bias that can lead all of us into numerous errors and is leading to the destruction of our culture?
This one might hit a bit close to home, so let’s get into it!
The term SELF-CENTERED is often used to describe people, and, like most descriptions focused on behavior, it can either be true or it can be not true. Often, calling someone ‘self-centered’ is a knee-jerk response to someone who (it is assumed) doesn’t exhibit sufficient ‘community spirit’ or groupthink. Self-Centric is not the same as EGO-CENTRIC or NARCISSISTIC. The term SELF-CENTRED, because it can be based on opinion and an ill-defined norm, often becomes a pejorative accusation without any real context.
However, the very real phenomena of SELF-CENTERED judgments and behavior can be a debilitating cognitive bias in ourselves that can lead us into great error. Let’s examine the term as it relates to a cognitive bias.
SELF-CENTERED: concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.; engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical.
Humans in their carnal nature tend to cast themselves as the CANON (or ‘measuring stick’) by which they measure the behavior and attitudes of others. Most people, if they are not careful and aware, believe themselves to be in the absolute moral and reasonable center of all behavior and judgments. Everything to either side of them is some form and level of extremism – or tending to it. We can see this most clearly in politics. Regardless of their political affiliations or categorizations, people tend to believe themselves to be square in the middle of the “reasonable center.” Though they may give lip service to the commonly used terms of “right” and “left” and even place themselves on that spectrum for the sake of communication, in their conscience and in their sub-conscious mind they believe that they are really perfectly centered in the area of REASONABLEness. Everything to the right of them is the reactionary – leading to totalitarian – right and everything to the left of them is the collectivist – leading to totalitarian – left, at least in the extreme, and they are (they believe) the perfectly reasonably centered ones. Most people believe themselves to be attached to political or social constructs that they believe are reasonable and “centered,” regardless of the reality or historical truth of the matter. They will also seek out arguments and apologetics that cast their opinions as reasonable and centered.
This same phenomenon applies to their relation to their hobbies, their affections, etc. If they like to collect thimbles… then everyone who is more into the hobby than them is too extreme, and everyone who just dabbles in the hobby (or is a newbie) is just not serious. Everyone who loves a thing more than them is unstable and everyone who loves it less than them is insufficiently committed. Social media “groups” engage in pack behavior based on the conglomeration of extreme self-ism, creating a corporate window of acceptable engagement and knowledge. Everything outside the window is considered too extreme.
In short, the critical bias here is that people tend to set themselves (even unconsciously) as the CANON – the measuring stick – and they measure all things by themselves.
How does this develop? Why is it widespread in humans? And why is it evidently growing worse through time?
We exist in the wombs of our mothers as the ONLY. We exist and nothing else does but our environment. Our body reacts totally selfishly and naturally to sustain itself from its surroundings. Everything exists – literally – to please the self. When we are born, we are absolutely self-focused. We don’t even see or know others. Our happiness is our only goal. We first meet this “other” by touch and feel and sound (our mother,) who is similarly 100% focused on our needs and happiness. Nature steps in here. The mother (ideally) becomes self-less, the child naturally is selfish. Another appears (perhaps the father?) who is similarly focused on the happiness of the child. The child is surrounded by the importance of self. Immersed in self. Eventually (back in the good old days) the job of the parents turns to curbing and addressing this self-centeredness. The process of growing to adulthood was to learn more outside of us and daily decrease our centeredness on self. Other things and other people do exist. The child was to be trained to esteem others above himself or herself and to place the “self” into a position under authority. Under the authority of the parents, the social order, the church, God, etc. If this training is successful, the child grows up into a balanced adult, ready to become selfless in service of their own spouse and children and to eventually train them up in the way they should go. If this training is unsuccessful… well… go shopping at Walmart and see.
Religion itself has broken down (and I won’t address it here, but you’ll find it discussed more on my Christian Ministry Facebook page,) and now is entirely self-focused. Ministries, churches, etc. are now supremely focused on winning the world to selfishness, me-ism, psychology, self-help, and self-improvement (God loves you because he finds in you that which is loveable and wants you to be happy.) Religious literature is now probably 95% or more focused on self-development and self-help (using paper-thin religious lexicon and imagery.)
Of course, as a result, the system has broken down completely. Affluence and commercialism now extend this selfish childhood period well into adulthood, and perhaps it is never abandoned. Most often it is never abandoned. Society is now focused on the lie – the building and enshrinement of selfishness. We are immersed in it. NOT the benevolent selfism that is necessary for a society to thrive and advance (seeking after personal moral goals and achievements in service to family and community,) but the selfish-ism of a complete disregard for the rights, freedoms, and “self” of others. This self-ism is the central them of the modern left and right. The woman meme-isphere is the most highly attuned at inflating self because it is the selflessness of the woman that was once the pillar and support of all of society. Taking down that pillar achieves many goals for the self-ocracy.
So, what we end up with is a system that rewards selfishness, and the cultural and social mechanisms of diminishing the self are demonized and attacked. Even criminalized. Radical egalitarianism, socialism, and the involvement of government in every facet of family life and living, the involvement of government in attempting to insert itself into every natural and even evolutionary mechanism of order, has left us with a world full of selfish selfs seeking self and self-service (even in the name of philanthropy and religion.) Our meme-mill culture is highly tuned to inflate the self. All day, every day.
How does this manifest? We are fed a vocabulary that teaches us how to use selfless terms in pursuing self-centeredness. 10% of our purchases will go to some form of philanthropy. Our tax situation rewards us for so-called selfless behavior that benefits the state and the self-ocracy. But we are born self-centered and every iota of the propaganda we read, from children’s books on into adulthood, reinforces this centeredness. We demand even that our laws are flexible, unhinged, bending to our needs. Rules, we think, should be changed when they run afoul of our own needs and desires. We judge behavior and others not based on an objective system that exists OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES but on our own opinions formed from a lifetime of self-centeredness. We even demand of our God that He is solely focused on us, that He changes His values and opinions to match ours. He is just like us, we declare, only perfect. He sees, but winks. We demand of Him injustice and will not serve Him otherwise.
How do we defeat this? First, we have to recognize it in ourselves. With purpose, we have to seek out a system of law and order that is not found only in ourselves and our opinions, but one that up to which our selves and our opinions are held and judged. The maxim that Justice should be blind means that it is not subject to the whims of selfs, regardless of who they are. And so it is with us. That is to say, either we are the measure by which the cloth is measured, or we are the cloth and are to be measured by a more perfect and objective measure that exists outside of us. Second, we must see ourselves as biased, incomplete, slant, corrupted, and liable to form the world and god to our own image. Only then can we see to submit ourselves to some higher measure than ourselves. Third, we must seek out opinions and ideas other than our own. Hear them fairly. Judge them based on some concrete, objective system. We don’t have to agree with those opinions, but if we know them and hear them we become more wisely able to see things clearly and not through our own codified and deified opinions.
I hope this helps!