Sunday, November 26, 2017

'How to Think' by Alan Jacobs #NonFictionReview

This was a relatively quick read and introduced many interesting subjects that have to do with biases and how we perceive others who have beliefs different from our own. One of the main ideas that I took away from reading this book was the concept of "escalation of commitment."

Escalation of commitment is a psychological concept. When human beings - and all of us are prone to this - commit ourselves to something financially, philosophically, socially, or otherwise, then when we become faced with evidence that said thing is wrong/incorrect/a bad investment/bad for our health, etc., we do an irrational thing. We defend that thing even harder. 

The classic example of escalation of commitment is the gambler who keeps losing, but has already sunk so much money into the game, the gambler refuses to stop playing. A more contemporary example, hinted at but not explicitly stated in this book, is the behavior of those American voters who voted for Donald Trump for president. Now they see what a truly incompetent, unkind, and potentially dangerous person he is -- but they root for him even harder. They just can't psychologically bring themselves to cut their losses at this point. That's escalation of commitment. 

Perhaps an even more egregious (or just as egregious) contemporary example is the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama. Although many credible witnesses have brought forth testimony that Moore attempted to sexually assault, seduce, or at best sexually harass them when they were under the age of 18, Moore is nonetheless primed to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama. The voters who support him have escalated commitment to the point that they're willing to overlook these credible accusations. Worse, some of them are blaming the victims of these alleged incidents for their own roles in their "seduction." 

I have been thinking about Alabama a lot because Tit Elingtin and I watched a live performance of the stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird a few weeks ago. I wish all Americans could be periodically reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish we all understood that Tom Robinson is the good guy. 

Alabama, Judge Roy Moore is the Tom Ewell of your story. He doesn't deserve your vote. If he did those things he's credibly accused of, he deserves public shame and humiliation, and possibly criminal indictment. Alabamans, now is the time for you to be more like Atticus Finch and less like the people on Tom Robinson's jury. 

It's kind of a shame that the people who could most benefit from this kind of reflection on the thought process are not the ones most likely to read this book. However, ever single literate adult speaker of the English language could stand to benefit from this refresher course on thought bias and how to treat our fellow human beings with a little less contempt and a little more humanity. 

I received this book from for this review. My next Blogging for Books pick will be:

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey and Jack McGowan

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