Compartmentalized Thinking

Compartmentalized Thinking
Captain Jack

Extrapolating some on David’s earlier post regarding deficiencies in logic and reasoning, I’ll cover a specific shortfall in human thought.

To begin with, humans have a natural curiosity and a natural tendency to group our thoughts and learnings into compartments and to link these compartments together. In other words, once you learn that one stovetop hurts when it’s hot, you don’t have to learn the same for every other stovetop but rather can believe that everything in the compartment is the same.That’s compartments.

The next step is to link these compartments so since you know stovetops are hot and ovens are like stovetops, they just might be hot, too. That’s linking.

When a child learns too many things that can’t be reasonably linked, they learn to skip the linking part. As a simple example, a child may learn repeatedly that Jesus loves us and Jesus is Lord. He also learns, repeatedly, conflicting data, such as examples where God is hateful and destructive. [This isn’t about religion, so don’t get too excited.]

In order to believe the two conflicting compartments, the child learns not to try to link, or to give up easily on the task of linking. This condition makes it easier for the child to learn falsehoods and outright lies because there is no need to link and to reconcile the differences.

This is a mental deficency that is often a learned behavior.

This condition also arises when a child believes that he cannot question the authority figure that is lying to him or unknowingly misguiding him.

So you should be asking, “what does this mean to an adult?”

Let’s take a look at another example. Ask yourself, are you pro-life? [No, this isn’t a rant on abortion rights.]

If you said yes to this question, then it is most likely (statistically speaking) that you also endorse capital punishment. Capital punishment is not pro-life so why do you say you’re pro-life? Okay, maybe you’ll argue that I’m pro-life for everything except for that.

Is that really true? Are you pro-life? Do you think all American, better yet, all people should have free health care? If you’re pro-life, I’ll bet you are saying absolutely no to that question. Now we have three different compartments and you have no way to link them. How can you be pro-life and be against the majority of things that reflect a respect for life?

It’s natural for humans to interpret new data in the context of his understanding of the world around him. Things that don’t fit into this model of the world are rejected or forgotten. When there are too many things to reject, he finally stops and re-evaluates his model of the world.

If he has become an expert at not linking the categories then he can have any number of conflicting beliefs and never lose a night’s sleep.

Obviously this is not only bad for our hypothetical thinker, but for the world around him as well since he is constantly making decisions that are not only wrong but often dangerous.

If you find yourself wondering how to get out of this ditch, it’s easier than you might think. Just start trying to link your compartments. Start slowly and work from what you see to be true around you. For example, are you a kind person? Do you consistently make decisions that demonstrate that you are kind? When you catch yourself demonstrating otherwise, then stop and ask yourself if you’re really a kind person. Every day is full of opportunities to learn and grow.

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