Reality Blind - Vol. 1

In many ways, an expert alien human-psychologist would predict exactly this phenomenon (perhaps he will). There are good neural explanations for being optimistic. Even if the pessimistic-seeming view may be the more accurate, the stress of incorporating any perceived negativity into one’s worldview releases a cascade of stress-activated hormones that can compromise a person’s health. In addition, maintaining stressful perceptions can lead to depression, which suppresses the normal functioning of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which in turn can lead to reduced physical activity, mood swings, and a number of other physical symptoms and diseases. Optimistic attitudes reduce secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits the immune system, as well as producing more helper T-cells. The placebo effect is a well-known, but little-understood, medical phenomenon that improves a patient’s physical response to treatment with no actual medication. In depressed patients, placebos increase well-being by an average of 30-50% 54 . Apparently, when we “think” positively that something is helping us medically - even if it’s a sugar pill - it “works.” This all adds up to a cognitive handicap when we attempt to deal with a physical reality that is not only complicated, but a bit scary. TaaL: It’s hard to overstate the penetrance of optimism bias on the human condition. Seriously, most humans don’t think their own deaths will negatively affect their social lives. Now go back and read that again. I realize it’s a bit of a human social taboo to use that as a n example, but there it is. Most humans think that dying is the ticket to an afterlife which is so custom designed to please the gene agenda of a tribal primate as to be quite a happy coincidence: a) outgroups can’t get in, and instead have dire things hap pen to them b) the individual’s status relative to the ingroup of a powerful alpha is increased, c) they re-establish bonds and alliances with dead conspecifics and d) their various likes and lusts are sated forever. If human minds weren’t modular, one mig ht expect most humans to summarily execute themselves to get there; but human minds can simultaneously fear death while looking forward to that big party, and they do. This being the case, it’s hardly surprising that any less basic or obvious disconnect from reality is given the same treatment. The problem is, the real universe doesn’t only deal with good news. As far as living beings are concerned, the universe can dole out absolutely TERRIBLE news, and frequently does. The rules of reality will also let perfectly nice living beings walk right into traps of their own making and


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