Posts Tagged ‘closed minded’

The Open Mind

Some doors are set so that they may be used as an exit, but not as an entrance.  To say the gate is open doesn’t necessarily define how wide the opening is, or what can pass through it.  If a cat can barely squeeze by, the cow might have problems with it.

If a person claims to have an open mind, it doesn’t mean they are open to any and all proposals.  They will still be inclined to set some restrictions on what they will or won’t allow to be worth their consideration.  They will be likely to say they’ll be open to reasonable suggestions, but the caveat will always be what they consider to be reasonable.  And a lot of that will be determined by both what they think they have discovered, and also by what they have been taught to believe.  Yet, there is no axiom that would require either of those prerequisite beliefs to be true, or even based on any truths.

Once a position is adopted, and the person adopting it believes they are correct, those who would disagree with them will most likely be thought to be either flawed in their thinking, or unreasonable if not easily swayed.  Fact is, reason has little to do with it.  Reason considers probabilities and obstacles in a transition, whereas emotion defines the points of the beginning and end on a map.  Additionally, emotion is what is used to determine preferences.

This is often true, in fact, almost entirely with choices in fashion.  The self image desired while wearing a certain pair of shoes may have little to do with the benefits of, or the assistance the shoes will be with comfort, standing, walking or running.  And so it is with virtually everything a person chooses to buy, emotion will win out over reason almost all of the time, regardless of how analytical, practical, or logical they think they have been in making the decision.

So, while we may want to counter some unreasonable idea (ex: witchcraft) with logic, what we may be struggling with is the subjective emotion of fear:  Fear of being out of control; being wrong, being ridiculed instead of praised, or becoming despised by others who might strongly disagree with some new idea or decision that is in conflict with “the way things are done”.

If a person is not open to new ideas, trying to get them to consider them can often create tension.  And when made to feel tense, the fallback behavior you might expect from them may be predictable according to their personality, temperament, and social style based on what they feel is at risk by allowing some new proposition to be deemed valid.  Here are four general groups of styles, and how people in those subsets might respond (fallback behavior) to pressure to take on a precept that opposes something in their preexisting belief system:

1.) The assertive and emotionally controlled (DRIVER) may feel their authority, and thus their control is threatened, so they will likely dismiss you and become autocratic.  They may say something similar to:

“That is nonsense.  We don’t have time for that, and besides, I’ve already made my decision.”

2.) The unassertive and emotionally controlled (ANALYTIC) feels to be wrong is the greatest threat they ever feel.  They will likely avoid you, or at least avoid any deadline that adopts your proposition until they’ve had time to collect their own data to refute it.  Their data may not be accurate or true, but it will lean towards validating their own previously held opinion.  They may never confront you, but if you press them hard enough, they may be inclined to find an ally that will come to you and ask you to “lighten up”.

3.) The assertive and emotionally responsive (EXPRESSIVE) needs more than anything else not to lose their sense of worthiness that earns them applause.  They cannot stand having their ideas made to look ridiculous in front of their peers, or even total strangers, for that matter.  So, they may attack you, at least verbally.  I will not presume to spell out how they might respond as I did above for the driver, but you can presume it might be harsh with insults, rude language, and even fighting words.  You may not wish to hurt people’s feelings by acting that way, but while they rave on, your feelings are not a primary consideration as much as their need to feel like they are winning.  Even if you back off or give in to them, it does not mean their attack is over.  They might even come back with more rebuttal the next day or next week, and might want to fire a few volleys at you as the “opposition” whenever the subject comes up.

4.) The unassertive and emotionally responsive (AMIABLE) does not want you to dislike them, and is also concerned that some bad decision could cause others in their group to dislike, or even hate them.  If you press them too hard, they might appear to acquiesce if they cannot run away.  But they won’t.  The need to not be hated is likely to be too strong for them to dare risk that the “Emperor’s New Clothes” are invisible.  The other three won’t admit it easily either, but their reasons (motivation) are different.

While my overview using a tool of character analysis might be interesting, there are far deeper reasons other than my observations for why people think (or do not seem to think at all) as they do.  For those who wish a less superficial picture just based on reactions determined by style, there are many options available for reading things far more academic, and with much more detail given to specifics from a number of valid sources.

Lots of intelligent writings might help a person move beyond myth and superstition, along with disposing of all kinds of irrational presuppositions and prejudicial opinions.  I’ve run across three in particular that are absolutely brilliant books: One is by a physicist, one by a Neurologist, and one by a philosopher–all of these authors are vey highly respected in the scientific field and academic community.

Yet when I suspect a person might benefit from reading any of them, no matter how much I encourage it, I often find that they will not do so.  Further, they will become absolutely certain that it is a good idea to NOT read them, and become adamant about it if they dare peek at a few pages.  Usually after a short conversation I’ll find these people normally don’t read anything of substance, and are not inclined to ever do so.  When they do read, it will usually be some piece intending to reinforce their existing narrow opinions, and that is with rare exception.

Not surprisingly, when a person with an open mind does read them, they will easily see why a person with a closed mind will not get very far into them.  It’s almost like arguing the existence of Santa Claus with a four year old who has already been convinced Santa is real.  Adults are also guilty of that kind of a mindset. It is the same kind of fuzzy thinking held by certain aristocrats and clerics during the dark ages that once a person has been accused of witchcraft, they have to be found guilty and put to death.

Here are the three books I’d mentioned.  Once you have read them all, see how many other people you can find that have read even one of them all the way through.  You may not be surprised to find very few have, but if you’re like me and would want to live in a society where people are open to reason, you may be disappointed:

1.) “The Demon-Haunted World (Science As A Candle In The Dark)” ~ Carl Sagan, PhD;
2.) “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” ~ Robert A. Burton, M.D.,
2.) “Breaking The Spell” ~ Daniel C. Dennett, PhD


The three books listed above were not chosen to reinforce any opinion I already had, but were referred to me by people whose academic thinking I respect, when I posed some questions that called for deeper answers than a simple conversation would be likely to afford.