Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Acknowledgements
Introduction: Most Important Book
Basic Methods In This Book
The Three Exponential Changes
Basics: Determinants Of Behavior
Basics: Ethics
Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention
Rational-Ethical Child Rearing
Rational-Ethical Belief Management
Rational-Ethical Government
Rational-Ethical Religion
What The Reader Should Do
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography
 
"HOMO RATIONALIS" AND HUMANIANITY
 
HELPING TO PROMOTE OUR THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE
 

RATIONAL-ETHICAL BELIEF MANAGEMENT


Let belief management mean any behavior engaged in for the purpose (sought-for outcome) of optimizing belief.


Optimizing belief shall mean acquiring, strengthening, maintaining, and utilizing belief for the purpose of promoting the ultimate ethical principle. This ultimate ethical principle, for the purposes of this discussion, will be the rational-ethical one, namely, that we should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species, but also the good life for everyone, now and into the future. The good life will mean, for our purposes, as much joy, appreciation, and contentment as possible, and therefore as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible.


(We should note that the above definition of belief management automatically includes engaging in an effort to become better educated. However, there will be much more added to the concept.)


The reader should remember from reading the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior" that for our purposes "thinking" is considered a form of behavior, in that, to a certain extent, we have the ability to choose as to what we will think. We can purposefully think about certain things or stop thinking about certain things ("putting them out of our minds").


The reader should be aware that belief management is something that we already do in our daily lives to a great extent, so the concept will be recognized as it is described. But what will be added is a discussion of how "Homo rationalis" will practice belief management, compared to our ways, and thus a discussion of ways in which we can work toward more effective belief management. More specifically, even though we already engage in the behavior that we are calling "belief management," we do so in highly inconsistent, unskilled, and often ineffective ways, and sometimes even with disastrous results.


The reader should remember that a basic method of this book is to use words in agreed-upon ways, for the purpose of the book, so as to avoid confusion, communication breakdown, and the illusion of disagreement. My effort is going to be to continue to provide a comprehensive, simple, and adequately accurate model of mental functioning that will be extremely useful in dealing with our most difficult problems as a species. This model should be usable by everyone, and should be fairly consistent with the ways in which we talk about mental functioning already. Nevertheless, there will be some ways of using words that will seem perhaps somewhat unusual for some readers. However, I do believe that such readers will see the value of proceeding in this manner.


Let us review some of what has already been covered, primarily in the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior."


Belief is whatever it is in the nervous system of an animal that is a model of something in or about the world. That model may be highly accurate or to a greater or lesser degree inaccurate. The model may be "inactive" in the brain, as in all of those beliefs that the brain might have that are not having any effect on the animal currently, or the model may become "active" in the brain, because of the current "situation," and it generally becomes active in the form of certain "predictions." As it does so, it becomes a determinant of ongoing decision-making, and it also may (or may not) produce, strengthen, or inhibit one or more motivational states, further influencing ongoing decision-making, and also having an effect on the "quality of life," since motivational states can often be considered "pleasant" or "unpleasant." (By a "pleasant" motivational state I mean one that tends to promote behavior predicted to produce, sustain, or enhance it, and by "unpleasant" I mean one that tends to promote behavior predicted to avoid, reduce, or end it. The former is usually subjectively experienced as an enjoyed state of mind, or what we label "joy"; the latter, especially if intense, is usually subjectively experienced as "suffering.")


We humans, and on this planet only we humans so far as we know, have developed a way of, in turn, modeling these models (beliefs), by using symbols and the rules of syntax such as to produce propositions (usually sentences).


Our thinking and communicating is to a great extent with these propositions, and we have thus built a world of propositional models of our beliefs, such that we can share, clarify, and even change those beliefs. For instance, I can tell you what I believe, and by elaboration even cause you to "change your mind," or I can even "think things through" and "change my mind" myself. We can suddenly bring new beliefs into existence by virtue of our propositional behavior. If I ask someone where something is, and the person tells me, I immediately come to have the (new) belief as to where it is (unless I don't trust the person or unless the person's answer involves believing something that is contradictory to something else I believe fairly strongly). And the situation in which a belief is put into words often tends to activate and therefore strengthen that belief. ("If he hears it enough, he'll come to believe it." "If I say it to myself over and over, I'll come to believe it.") So this ability to use symbols and the rules of syntax enormously affects what we believe.


In fact, as we have come to use the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, we have been able to improve not only the consistency of our beliefs but also their accuracy, and in so doing, we have become more able to avoid mistakes and thus improve the quality of our lives. Thus, our ability to "put things into words," such that the rules of logic and rules of evidence may be applied, will be an important aspect of belief management .


Yet, we obviously have a long way to go in this direction, since we still make so many mistakes and therefore experience so much pain, suffering, disability and early death by virtue of our own decision-making and that of others.


Now I am about to give the reader a particular additional concept (model) that will be extremely useful in simplifying and understanding what is to follow. It will be a way of understanding the word, "belief," even more usefully.


We speculated, in the chapter on "Basic Methods: Determinants of Behavior," on what happens in the brain when we believe something or are predicting something. What follows is a simple elaboration, an oversimplified guess (model), which, however will allow us to conceptualize better.


We have noted that a particular belief can probably be conceptualized as a set, or network, of altered synaptic connections of neurons in the brain such that those neurons are more likely than chance to achieve transmission of their impulses across those synapses if activated by certain input that occurs by virtue of the current situation. (The current situation is what is happening at that point in time that may have some effect on the animal, and thus also includes the physical state of the animal's own brain.) To simplify further, the activation of a belief may be thought of (modeled) as the activation of a particular network of neurons in the brain, the belief being that particular network, whether activated or not. In other words, the belief may be thought of as a particular network of neurons, or synapses, that is prone to become active when it receives input from certain situations.


The network of altered synapses that represents a particular belief probably exists throughout a large part of the brain, and is intermingled with other networks, representing other beliefs, such that any particular area, or volume, of the brain can be said to be the partial location of many beliefs. (The firing of a particular neuron probably occurs related to many different beliefs, so that one neuron cannot be said to be associated with one belief.)


But what I am going to add, as a further simplification, for the purpose of making communication easier, is my use of the phrase, "part of the brain," to deliberately cause the reader to think of a visually observable volume of "gray matter," or brain substance, that presumably will be the location of a particular belief, such that another belief would presumably be located in a different, visually locatable volume of gray matter.


We are fairly certain, currently, that no such separation in space between beliefs, whatever beliefs are, is possible. (This inability actually to separate the locations of beliefs into visibly separate volumes is in addition to the inability to separate beliefs from one another because of the fact that any belief is a part of a "network" or "set" of beliefs that are interdependent, such as the fact that my belief that my car is in my garage is interdependent with my beliefs that I have a car and that I have a garage.) But it will be extremely helpful if the reader will think in this grossly oversimplified way, because of certain characteristics of beliefs that we will need to talk about. Again, the reader should imagine any particular belief to be in one part of the brain, different from the location of other beliefs, as if one could point to a part of the brain where the belief resided.


Now, if we imagine that a particular belief resides in a particular "part of the brain," we can recognize that another belief, that may be contradictory to it, would reside in a different "part of the brain." What this means is that one brain can have two beliefs in it that, if modeled with propositions, would be found to be contradictory to one another.


Now I wish to elaborate on this concept some, because there is a natural tendency to believe that if a person has a particular belief, that person cannot also have the opposite belief. In fact, however, there are many indications that persons can indeed have two different beliefs, that are contradictory to each other if expressed in words, that may indeed be activated in different situations, or perhaps even in the same situation. Thus, what I am saying is that each of our brains has all sorts of beliefs in it, some of which are contradictory to one another when expressed as propositions. It is only through some work that we develop a consistent set of beliefs that are more dominant in most situations.


To be sure, we also have many beliefs that are not contradicted by other beliefs that we have. Or, we might say that we have many beliefs that are so strong that beliefs opposite to them are relatively weak enough that we could say that, for practical purposes, we did not believe them. But what I am focusing on are those beliefs, in the same brain, that do indeed contradict each other (when expressed in propositions, or sentences).


Now, it should be obvious that when there are two opposite or contradictory beliefs in the same brain, it is quite possible for one of them to be more accurate than the other. So a person can have two contradictory beliefs, in two different parts of the brain, one of them being more accurate than the other.


Let us look at how this state of affairs is both understandable and apparent. When we observe the infant learning about its environment, we know that many of its initial ideas about (beliefs about) how the world is are going to be fairly inaccurate, and that the education of the child involves in part helping the child to obtain a more accurate view of (a more accurate set of beliefs about) the way the world really is. But the ways in which the child will learn the more accurate beliefs about the world will be by virtue of new situations, often involving verbal input, that will help the child to acquire the new beliefs. Following such input, there will then be the new belief and the old belief, "in different parts of the brain," generally related to or activated by different situations. And the child will then have to go through the process of strengthening the new belief and weakening or inhibiting the old belief, such that ultimately in all relevant situations the new, more accurate belief will be the one activated. And we can see that some situations will perhaps for a while activate both beliefs, until the inaccurate one is ultimately weakened to the point that it is no longer influential. An example, we shall see, might be that of the child gradually learning not to fear a certain kind of situation (that is, coming to believe that it really isn't something to be afraid of).


Many inaccurate beliefs are obtained by the process usually referred to as the development of superstition. A person will come to believe that two events are causally connected because they have happened together several times. The belief that is acquired is one that, when activated, results in the person predicting that, this time too, since one of the events has occurred, the other is likely to occur also. The infant will have many such beliefs, acquired due to coincidence. Not only that, we as a species certainly have a history of having many such beliefs that have been shown, especially through scientific study, to be inaccurate, often "superstitious."


It is only when beliefs are expressed as propositions (sentences) and subjected to the rules of logic that we are able to recognize contradiction. Prior to the development of symbols and the rules of syntax, and then the rules of logic, we, like all animals, are completely irrational, and can believe essentially anything. It is only through the process of the education that our species provides its members that we can increasingly approximate rationality, that is, establish our beliefs according to the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. And there is almost no belief, no matter how incorrect the majority of people would regard it, that has not existed in at least someone.


So what I am trying to convey to the reader is a somewhat unusual picture of the human mind, but one that is more accurate. The more usually held, inaccurate view is that any one individual has a mind in which a highly consistent, non-contradictory set of beliefs exist. I believe the reader will find the proposed, more unusual, picture consistent with common examples that I am about to provide, that is, the picture that we have many inaccurate beliefs, right along with and contradictory to the more accurate ones, and these inaccurate beliefs may indeed affect us in significant ways .


I wish now to give examples of this state of affairs, both from a clinical setting and also as a part of daily life.


First let's look at clinical examples.


The person who has an elevator phobia can tell us that he or she "knows" (believes) that elevators are very safe, according to statistics. But at the same time, the person has a very strong belief that getting on this specific elevator is indeed unsafe, at least for him or her. This other belief produces the strong motivational state of great fear (through the prediction that something bad is about to happen if he or she gets on this elevator), even though the prediction is quite vague and general.


A person with obsessive compulsive disorder may tell us that he or she "knows" (believes) that the compulsions, which are carried out to avert danger, do not make sense, in that he or she "knows" that there is no danger, but he or she still also strongly "feels" (believes) that there is indeed danger, such that he or she continues to carry out the compulsions to protect against it.


There are times when an individual who has had paranoid delusions is regaining insight. He or she may recognize that a set of ideas is inaccurate, but nevertheless be unable to talk about those delusional ideas without becoming convinced all over again of the accuracy of the delusions.


The same phenomenon can be seen when a person with a bipolar disorder is beginning to have another manic episode. He or she may say, "I'm getting manic again, because I'm beginning to have those same unrealistic thoughts (beliefs)," thoughts that before long, if the episode is not stopped, will carry much conviction (become very strong beliefs).


Currently, there is some debate and uncertainty as to the frequency of occurrence of "multiple personality disorder (or dissociative identity disorder)." But to the extent that this disorder exists, it does so by virtue of more than one extremely large set of beliefs existing in different parts of the same brain, but those sets to some extent being cut off from each other, such that there is a tendency for only one such set to be "in charge of" (to be activated during) the decision-making process. (In addition to genetic temperament and other such factors, the "personality" to a great extent consists, according to the terminology of this book, of the totality of a person's beliefs, which, in turn, are a major determinant of that person's motivational states and decision-making, and therefore of the behavior characteristic of that individual, that is, behavior consistent with his or her "character.") So it is as if two or more "personalities" exist "in different parts of the individual's brain," each one consisting of a unique set of beliefs.


The above five examples are ones drawn from clinical experience, but the same processes and phenomena occur in daily life.


The most usual statement from someone reflecting this situation is, "I know that it doesn't make sense, but that's the way I feel." "Knowing" that something doesn't make sense reflects the belief that it doesn't. The "feeling" is the result of the opposite belief. The opposite belief is usually vaguer, more general, and not as easily put into words, but it is belief nevertheless. It is manifesting itself as certain predictions, which in turn may be rather vague and general, such as a "dread" that something terrible will happen (or a "hunch" that something good will happen). Sometimes these vague beliefs, manifested by the feelings that they produce by becoming active as predictions, are referred to as "intuition." And of course such a belief may sometimes actually turn out to be more accurate than the one that the person considers himself or herself "actually" to believe, or "know."


In addition, most of us, I believe, will recognize the phenomenon in which we will seem to vacillate between two different ways of seeing things (two different sets of beliefs), leading to perhaps two different conclusions as to what we should do. A person might say something like, "I become convinced that I should do X, but then I start thinking that I shouldn't, and I keep changing my mind." This is usually happening when a person says, "I can't make up my mind." Obviously, such a situation is not one in which one set of beliefs disappears completely from the brain when replaced by the other, only to be formed all over again as the other set of beliefs disappear. What instead is happening is that first one set of beliefs is activated and then another is.


Another example is that of someone trying to deal with a painful reality, such as a terrible loss. He or she will say, "It just doesn't seem real to me. I know it happened, but I just can't bring myself to believe it." Knowing it happened means believing it did. In such a situation, one could probably consider both sets of beliefs to be active at the same time. There is no difficulty in conceptualizing this if one considers the two sets of beliefs to be in different parts of the brain, with both parts of the brain being active at the same time.


As we go along, we will recognize this same state of affairs occurring in many ways in our daily lives.


Now we can say that belief management must include strengthening certain parts of the brain (certain beliefs), and inhibiting other parts of the brain (certain other beliefs) such as to allow them to grow weak by undergoing "disuse atrophy." In order to understand such processes more effectively, I wish to give the reader one more important way of looking at these mental, or brain, processes.


Remember that the models in the brain tend to be hierarchical, in that lower level models pass information on to higher level models, and higher level models tend to influence (activate and inhibit) lower level models. This is the process whereby, for example, sensations are integrated into perceptions, which are recognized (or not) by higher and higher level models (models of "kinds" of situations) that then activate lower and lower level models of kinds of behavior that result ultimately in specific acts in specific situations. Now if we imagine these various models to be "in various parts of the brain," we can say that one part of the brain may "integrate" the input from other parts of the brain, and then "activate" (or "inhibit") still other parts of the brain to produce (or inhibit) behavior . Thus, there are hierarchies of parts of the brain, corresponding to hierarchies of beliefs and behavior.


Actually, we can even imagine that two or more different parts of the brain may at the same time be involved in different activated hierarchies. The reader may have made the observation that he or she can do several things at the same time, such as slipping a foot in a shoe, while buttoning a shirt or blouse, while talking with someone, while looking at the clock to see how late it is getting. In playing a musical instrument, one hand is doing one thing while the other is doing another (and maybe the feet are doing something else). Each of these separate activities involves activation of hierarchies of models in the brain. In our oversimplified terminology, different parts of the brain are doing different things at the same time.


But at least some of the time, these activities may have to be integrated or coordinated at an even higher level. So our simplified model would say that different parts of the brain were doing each of these separate things, and that one part of the brain was, at least sometimes, putting them together in a feasible or proper way. Thus, we can imagine the brain having several, or perhaps even many, different hierarchies of activation and inhibition occurring at the same time, even though the individual may be aware of only certain ones. And according to the model we are using in this book, these hierarchies are hierarchies of beliefs, that can at least theoretically be modeled with propositions.


(It is most likely true that we humans have a greater capacity for higher level hierarchies than is true for most other animals. We think that this is probably due primarily to our frontal lobes being more developed.)


Now without speculating to an excessive degree with a model that is already oversimplified, we can at least say, metaphorically, that one part of the brain can "monitor" other parts of the brain, and can "decide" what other parts of the brain should become active or should quiet down. A person's subjective experience that would correspond to something like this would be, for example, deciding to imagine something happening, or deciding to put something out of his or her mind (deciding to stop thinking about it). In other words, we can develop beliefs about what we should think about and what we should not think about, and engage or not engage in this behavior (thinking). I believe the reader will recognize this as a common experience.


The following are three examples of the operation of very high level hierarchies.


First, we can think about our thinking. For example, we can decide to observe what we start thinking about, and report it to someone, as in a free association test, and also report what we think about the thoughts that we had. We can to a certain extent develop a part of the brain that "watches" other parts of the brain and responds to what the other parts of the brain are doing. (The brain is truly a remarkable organ.)


Second, if one part of the brain activates another part that "contains" or "is responsible for" a model of something that has happened, this would be "purposefully" trying, successfully, to "remember something."


And, third, if part of the brain assembles various models of previously unrelated memories of experiences, it would be doing what we would call "creating something in imagination," or simply "imagining something."


In the above several paragraphs, I have used words that customarily refer to behaviors ("activities") of animals (especially humans), such as "watching," "observing," "imagining," "assembling," etc., but nevertheless attributing these "activities" to "parts of the brain," as if each of these parts of the brain were an animal (or person). Doing so is obviously an inaccuracy due to an extension of meanings or uses of words. This inaccuracy is the use of metaphor, designed to facilitate understanding, but it can produce confusion and uncertainty if taken too literally. We really are just talking about models (beliefs) of things about the world, including models of the animal's own behavior, which, when they become active, actually do produce that behavior. The reader is referred back to the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior" for a more detailed and precise discussion of the model of mental/brain functioning that I am using. But this way of speaking is being used because I am specifically talking about the hierarchical nature of these models, in which one model has an activating or inhibiting effect on others.


So, given all of this, can one part of the brain make another part of the brain, that represents a particular belief, become active, when it hasn't ever been active before? In other words, can we decide to believe something? Well, sort of. Let's look at examples.


A good example is watching, for instance, a movie or play, when we "get into" the action (if "believable") and respond emotionally to it as if it were happening in reality. We "know" that we are just watching a production, but we "feel" for the characters as if what was happening to them were indeed real. Our emotions (motivational states) are consistent with the belief that what we are seeing and hearing is really indeed happening and is not just a performance, but then we don't jump out of our seats and try to go help the character who is in danger. But also, to the contrary, we have some ability, if we wish, to remain detached (avoid experiencing feeling), essentially by not believing (being "objective" or "skeptical" about) what we are seeing. So we can, at a higher level, decide "how much" to believe something.


And a more obvious example is that of a good actor, who produces in himself or herself the beliefs of the character being portrayed, so that the emotion will be "genuine," thus engaging in "deep acting" rather than "surface acting." But while this is happening, there is another part of the actor's brain that is fully aware (believes) that there is an audience and that there are specific things to say and do according to the script. So the actor is indeed able, at a higher level, to decide to see the world differently (to have beliefs about the world that are different from those that he or she ordinarily has). To a limited extent, the actor decides to have the beliefs of his or her character, the activation of which beliefs produces the motivational states that the actor is portraying on the part of his or her character.


Another interesting phenomenon is that of hypnosis, in which beliefs can be induced by the hypnotist in the subject, for a limited period of time, generally because the subject allows the hypnotist to do so. By the same token, the subject can do this by himself or herself, through self-hypnosis. Thus, one can induce in oneself beliefs that one "knows," at a higher level, are inaccurate.


A more ordinary example would be the induction in oneself of a more comforting or pleasing belief about something, in order to derive that comfort or pleasure. This would be regarded as "using one's imagination," perhaps in order to have "a more positive outlook."


The important concept in the above examples is that one part of the brain can in a sense "supervise" other parts of the brain. Such "supervision" is the activation of a set of beliefs about other beliefs in the brain, such activation producing one or more motivational states that have as their sought for outcome the activation or inhibition of the other beliefs that it is supervising. In other words, I can develop in my brain, or mind, a set of beliefs about other beliefs that I have, and I can therefore influence these other beliefs, making them stronger through activating them or making them weaker through inhibiting them. And this is most of what is being referred to as "belief management."


Whether these various models that are being activated by higher level models are considered to be "beliefs" or not is more a matter of definition than of description. They represent the activity of certain parts of the brain, or certain models, that consist of "imagined situations" that include "predictions," which in turn may influence to some extent behavior (decision-making), both directly by channeling motivational states and indirectly through production of motivational states. It will be another part of the brain that will classify their activity as (believe their activity to be) "realistic predictions" or just "acts of imagination."


I believe that at times it might be helpful to use a word designed specifically for these phenomena, that alludes to the "belief-like" nature of them, while at the same time acknowledging that, "at a higher level," the brain considers them to be inaccurate. The term, "pseudobelief," seems to me to be the most appropriate word. The defining characteristic of a pseudobelief would be that another (supervisory) part of the brain would inhibit certain (but not necessarily all) decisions that would otherwise be fostered by the predictions produced by its activation.


For instance, my (pseudo-)belief that I will make my cancer go away by virtue of frequently imagining it doing so and "willing" it to do so would not necessarily interfere with my deciding to undergo treatments, even uncomfortable and painful, that had been shown often to be effective. And the actor who is engaging in "deep acting," would be maintaining as pseudobeliefs the beliefs of the character, while nevertheless making his or her decisions on the basis of accurate (supervisory) beliefs about the nature of the situation (it being a performance, requiring certain behavior, etc,). Only certain ones of the decisions promoted by the pseudobelief would be approved of by the higher level, supervisory beliefs of the actor. (For instance, the actor might, in response to the pseudobelief display his or her fear in various ways, but would not run off the stage as he or she would if he or she believed at the supervisory level that danger was indeed present.)


We sometimes refer to these phenomena by saying that the person is "not fully believing," or is "only partly believing." We might say that the supervisory part of the brain is a stronger belief than the part of the brain that is being activated by that supervisory part of the brain.


But there is also the fact that the supervisory part of the brain may itself be weak or strong, such that the person may not be "real sure" (may not believe strongly) as to whether some belief is "true" or not. Or the acting may be very "deep" or only somewhat deep, or perhaps fairly "surface." Or the person could conceivably "lose contact with reality," this phrase referring to an inaccurate belief becoming so strong as to surpass the influence of a higher level belief about its inaccuracy. ("My emotions became so strong that I actually began to believe that…," or "Because I wanted to do it so badly, I convinced myself, unfortunately, that it was okay to do it.")


The strength of a supervisory belief (regarding a pseudobelief) will depend on the same factors that the strength of any belief depends upon. The more frequently the supervisory belief is activated, the stronger it is likely to be. The more consistent the supervisory belief is with other, related beliefs, and the stronger those other beliefs are, the stronger it is likely to be. And there will be other factors, described below, that may be quite crucial.


Use of pseudobelief by a higher level supervisory ethical belief would be one example of belief management, and as such, might be done well, poorly, or even disastrously. And remember that optimizing belief management is what this chapter is about.


Now it is primarily because we can "put our beliefs (including pseudobeliefs) into words," that is, model them with propositions, that we can indeed activate and inhibit them more easily. We can, for instance, evaluate and change the propositional models of those beliefs (including pseudobeliefs) with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, and then, because of the strong, bi-directional influential relationship between beliefs and the propositional models of them, change the actual beliefs (or pseudobeliefs) themselves. For instance, we can come to a logical conclusion (as an outcome of verbal behavior, either internal thought or dialogue with others) that we should indeed believe something, or that we should engage in a particular pseudobelief, and therefore specifically activate the belief or pseudobelief at a lower level. So belief management, by a supervisory part of the brain, will most often consist partly of propositional behavior, in the form of thinking within oneself or in the form of communicating with others to obtain corrective feedback and additional ideas (beliefs, pseudobeliefs), as well as, of course, to obtain support for existing beliefs such as to strengthen them.


Now, we frequently create, activate, or inhibit belief and pseudobelief according to ethical principles. For instance, because we can state our beliefs in words, we can arrive at conclusions (new, supervisory beliefs) about what we should believe, in order to be consistent with our basic ethical philosophy, and such new beliefs, being ethical, may produce the motivational state that we are calling the ethical sense. Thus, these new beliefs about other beliefs could be called supervisory ethical beliefs, some examples of which are:

  • I should consider the possibility that I may be wrong.
  • I need to (should) practice what I am going to say.
  • I should not dwell on this too long.
  • I need to convince myself that what I am doing is right.
  • I need to convince myself that what I am doing is wrong.
  • I should try to imagine (predict) what may happen and be prepared.
  • I should try to imagine what it is like for the other person.
  • I should try to remember what happened.
  • I should try to believe that the outcome will be good.

In fact, we should notice that belief management in general is a behavior that is often motivated by an ethical belief, the ethical belief that I should indeed do it (because doing it, for instance, will help oneself and/or make the world a better place).


I will now clarify how belief management is used to overcome inaccurate beliefs that produce motivational states that are a form of suffering and a source of disability. As we shall see, we are talking about specific, methodical behavior such as that of a psychotherapist and his or her patient, as well as behavior that occurs in daily life.


Let us use the example of the elevator phobia. The task is essentially one of inhibiting or shutting down the belief that the elevator is dangerous and enhancing the belief that it is safe. There are, for our purposes, two beliefs in two parts of the brain. What is needed is to establish a third part of the brain that is supervisory. (This is often done with the aid of a psychotherapist, but may also be done through reading appropriate material. And to some extent it tends to occur naturally.) This third, supervisory, part of the brain must promote certain internal behavior, a certain kind of thinking. And it must become strong through repetition of its activation (essentially, practice or exercise).


First , it must evaluate the two beliefs to see which one is consistent with beliefs acquired through the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. In other words, the person needs specifically to look at whatever data is available to determine whether the elevator is indeed dangerous, or what the approximate probability is that getting on the elevator is likely to lead to a bad outcome. This is necessary because one would not want to overlook an actual danger.


Since there is a miniscule probability that catastrophe can indeed happen at most any time, one has to recognize (come to believe) that the normal and healthiest approach to that fact is to take whatever routine precautions have been found to be helpful and then to consider the danger to be zero. (Wearing seatbelts and obeying traffic rules, while assuming, or believing, that there will be no accident, is an example.) In the case of the elevator phobia, the rational conclusion, based upon the evidence (considering the enormous numbers of people riding elevators with almost no reports of bad things happening), is that the elevator is "safe," that is, that the danger is zero.


Second, upon arriving at this conclusion (belief), the next step, carried out by the supervisory part of the brain, is to "imagine" riding the elevator and feeling confident while doing so. One imagines getting on the elevator while actively inhibiting the belief that doing so is dangerous, and actually feeling good while thinking about (believing) how safe it is. Thus, one is to some extent producing the "situation" (in imagination) that has been activating the inaccurate belief, while inhibiting the inaccurate belief and activating the accurate belief, as evidenced by the absence of fear. This may take some work (time and effort), and might first involve imagining doing so "from a distance," such as imagining another person doing so, or imagining an elevator that goes up only one floor, etc., until one imagines riding one very high without the fear.


Third, when one has done this frequently, and one has been able successfully to inhibit the activation of the inaccurate belief while riding the elevator in imagination, one then starts riding the real elevator while continuing to inhibit the inaccurate belief, until the inaccurate belief becomes very weak and the accurate belief becomes relatively much stronger than it, such that the inhibition of the inaccurate belief becomes very easy and even automatic. Ultimately, the inaccurate belief atrophies some from disuse, in addition to being automatically inhibited by virtue of the inhibition having occurred so frequently (strength of inhibition increased by repetition). The end result is that the situation now activates the accurate belief rather than the fear-inducing inaccurate one.


Next, let us use the example of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. The same set of procedures is carried out. First, a supervisory part of the brain must be established that evaluates the safety of refraining from the compulsion, and this supervisory part of the brain must be strengthened through repetitive use. There is already the belief that there is danger in so refraining, but the evidence of the lack of such danger must be reviewed, and then a decision arrived at as to whether it is safe or not to refrain. (When beliefs about "germs" are involved, for example, scientific information should be acquired.) Second, in imagination, the individual practices refraining from the compulsive acts while retaining the belief that doing so is indeed not dangerous, until doing so no longer produces the fear. Third, practicing in imagination refraining will be followed ultimately by actually doing so, over and over, till the inaccurate belief is adequately weakened and inhibited, and replaced by the stronger, accurate one that the compulsion is not necessary and is even non-optimal, and therefore should not be engaged in. (And note that the supervisory part of the brain is an ethical belief, about what should or should not be done.)


The above basic procedure, and variations on it, would be the way to approach any symptom in which inaccurate belief is producing motivational states that involve suffering or disability, and thus an impairment of quality of life.


Less severe problems of this sort may possibly be dealt with on one's own, but more severe problems are usually best dealt with by virtue of help from a psychotherapist skilled in such treatment.


(And currently, because of lack of appropriate treatment resources, the strength and durability of the inaccurate beliefs due to the length of time the symptoms have persisted, and/or the intensity of the motivational states producing the suffering and/or disability, medication may be deemed necessary to reduce the intensity of the motivational states, even though there are some indications that the use of it may reduce the effectiveness of this "psychological" or "psychotherapeutic" approach, that is, this belief management.)


There is a specific problem of this sort that is unusually difficult to deal with, namely, the tendency to develop panic attacks. They are episodes of extreme fear.


One can conceptualize them in the following manner. Perhaps most higher animals have a mechanism for producing them, in response to suddenly having to run very fast to get away from a predator, or perhaps having to fight one desperately, and the mechanism thus has survival value. When the danger no longer exists, as when the predator stops chasing the animal, the mechanism turns off. For humans, we seldom need such a mechanism, but sometimes the "panic center" in the brain develops a "hair trigger," perhaps as a part of the development of depression. The problem is that these apparently "spontaneous" panic attacks occur without an obvious reason for them. In other words, the person observes no threatening predator. What therefore usually happens is that the individual develops some inaccurate beliefs about them that actually add to the fear, such as that what is happening is a heart attack, a stroke, impending death, or the losing of one's mind, along with beliefs about the dire results of others becoming aware that one is having one. So the chasing predator is replaced by all of these fear-inducing interpretations of (beliefs about) what is happening, such fear-inducing interpretations thus maintaining the panic over a longer than otherwise necessary period of time.


There is actually some uncertainty as to how "spontaneous" panic attacks might be. I have the belief, though the accuracy of it remains to be established and though it is not generally held, that the "spontaneous" panic attack is precipitated by the fear produced by a "thought" that the person has, namely, a prediction produced by the activation of a belief, and that it is the suddenness (the amplitude of the rate of increase) of the appearance of the fear that triggers the panic attack. (Sometimes panic attacks occur as the person emerges from sleep, this restoration of awareness and reactivation of worry producing a sudden increase in anxiety, or fear.) Then, as the person focuses on (thinks about) the feelings produced by the panic attack, the attention is taken away from the original thought (belief, becoming active and therefore producing a prediction), and in fact the original thought is inhibited by the fear it produced, so that the person loses the ability to recall what that thought was, especially also because the belief was so vague and general, and perhaps never yet had been put into words. So, if asked what thought seemed to have set off the panic attack, the person will be at a loss to describe it, producing the illusion that the panic attack occurred "spontaneously." Much effort may be required to identify precipitating thoughts, primarily after the fear of the panic attacks has been overcome, as described below.


Also, the awareness of a sudden increase in fear produces the fear-inducing belief that one is beginning to have a panic attack. Once there is the slightest indication that a panic attack may be starting, the person becomes intensely and fearfully focused on whether that is so or not. And this fear of the fear becomes a vicious circle that brings the attack to fruition.


And the repetition of the panic attacks strengthens the mechanism producing them, making it "easier" to have them, with even less stimulation by a fear-producing thought. Thus, the panic attacks appear to be more and more "spontaneous," and may be produced by increasingly less intense fear-inducing thoughts.


In fact, the person may come to have a fear of any sensations that resemble aspects of the panic attack, believing such phenomena to be the beginning of an attack, such as the experiences (increased awareness of heart beating, shortness of breath, etc.) felt when exercising, so that these non-panic phenomena can then start producing panic attacks.


And there is a natural tendency for the superstitious belief to occur that a panic attack is likely to occur in a particular kind of situation if one has done so in the past. This could be a reason for such a phenomenon as the above described elevator phobia. The person can come to avoid many situations because of this, and thus become quite disabled. And, as noted, the person can come to avoid even exercise, because of the belief (prediction) that doing so will bring on an attack.


The tendency toward panic attacks is usually treated primarily with medication that tends to block their occurrence. A purely psychotherapeutic approach would involve the same principles as given above. The more realistic belief that must replace the catastrophic interpretations of the phenomenon is that it is "just another darned panic attack," with a realistic understanding (set of beliefs) about what is happening. The individual essentially must learn not to fear the panic attacks. The supervisory part of the brain must bring about the more realistic beliefs about the nature of the panic attack, and then actively replace (inhibit) the unrealistic beliefs with the realistic ones. Usually a therapist is required to help build up this supervisory part of the brain.


With the loss of fear of the panic attacks, the next procedure would be the determination to re-enter situations (perhaps first in imagination) that had come to be ones in which the panic attack would be predicted, and therefore likely to occur, with the determination to have the panic attack if necessary and to allow it to subside while remaining in the situation. And, as noted, the situation may actually be the having of a particular anxiety-provoking thought, so that having and exploring the thought may be the necessary confrontation of the situation. Remaining in the situation while the panic attack no longer continues strengthens the belief that the panic attack is not inevitable in the situation, and the fear of the situation (or, for example, the fear of the thought) can lessen as the belief that the situation is safe increases.


(This whole procedure is difficult, especially without adequate intensity of the psychotherapy relationship, and medication simply to block the panic attacks is often preferred, even though the total set of outcomes may be less valuable.)


Although getting rid of panic attacks and their consequences (usually much avoidant behavior) often requires working with a psychotherapist (and, as we have noted, often medication), there are certainly individuals who have overcome the problem on their own, I believe by engaging in the above described "belief management."


Getting rid of addictive behaviors, including addiction to substances, involves the development of a strong supervisory part of the brain that is able to weigh the ethical beliefs associated with engaging in or not engaging in the behavior, based upon a thorough assessment of the probable outcomes of continuing the behavior. The ethical sense associated with the ethical belief that one should not engage in the behavior must be stronger than the motivational states (such as uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or the desire to have extreme pleasure if only for a short time) that motivate the behavior. The development of this supervisory part of the brain is often best facilitated by a therapist and/or a self-help support group. With time and practice, the inhibitory ability of the supervising part of the brain can become adequately strong, and with time and lack of engagement in the behavior, the motivational states promoting the behavior may weaken.


A well-known part of the problem of addictive behaviors, and other problems involving non-optimal decision-making, is the phenomenon usually referred to as "denial." This phenomenon consists of an individual seeming to be unable to draw the appropriate conclusion (belief) from the evidence, such that he or she does not believe that a problem of sufficient severity exists to warrant the effort of doing something about it. This inaccurate belief is maintained because of how it makes the individual feel (i.e., better) if he or she has begun painfully to recognize the bad consequences of the behavior. Again, the answer lies in the development of a supervisory part of the brain that has the strong ethical sense associated with the ethical belief that one should maintain accurate beliefs as opposed to beliefs that make one feel good or better, if those beliefs are different. Much more will be written about this later.


Another example of this same phenomenon has been referred to as the "depressive defense." If the effort to attain a particular goal involves engaging in behavior that produces predictions of significantly probable bad outcomes along the way, such that unpleasant motivational states are produced, the individual may develop the belief that the goal is not achievable, that the effort is "hopeless," and that therefore refraining from the effort is appropriate. The unpleasant motivational states thus are avoided, but are replaced by depressive affect (sadness), another unpleasant motivational state that indeed does promote inaction. ("It's hopeless, so why bother trying.")


Another very important example has to do with the phenomenon of "irrational guilt." Irrational guilt is widespread after bad events, especially tragedies, usually manifested (modeled) by statements that begin, "If only I had…." In my efforts to help individuals with this form of suffering, I use the following story.


A woman is preparing a meal for some guests and suddenly recognizes she is missing a crucial ingredient. She hurries to the convenience store, but arrives just as the storekeeper is closing. She bangs on the door and makes pleading gestures, and he shrugs and opens the door. She thanks him profusely and gets her item. While being checked out, a robber comes in, and in the course of the hold-up, shoots and kills the storekeeper.


I then ask whether the woman is guilty of his death, since it would not have occurred if she had not gotten him to reopen the store. A fair number of individuals will say yes, at least partly responsible. Others will say no. I then ask what the reason is for their answer, and the answers are usually quite inadequate.


The problem in thinking comes about because the woman's behavior is "in the causal chain." But if that were the criterion to use, then the woman should not have asked the guests over, nor should her parents have conceived her. The answer with regard to the appropriate criterion to use is whether the person making the decision could predict the (bad) outcome of the behavior. The robber was able to predict that pulling the trigger would result most likely in the storekeeper's death, but there was no behavior on the part of the woman that she could predict would do so.


The same process, that we are referring to as "belief management," must be used to overcome the irrational guilt. The individual must develop a supervisory part of the brain that evaluates accurately whether the person decided to engage in the behavior while having the prediction (belief) that doing so would bring about the bad event, and then must inhibit the inaccurate belief and replace it with the accurate one, over and over, each time the inaccurate, guilt-inducing belief begins to become active, until it is adequately weakened and automatically inhibited.


Another frequent problem is the existence of "low self esteem." The way in which it is usually manifested is in the strong, painful reactions that some individuals have to criticism and/or hostile behavior on the part of others. They may describe the feeling as almost unbearable, and therefore go to great lengths to avoid it, by seeking the reassurance from others that they are indeed being approved of.


The clearest way to understand this kind of situation is to imagine someone saying to two different individuals, "You have committed a terrible crime!" One individual feels very guilty and the other does not. What makes the difference? One of them believes it. So if someone behaves toward oneself as if one is a terrible person (implied by the hostility), and one does indeed believe that one is a terrible person, one will feel appropriately terrible. But many people indeed have this reaction to hostile behavior who would be considered good people by almost any common standard, so how can it be that such individuals believe that they are terrible persons? The answer is that they have been taught so, primarily as children.


The standard model of child rearing readily believes in formal and informal punishment for the making of mistakes, and children quite frequently make mistakes, so they receive fairly frequent punishments, if not formal ones then informal ones, sometimes quite subtle and sophisticated. So the child is taught over and over that he or she is deserving of anger and punishment. Now at the same time, the child also hopefully frequently receives approval from his or her parents or the surrounding social milieu, and this approval teaches the child that he or she is okay. So we can see that the brain of that child has two beliefs about the self, that he or she is terrible and that he or she is okay. Therefore, some situations (current approval) may activate the belief that one is okay (or even great), and other situations (disapproval or hostility) may activate the belief that one is terrible. And it is most likely that the belief that one is okay is more accurate than the belief that one is terrible.


So again, the procedure for dealing with this "low self esteem" problem is the establishment of a supervisory part of the brain that assesses clearly the evidence for both beliefs, comes to a conclusion (presumably that the individual is okay), and then specifically inhibits the activation of the inaccurate belief (detectable by the bad feeling) and activates the accurate belief in its place, over and over, until the inaccurate belief loses its strength through inhibition and disuse. The success of this procedure is based in part upon the strength of the supervisory belief, of course, and that in turn is accomplished through repetition, especially in situations that would ordinarily activate the inaccurate belief. The strength of the supervisory belief would also be increased with the help of a therapist, a self-help group or perhaps book, and/or an insightful friend.


There are times when individuals make mistakes, perhaps causing anger in others, such that the "low self esteem" is produced in response to that non-optimal behavior. The optimal response to becoming aware of having made a mistake is to undo any damage that one can and to learn from the mistake by understanding its causes as much as possible (identifying and correcting the inaccurate beliefs that were involved). There is no logical reason why punishment, by the self or by others, has to occur, and in the time of "Homo rationalis," when punishment is avoided in the child rearing process, and in the culture in general, individuals will find it far less painful to recognize having made a mistake.


Finally, I wish to discuss the complex phenomenon, "depression," meaning the psychiatric illness. At the time of my writing this book, not all aspects of this phenomenon are completely understood, and I will again oversimplify in order to give the reader a useful model to provide sufficient practical understanding. I believe that this oversimplified view is and will remain adequately consistent with the findings of science, and it will clarify what is involved in probably the most effective form of psychotherapy for the illness.


Depression is characterized by the having of various abnormalities of motivational states and beliefs. The individual usually has an increase in all negative feelings (anger, fear or anxiety, and sadness, and more complex feeling-thought phenomena such as guilt, shame, "hopelessness," and "low self esteem"). The individual also usually has a set of beliefs which when verbalized to others seem to be extreme (inaccurate), and which are prone to be painful (to produce the above unpleasant motivational states). There is an altered set of physiological processes such that various "physical" symptoms are produced and such that damage is likely to occur to parts of the brain or other parts of the body, including the immune system, resulting in the person being in danger of acquiring other medical problems.


Depression can be caused by a number of factors, but stress, or certain kinds of stress, are most frequent. (Certain illnesses and the use of certain substances are additional examples of causes.) What I will try to offer is a way of understanding the development of and the treatment of the usual kind of depression.


First, I wish to describe the processes involved in the phenomenon usually spoken of as "worry." This word usually refers to the repetitive "thinking" of certain painful "thoughts." These "thoughts," using the terminology of this book, would be the activation of certain existential beliefs (beliefs about the way the world is, was, or will be, or, about what is happening, has happened, or will happen). Actually, even if the belief is about what has happened in the past, its activation is essentially a prediction, namely that what is to happen in the future will be consistent with or a result of what has happened. An example would be that if one "realizes" (activates the belief) that a loved one has died, one is predicting that he or she will never see the person again, and that life will be altered in certain ways. And it is this prediction, and others like it, that produce the bad feeling, or motivational state, that accompanies the activation of the belief.


It is important to realize that the activation of a belief is not the same as the verbalizing of it (the modeling of it with propositions). In fact, one could verbalize a belief without actually activating it to any great extent. Thus, a person could describe to someone something bad that happened, but only when "fully realizing" it experience the emotion (motivational state) that goes with the belief. One frequently sees an individual telling someone something, at first not seeming to experience much emotion, but after a delay beginning to cry (or to manifest some other emotion), as the "full meaning" of what he or she is saying "hits home" or "becomes evident" to the individual.


Now a belief may be inactive, producing no current effect, or partially activated, or fully activated. In other words, activation is a matter of degree. Remember that, when we speak of a belief, we are talking about something like a network of neurons in the brain that may be completely inactive, weakly active, or strongly active. And most of our beliefs that are active at any given time are not really noticeable in consciousness. (Perhaps the more strongly a belief is activated, the more likely it is to be conscious, though other factors would be relevant, also.) Most of our behavior is automatized, being guided by beliefs that seldom are consciously noted. So we can imagine that there are beliefs that are only active to a mild extent, that might be producing a mild motivational state, but that are not active enough to be clearly experienced in the form of some specific memory, for example, or other kind of belief. Under these circumstances, the individual will most likely feel "a mild state of uneasiness" (if the prediction produces an unpleasant motivational state) or a "good feeling" (if the prediction produces a pleasant motivational state), but he or she might claim not to know what is producing the feeling. "Worry" usually refers to activation of belief that causes an unpleasant motivational state. So an individual might say, "I am feeling bad, but I don't know what about," or, "I am worried, but I don't know what I am worried about." But of course a person also may be quite conscious of exactly what the worry is about, meaning being fully aware of what the unpleasant predictions are.


Worry is usually a normal and necessary phenomenon. The unpleasant motivational states produced by the predictions tend to promote thinking (a form of behavior, as the term is used in this book) about possible responses that might produce a better outcome, which, if predicted, produces less unpleasant motivational states. So the bad feeling (motivational state) is like an alarm bell going off in the brain, indicating that action is needed. It may happen, then, as the individual "figures out" what to do, that he or she will develop active beliefs or predictions that are "reassuring" (reduce the unpleasant motivational state).


Worry is a call to action.


It should be noted that although the optimal response to worry may be to work on solving a problem, since it is an unpleasant state, it is not surprising to see individuals try simply to turn off the alarm bell. One way would be to suppress the activation of the beliefs, by refusing to worry, or putting the mind on something else (including providing oneself with an intense experience, such as that produced by eating), and another way would be to turn off the "alarm bell" by ingesting some substance, such as alcohol, or by going to sleep (or perhaps by the extreme of committing suicide). Obviously, according to our terminology, all of these responses represent, to a certain extent, belief management, and we can see that belief management can be and sometimes is non-optimal. For instance, the repeated use of alcohol to prevent worry tends to leave the individual poorly skilled in the use of productive worry leading to the solving of problems, and after a while the individual will lose the capacity to solve problems (which will therefore grow) and will be entirely focused on regulating feeling by the use of the alcohol.


Now although worry may be normal and necessary, when an individual has the illness depression, others almost always sense that the degree of the person's worry seems "excessive" and/or "inappropriate." The individual seems to "imagine (predict) the worst." This tendency is usually referred to as a "feeling of hopelessness" or a "feeling of helplessness." The individual may express these predictions in words, such as "I just know that (X is true or X is going to happen)," or may be aware primarily of the bad feeling and therefore able to say only, "I have this awful feeling of (dread, anger, sadness, guilt, etc)." Most often, the individual does indeed have some specific belief that is activated to a conscious extent over and over, and he or she may talk of little else, if the depression is severe. The most helpful way to understand this, I believe, is to regard the alarm bell as being unusually loud. In other words, whatever brain mechanisms are involved in the having of the particular feeling, or motivational state, are intensified or amplified. The alarm bell won't turn off, even if the individual has thought the situation through as much as possible and should be prepared to handle it. This is why it often does not help for others to try to reassure the individual.


So in the last paragraph, the situation was described in which bad feelings caused bad thoughts, that is, thoughts that were consistent with the bad feelings. In fact, when a person is worried, he or she usually tries to figure out what the worry is about (so that it can be worked on). He or she will try first this thought and then that thought until a thought produces a marked increase in the bad feeling, whereupon he or she will say, "That's what I am worried about."


But note that the production of that thought (further activation of that belief) produces an increase in the bad feeling. We have been talking about bad feelings producing bad thoughts, but bad thoughts also produce bad feelings. And indeed, a particular feeling can even be made to occur by purposely thinking a certain thought. We do this when we cooperatively "get into" a particular drama, with the pseudobelief that it really is happening, and therefore "get our money's worth" in the form of strong feeling. And to a certain extent, as noted above, by inhibiting the activation of certain beliefs, or the suppressing of certain thoughts, we can indeed make ourselves feel better.


So now we may ask what optimal belief management would look like in the case of depression. Obviously, the use of alcohol would not be optimal. But what would?


In the first place, as always, there needs to be a supervisory set of ethical beliefs (supervisory "part of the brain") that is accurate as to the optimal approach. In other words, the person should have a clear understanding of the basic method and have a strong intention (highly motivated, persistent decision) to carry out that method. Usually, at the current time, this part of the brain must be built up by input from a therapist skilled in such matters, or at least from reading or listening to the appropriate material. And the building up of this part of the brain requires effortful repetition, or exercise, just as does the development of any skill or new activity of the brain.


Now the basic situation is that the individual feels bad, and that those bad feelings, at least in part, are produced by certain beliefs becoming active in the brain. So the first thing that must be done is the identification of those beliefs. In particular, the belief must be verbalized (modeled with a proposition), because then the belief can be more effectively influenced.


Then, for each such belief a judgment must be made as to whether the belief is accurate or not.


If the belief is not accurate, the corresponding accurate belief must be identified. Then, when the person begins to feel the bad feeling, or an increase in it, the belief causing the feeling must be verbalized again and immediately inhibited, and be replaced by the more accurate belief. An example might be the person feeling "like a failure." When verbalized, the proposition might be, "I can't do anything right." The person would already have identified this as an obviously inaccurate belief, and would therefore say to himself or herself something like, "Stop it! That's ridiculous! Most of the things I do are right. And I can work on any imperfections, and shall."


Now if the belief that is causing the bad feeling is indeed accurate, then it is appropriate to do what some call "dealing with it." One must consider what appropriate action should be taken, if any, to minimize the presumably bad consequences of the predicted events. This means thinking about the issue in as constructive a manner as possible. But it is seldom true that prolonged thinking produces any better results than brief thinking, and since the belief produces unpleasant motivational states and possibly even negative effects on the brain and the rest of the body, the time devoted to the thinking should be limited in some way. The person can make the decision to spend, for instance, 15 minutes three times a day thinking about the problem, while inhibiting such thinking at other times. Often the most effective way of accomplishing much of this is to arrange to do it only while talking with someone for that purpose. The individual could be a friend, a therapist, or perhaps a person specifically knowledgeable about that kind of problem.


What appears to be true in depression is that the beliefs that are producing the bad feelings are usually mostly inaccurate ones, even though they seem accurate to the depressed individual when first examined. When the individual is no longer depressed, he or she can often look back on those beliefs and wonder why he or she had them. Many such beliefs represent "exaggerations." For instance, there is often the overestimation of the odds that particular situations will occur. So promoting the development of more accurate beliefs is an important part of the treatment of depression.


The main idea is that one is trying to limit the extent to which one's beliefs are producing bad feeling. Since we have seen that bad thoughts produce bad feelings, which in turn produce bad thoughts, then this vicious circle can be interfered with by inhibiting the bad thoughts.


Of course, we know that such belief management may be insufficient to reverse the depression, and that there are times when medication is needed to have a direct effect on the feeling itself. Some (inaccurate) depressive beliefs are so strong, perhaps because of how much they have been practiced and/or how much they are supported by many other beliefs (perhaps similarly quite inaccurate), that they cannot be inhibited with the amount of work that can reasonably be done, and that medication (or even electroconvulsive therapy) becomes very important in order to bring about rapid remission from the depression. It is important to bring about remission fairly rapidly, if possible, because the longer the brain "practices" this vicious circle, the harder it will be for the brain to stop doing it.


Depression is a very common illness, and causes much pain, suffering, disability, and early death. When belief management can clear up the depression, or cause it to clear up more quickly, then assisting the individual to engage in optimal belief management is an extremely important part of the treatment process.


The above has been my clarification as to how belief management is used to overcome inaccurate beliefs that produce motivational states that are a form of suffering and also that are a source of disability by virtue of producing non-optimal behavior (such as avoidance) and even physiological damage.


We can see that we already do engage in belief management to a certain extent in our daily living. But we also see that belief management can be non-optimal, producing mistakes and even tragedies. So we can ask the question as to what the great differences will be with regard to how "Homo rationalis" engages in belief management and how we do so. And it is here that we will have such great difficulty in understanding and accepting the possibility of changing to their ways of living. It is here that the differences between them and us will be so great that the use of the metaphoric reference to a new species will seem appropriate.


I believe there will be one major difference, something we have never seen before . To have an adequate understanding of this difference, and its magnitude, we will need to review and then expand certain concepts.


We have always done really wonderful things, really terrible things, and all in between. In this book, we are designating all non-optimal behavior as " mistakes."


In the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior," we developed a model that allows us to explain (in a general way) all behavior, and, more specifically, to explain the mistakes that we so frequently make.


Let us review that material:


All behavior is determined by motivational states channeled through beliefs becoming active as predictions in certain situations.

Motivational states can be modeled by propositions containing the words, "want to" (e.g., "I want to…")

      Motivational states are produced by:

            Certain physiological processes produced by situations inside and outside the body.

            Certain beliefs, becoming active as predictions in certain situations.

There are existential beliefs and ethical beliefs.

      Existential beliefs are beliefs about how the world is, was, or will be.

      Ethical beliefs are beliefs that can be modeled by propositions containing the word, "should" (e.g., "I should…").

      Ethical beliefs are about whether certain behaviors are consistent with the ultimate ethical principle.

            The ultimate ethical principle is arbitrary, and may be authoritarian (natural) or rational (emerging).

                  Authoritarian-Ethical - We should do what X wants, X being most powerful.

                  Rational-Ethical - We should do what will promote the survival of and good life for our species.

      Ethical beliefs, when they become active as predictions, produce the motivational state called the ethical sense.

Mistakes are by definition decisions to behave in ways not consistent with the ultimate ethical principle.

Mistakes are produced by:

      Inaccurate beliefs (beliefs that become activated by situations into predictions that are different than what is observed).

            "I thought I was doing the right thing, but I was mistaken about what would happen."

      Weakness of accurate beliefs, too weak to channel motivational states into decisions.

            "I was too uncertain about what would happen to take a chance."

      Weakness of the ethical sense relative to other motivational states.

            "I knew it was wrong, but I just didn't care."

      Unusually strong motivational states other than the ethical sense.

            "I knew it was wrong, but my feelings were so strong that I just couldn't resist doing it."


Now let us ask the question as to what the most comprehensive, basic, and important ways of preventing mistakes are. Let us therefore take a closer look at each of the above four causes of mistakes, asking what the ways would be of preventing or reversing each of those causes.


Inaccurate beliefs, that is, beliefs that become activated by situations into predictions that are different than what actually occurs.


We should note that an inaccurate belief may be either an existential belief or an ethical belief, and that either kind of inaccurate belief increases the likelihood of making a mistake, and thus of causing disappointment, discomfort, pain, suffering, disability, or early death, if not for the individual then for others.


It should become apparent that we should live a lifestyle that optimizes the chances of having accurate beliefs, including identifying incorrect beliefs and correcting them. How to do so is the most important topic in this chapter, and thus will be discussed in detail as the chapter proceeds.


Weakness of accurate beliefs, too weak to channel motivational states into decisions.


Notice that this cause is essentially the same as the first cause. Any belief can be characterized by how strongly it is believed. In the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior," we saw that the "model" in the brain that we consider to be a belief is probably something like a network of ("synaptic") connections between neurons, and that this network is strengthened by the repetition of its activation or action. We have also noted that a particular belief may become inhibited, in which case we might regard the strength of that belief as being "below zero." So probably the concept of the strength of a belief cannot be differentiated from the concept of whether one has the belief or not. Another way of saying this is that the attainment of a belief is the increase in strength of that belief above "zero." The bottom line is that, again, it is important to have accurate beliefs, as opposed to inaccurate ones that lead to mistakes, and it is helpful to have strong beliefs if they are indeed accurate . Again, how to accomplish having strong, accurate beliefs will be discussed in greater detail later, but obviously what is suggested is that repetition of activation of the (accurate) belief is one basic answer.


An important additional concept to recall and keep in mind is the fact that any one belief is dependent upon many other beliefs. In fact, any one belief is really a part of a vast "network" of related beliefs, and we can therefore readily see that the strength of a specific belief will probably depend upon the presence of and strength of many other related beliefs. This fact makes it clear that inaccurate beliefs may have widespread deleterious effects on behavior, because any inaccurate beliefs may weaken other related accurate beliefs and therefore may represent a significant hazard to the individual and to others who might be affected by that individual's behavior. This is a basic reason that "Homo rationalis" will regard the ethical belief that "we should seek to attain accuracy of belief" as one of the highest level ethical principles.


Weakness of the ethical sense relative to other motivational states.


The ethical sense is the complex motivational state that is associated with an ethical belief. But right away we should realize that implied in this idea is the assumption that the ethical belief is accurate, that is, that it is logically consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. For instance, suppose someone believed strongly that he or she should do something, only to find out later that the decision was a mistake. The strength of the inaccurate ethical belief simply added to the tendency to make the mistake. So we must recognize that accuracy of the ethical belief remains as a part of this idea.


But assuming that the ethical belief is indeed accurate, if the ethical sense associated with it is weak, it may be no match for other motivational states that may lead to mistakes. So let us ask why the ethical sense may be weak.


One possible reason for the weakness of the ethical sense would obviously be weakness of the ethical beliefs producing it. So once again we are continuing to talk about the importance of having strong, accurate beliefs, as opposed to inaccurate beliefs, strong or weak.


But we must also look at the possibility that a person "is very clear about" (has a strong belief about) what the right thing to do is (what he or she "should" do), and thus has a strong, accurate ethical belief, but still does not have much motivation to do it because whether it is the right thing to do or not does not concern him or her very much (does not produce a strong ethical sense). How does such a situation come about?


We may recall that the ethical sense, associated with ethical beliefs, comes about by virtue of our lifetime of feedback from others, especially during childhood, this feedback being our observations of others' reactions to what we do. Some of those reactions are pleasurable and some are painful (literally or figuratively). We come to believe (and therefore predict) what others' reactions will be to what we are contemplating doing, and thereby experience the positive or negative feeling associated with such predictions, such feelings being the ethical sense. (Eventually, such feelings occur without specific predictions of others' reactions, producing the phenomenon of "inner directedness," the ethical sense having become independent of the current approval of others.) So obviously the ethical sense, its strength and the beliefs that it is associated with, are dependent upon the history of our interactions with others, especially including our parenting figures during childhood, and also including others of those within our own culture.


We may also recall that initially this feedback is primarily through reward and punishment, consistent with the authoritarian-ethical principle (that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being most powerful). Currently, there is substantial variability among parents with regard to how much, as the children grow older, they teach their children ethical rules of conduct (somewhat generalized ethical beliefs) and ethical principles (even more generalized ethical beliefs), as well as the skill of ethical thinking (internal ethical dialogue).


At this point in our development as a species, many parents spend little time helping their children to learn, remember, and apply ethical rules of conduct and ethical principles, instead subjecting the child to a fairly continuous stream of instructions to do or stop doing specific things (often accompanied by informal reward and punishment). There may be much inconsistency in these instructions, some of the inconsistency having to do with the changing mood of the parent, and there may be much variability with regard to how much informal (or even formal) reward and/or punishment accompanies compliance with or deviations from such instructions. The child may indeed begin to learn (not in words) what to do and what to avoid doing, but part of what is learned is the situation in which the learning is applicable, namely, whether or not the parent is present, is in a particular mood, or is likely to "find out." Thus, there is little possibility for the child to acquire any comfortable and consistent set of ethical rules or principles. Instead, the child learns much more limited ethical beliefs as to "how to behave" when in the presence of the specific parent to whom these beliefs apply, and in the absence of that parent, there is relatively little left of ethical beliefs with their associated ethical sense. The general rule of conduct that may be most likely to be acquired under these circumstances is that it is okay to do something as long as one does not get caught ("One should not take a chance on getting caught"). (And this whole phenomenon is made even worse when the child is caught between two or more parenting individuals with different reactions to the child's behavior and a tendency to reward and punish the child according to whether the parent sees the child as aligning himself or herself with that parent by virtue of the behavior. For instance, one parent may informally reward a child for disobeying/displeasing the other parent.) So the strongest motivation (ethical sense) of the child may be to do that which will result in the child being perceived of as (or, being believed to be) obedient, rather than to do that which is consistent with certain rules of conduct and principles that are independent of the rewarding/punishing parent.


The above had to do primarily with punishment and reward, the two lowest levels of child rearing.


The third highest level of child rearing, teaching, is usually not carried out as optimally as it could be. Children are expected to listen and obey. They are not expected to think and debate. When a parent tells a child why the child is being punished, the child generally sees such explanations not as opportunities to question the parent, but as reasons to obey. The accompanying informal punishment (e.g., painful way of speaking to the child) converts the whole teaching experience, including the discussion of any rules of conduct or principles, into simply an experience of being punished. The unpleasantness of the process results in a tendency to avoid ethical dialogue, and therefore even ethical thinking. Indeed, the attitude of many adults currently is that ethics is an unpleasant albeit occasionally necessary limitation on pleasure. It is even one of those conversational topics that is somewhat hazardous in social situations. And because of the association of punishment with ethical teaching, and the tendency of such punishment to foster rebellion, both children and adults enjoy conversation, play, and even behavior in general that is seen as casting off the burden of ethics. This is part of the gratification that goes with the pleasure of seeing someone "get away with" something, especially if done so with skill (thus demonstrating greater power than the authority). Punishment promotes chronic anger, often manifested as rebellion, so the teaching of ethics to children while punishing them has the effect of inhibiting ethical thinking and of fostering a tendency to rebel, and thus defeating the very purpose of such teaching.


This negative attitude about ethical rules of conduct and principles is very common, and is therefore reinforced (rewarded) by groups of those who feel the same. The best example is the adolescent peer group, that reinforces with exhilaration the flaunting of resistance to the wishes of the parents and society in general. The ethical sense, in such a situation, is primarily experienced in response to the perceived beliefs and expectations of the peer group, rather than in response to some general principles and general rules of conduct that are relevant independent of the immediate peer group or subculture.


There are indeed relics of the teachings of general principles within the thinking of individuals, ethical propositions that are understood somehow to be valid, such as that one should not steal or lie, but these are often seen as irrelevant in specific situations, because they have almost never been the determining factor in decision-making and have therefore not been exercised such as to grow strong and produce a strong ethical sense.


Finally, the highest level of child rearing, modeling for identification, as it is currently carried out, seldom emphasizes the importance of figuring out what the right thing to do is, instead emphasizing the importance of the privileges of power, and the importance of getting to as powerful a position as possible. Thus, children wait for the day when they can be the ones to say what should be done and for the day when they no longer have to adhere to the wishes of others. "Freedom" and "wealth" (wealth being equivalent to power, or the ability to do as one wants) become the highest values (signs of success). Additionally, parents often do not model the need to adhere to doing the right thing, as they violate the very rules of conduct and principles that they advocate for in their teaching of their children. Thus, even though most children and adults can state some ethical rules of conduct and general ethical principles, the ethical sense is not strongly associated with such beliefs, but is much more associated with obedience to the wishes of the "most powerful," especially when the "most powerful" is present or is likely to find out. And the "most powerful" may be the parent, the influential or powerful individual (e.g., leader), the peer group, or the representatives or imagined deity of the subculture.


So we may say that a weak ethical sense may come from non-optimal child rearing behavior on the part of those in the parenting role (as promoted by cultural phenomena), and perhaps also from subsequent similar life experience. And currently, within my own culture, there has been significant breakdown of authoritarian ethics, with a loss of a belief that those that represent or stand for what is right indeed adhere to such principles themselves. One authority figure after another is found to be deficient in adhering to what is supposed to be the proper set of ethical standards, or beliefs, within the culture, leading perhaps to the belief that adherence to such principles is not important, and maybe even impossible. This weakness of the ethical sense is accompanied often by anomie (a sense of meaninglessness). Authoritarian ethics has never worked well to produce a good quality of life for all, and how well it has worked has varied with culture and fluctuated with time, this fluctuation having more to do with the effectiveness of external social coercion rather than the strength of the internal ethical sense. This fact lies behind the surprising amount of looting and other presumably bad behavior during a natural disaster.


(Certainly there are also other causes of weakness of the ethical sense, including ones that have to do with the biological makeup and limitations of the child, an extreme example being autism, and including ones that have to do with currently acquired brain dysfunction, such as apathy due to certain frontal lobe disorders and due to certain substances, including currently prescribed medications. But we certainly can agree that the vast majority of situations in which there is weakness of the ethical sense come about at least in part from the life experience of the individual within his or her culture.)


If the above is so, then we see how important the reactions of others to an individual's behavior are, especially the reactions of parents. And we may then ask what determines those reactions, that is, that behavior, and I believe the reader will agree that, using the model developed in this book, such reactions are greatly determined by the beliefs of the persons who are providing the feedback. Parents' responses to children are greatly determined by their own beliefs about "what is right and wrong" and also their beliefs about how parents should convey these beliefs to their children, that is, about what constitutes appropriate child rearing. So once again we get back to the importance of accuracy of belief, ethical and existential. And, as noted, the culture to a great extent determines those beliefs, the culture meaning in this case the collection of those beliefs that the majority of individuals referred to have, and that are therefore rewarded, taught, and modeled for identification by those around the individual.


There remains the question as to how an individual, after childhood, might strengthen his or her own ethical sense. Obviously one way might be to become a member of a group that specifically reinforced (rewarded) having the ethical sense, especially a group that did a lot of talking about the relevant ethical beliefs. The repeated reinforcement would lead to stronger predictions of such rewards in response to adherence to the ethical beliefs. To do so, however, the individual would need to believe (accurately) that this was something that he or she should indeed do, and he or she would need to have an accurate belief as to which such group would indeed serve this purpose, that is, would reinforce accurate ethical beliefs. Again, the solution to the problem to a great extent involves attaining accuracy of ethical and existential belief.


Unusually strong motivational states other than the ethical sense.


I think that the reader will agree that many very strong motivational states, usually referred to as feelings (because they are usually consciously experienced), occur in response to situations that are occurring, including the situation of finding out about certain things that have occurred. But also, it is the person's beliefs about those situations, leading to certain predictions, that primarily determine what motivational states will occur and also what their intensity will be. For instance, whether a situation is believed to be dangerous, and how dangerous it is believed to be, determine whether fear will be present and how intense that fear will be. The strength of a wish (motivational state) to see a movie will depend upon one's beliefs about the value of the movie. How strongly one wishes to get to know another person better depends to some extent on what one already believes that person to be like, based upon experience with the person so far and/or upon what one has heard about the person so far.


There are, of course, motivational states that reflect the physical status of the body, such as pain, hunger, thirst, itching, etc., that can be quite intense, but even these motivational states may vary in intensity depending upon the person's beliefs about the situation in which they arise. For instance, a person's tolerance of pain (lowered intensity of the motivational state) is affected by the person's beliefs about whether the pain is likely to increase in intensity, or to last much longer, or to be out of the person's control.


So if the problem is that a person has a motivational state that is motivating the person to do that which will turn out to be a mistake, and such motivation is stronger than the ethical sense, associated with an ethical belief (such as an ethical rule of conduct) that would motivate the person to do otherwise, a possible correction of the problem would be undertaking to reduce the intensity of the first motivational state. An example would be a person having very intense anger that was motivating hostile behavior, when the person believed that he or she should not engage in the hostile behavior, for reasons given in the chapter on "Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention." In that chapter, methods of thinking about the situation, referred to as "internal anger prevention," were discussed. These consisted of changing one's expectations of the other by the activation of more realistic (accurate) beliefs about the other's capabilities. There are other methods that individuals use to reduce the intensity of a feeling (motivational state), such as forcing oneself to stop thinking about the situation (including "counting to ten"). But of course these solutions depend upon the individual believing accurately that these are the appropriate things to do.


There are also substances, prescribed or not, that can alter the intensity of motivational states, and there is therefore the possibility of using such a substance to reduce the intensity of the motivational state that we are talking about. However, whether this is a good idea or not depends upon what the total set of effects of such a substance will be on the individual. For instance, sometimes such a substance may have the opposite effect by reducing the ethical sense more than the other motivational state, resulting in "disinhibition," and therefore an increased likelihood of the mistaken behavior occurring. Also, the use of such a substance will usually have more widespread effects on the life of the individual, effects that may indeed be optimal, but also may perhaps be non-optimal, and even sometimes quite bad. For example, one of the most frequently used classes of medication to reduce the intensity of feeling is that of the antidepressants, especially now the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors. They are fairly effective at reversing the symptoms of the presumed brain disorder (for instance, depression or panic disorder), but they also have a non-specific effect of reducing most motivation in general. Not only do they reduce the intensity of the sexual drive, but they also can, especially with high doses, produce a generalized apathy, such that the person loses the ability to care about things that previously were important to the person and contributed to that person making the world a better place. In general, therefore, the successful use of substances to reduce the intensity of motivational states that would be prone to cause mistakes is highly dependent upon accurate belief about what the total effects of doing so will be, and about what the optimal kind and amount of the substance should be.


It should be evident from the above review of the four causes of mistakes that the most important, underlying cause of mistakes is INACCURATE BELIEF, and the most important way of avoiding, minimizing, and correcting mistakes, and therefore the most important way of optimizing decision-making and therefore quality of life, is through the PROMOTION OF ACCURACY OF BELIEF.


It is for this reason, that is, because of the above relationship between accuracy of belief and quality of life, that "Homo rationalis" will believe that achieving accuracy of belief is the most effective way of promoting the survival of and the good life for our species, meaning all of us, now and in the future (their ultimate ethical principle). They will believe, therefore, that any way in which we live that reduces the likelihood of accuracy of belief will be against their ultimate ethical principle, and therefore, by definition, should probably not be engaged in. And it is precisely this resulting ethical principle, that we should avoid doing anything that will reduce the accuracy of belief, that will make them look at us as if we were almost a different species, because we have no such ethical value, at least to any effective extent. As we shall see, we, by virtue of our basic animal nature, have always freely engaged in activity that reduces the likelihood of attaining accuracy of belief, and we have always coerced ourselves, through our cultures, to engage in such activities.


So what does promote accuracy of belief, and in what ways do we do otherwise?


The point of all of this is that our modeling of our beliefs with propositions, such that we can check them for consistency (with the rules of logic), and such that we can check them for accuracy (with the rules of evidence), has produced an enormous capability of developing new beliefs and changing existing beliefs, not by virtue of our own personal experience, but by virtue of our ability to evaluate those beliefs by looking at the propositional models of them and by virtue of sharing and comparing the models of them with other humans. I can have an enormous number of beliefs that have been acquired in no other way than by listening to the propositional behavior (communication) of another human. I can believe what I am told. (Or I can refrain from believing what I am told because it is logically inconsistent with a large number of other beliefs that I have.)


Belief does not just appear spontaneously. There has to be some reason for the belief to develop in a given brain. In general, there must be some new input into the brain to bring about change in "belief structure" (the "network" of related beliefs). Thus, optimization of accuracy of belief will have to be by virtue of optimizing input into the brain. We must optimize our experience such as to accomplish the goal of attaining increasing accuracy of belief.


Obviously, formal education of our species is extremely important (despite the fact that there are many examples of the fact that we do not really value formal education, and even have a history of denying it to certain groups). But the beliefs that are relevant to us in our daily living are to a great extent different from the beliefs that are usually taught in the school system. Only a very basic way of approaching the acquisition of accurate beliefs can be accomplished in the school system (and we do a rather poor job of this currently).


So how can we optimize our lifestyles such that we maximize our chances of acquiring increasingly accurate beliefs, or of correcting inaccurate ones?


The most obvious situation in which there is the possibility of identifying and correcting inaccurate belief is the situation in which two or more individuals become aware of having a difference in belief. If the two beliefs are opposite, then, according to the rules of logic, at least one of them (if not both) must be inaccurate. The emergence of the awareness of an apparent difference of opinion (belief) signals the opportunity for identifying and correcting inaccurate belief.


(Of course the apparent difference in belief may instead be an illusion produced by a difference in the use of words, etc.)


So it is to a great extent by the comparison of beliefs that we develop greater understanding (accuracy of belief). And we must have a way of going about the comparison of beliefs that really works, that is, that results in this increasing accuracy. We have seen that what has allowed us to develop beliefs about, or models of, the world that are, for the first time, extremely accurate has been the development of the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. Therefore, the specific approach to difference of belief that is most likely to result in increasing accuracy of belief is the comparison of the beliefs to see what the specific differences are and to evaluate those differences according to the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. (This process is most often that of clarifying whether the beliefs are logically consistent with other beliefs that have become considered accurate by virtue of the rules of logic and the rules of evidence.)


However, to a very great extent, we specifically avoid engaging in comparison of beliefs in any effective manner. Discovery of difference in belief results often in behavior just the opposite from that which would promote increasing accuracy of belief.


Examples of what we often do in response to difference in belief are:

  • Refuse to listen to others who believe differently
  • Refuse to read material written by others who believe differently
  • Misrepresent (e.g., by exaggeration) the beliefs of those who believe differently
  • Distract (e.g., by jokes and personal attacks) those who believe differently
  • Confuse (e.g., by alternative, sometimes atypical, uses of words) those who believe differently
  • Interrupt and shout down those who believe differently
  • Speak or behave in a hostile manner to those who believe differently
  • Threaten with punishment or revenge those who believe differently
  • Avoid those who believe differently
  • Turn others against those who believe differently
  • Fight (physically, emotionally, or militarily) those who believe differently
  • Kill (sometimes with torture) those who believe differently

And the extent to which we freely engage in such lifestyle tendencies is obscured by the fact that WE COOPERATE WITH EACH OTHER TO MINIMIZE THE AWARENESS OF DIFFERENCE OF BELIEF. The extent to which we avoid saying what we really believe, in our personal relationships and in our social, occupational, and other public settings, because of a reluctance to bring about the consequences of doing so, is ENORMOUS. But it is so much a part of our way of life that it goes relatively unnoticed. We have developed, within my culture at least, an agreement that difference of belief will be overlooked and disregarded, stated sometimes as, "What is true for you may not be true for me, so let us just agree to disagree and move on." And stating that one has a different opinion sometimes is even considered a breach of etiquette, certainly not an opportunity for expansion of thought and correction of inaccurate belief through extended discussion.


On the other hand, we do actually see some examples of comparison of ideas, both in our personal lives and in the media. We actually designate times, places, and situations in which the expressing of difference of opinion is allowed and expected.


However, such activity is seldom carried out in depth such that a sense of accomplishment is obtained. For instance, one seldom sees a resulting change of belief. This is usually true because in such discussions the individuals primarily make assertions, often changing the subject with each assertion, rather than asking each other questions to find the precise differences in belief so that those differences can be evaluated in the light of the current accumulation of evidence.


Nevertheless, the increasing tendency for this sharing and comparing of ideas is an example, I believe, of the beginning acceleration of the third exponential change. There are now parts of the world where people are at least not imprisoned and/or killed because of their basic beliefs, even though they may differ from the basic beliefs of the majority or of those "in power," and even though they voice them aloud, and even in the media. And such "freedom of expression" appears to be growing some. And it is growing only because we have been increasingly requiring ourselves to live according to certain ethical principles that allow for it, these principles guiding us to do something different than our basic animal nature has always had us do.


Now why is it natural for us, as part of our basic animal nature, to engage in activities that reduce the likelihood of attaining accuracy of belief? There is one, basic answer to this question. We have, and have always had, as a part of our basic animal nature, a second criterion for legitimization of belief.


Let us first look at the first criterion for legitimization of belief. We have talked about the criterion for legitimization of existential belief being how accurately it allows us to predict. Such a belief is a set of potential consistent predictions, and the belief is accurate only insofar as those predictions turn out to be accurate or would turn out to be accurate if the relevant situations occurred. Ethical beliefs are no different. They are sets of potential consistent predictions as to whether the outcomes of behaviors would be consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. So accuracy of belief means accuracy of all the predictions that could be produced by that belief, given all possible situations that could occur. And the way of determining such accuracy is to arrange for some of those situations to occur, or to observe them closely when they do, and to see what happens, that is, to see whether the relevant predictions turn out to be the same as what actually happens. (The ultimate elaboration of this procedure is that of the "scientific method," of course.)


This first criterion actually exists as a part of our basic animal nature. It is no different from our basic ability to learn. If we did not develop fairly accurate models of the way the world actually is, then our decision-making would result in so many mistakes we would not be able to survive. If our beliefs about the terrain were inaccurate, we would keep falling down. If our beliefs about what was edible were inaccurate, we would die of poisoning. If our beliefs about how others react were inaccurate, we would die of loneliness or murder. If our beliefs about our checking account were inaccurate, we would bounce checks. If our beliefs about our medicines were inaccurate, we would get sicker and perhaps die. If our beliefs about our economy were inaccurate, we would perhaps have economic disaster. If our beliefs about relativity were inaccurate, we would lose our astronauts. Our very existence depends upon accuracy of belief, as is true for every other animal about which we could say that it makes decisions.


Let us now, however, look at the second criterion for legitimization of belief. This criterion is how having that belief makes one feel.


If we remember that a belief is manifested in certain situations by specific predictions that may produce motivational states that promote or inhibit the activity of certain networks of synaptic connections, then we can see that the promotion or inhibition of the predictions themselves, and therefore of the belief, may become a part of this basic process. In other words, there are tendencies to avoid believing those things that result in predictions that produce aversive ("unpleasant") motivational states, and tendencies to believe more strongly those things that result in predictions that produce rewarding ("pleasant") motivational states. Belief may be promoted or inhibited by the motivational states that the belief produces by virtue of the predictions that result from that belief. For us humans, with our language, we are prone to say that we tend to believe that which makes us feel good and to disbelieve that which makes us feel bad. We also say that we tend to believe what we want to believe. This tendency is also part of our basic animal nature.


It should be noted that this tendency to use this second criterion for legitimization of belief is thoroughly recognized by us all, and is both valued and decried, because it has both good effects and bad effects.


The good effects primarily have to do with increased comfort and good feeling, and a reduction in the negative effects on the brain and body in general of aversive motivational states (usually anger, fear, or sadness). Examples of statements that reflect this awareness are:

  • "You have to think positively."
  • "You have to have hope."
  • "You have to have faith."
  • "Put out a positive intention (that good will happen)."
  • "Don't worry."
  • "Look on the bright side."

The bad effects primarily have to do with the tendency to produce mistakes, decisions that are regretted. Examples of statements that reflect this awareness are:

  • "He has his head in the sand."
  • "He is in denial."
  • "He just believes what he wants to believe."
  • "He has a closed mind."
  • "He has been carried away."
  • "You can't reason with him."
  • "He has blinders on."

Please note that there is no problem in having an accurate belief that makes one feel good. The problem occurs when one has an INACCURATE belief that makes one feel GOOD. The belief is maintained because it makes one feel good, but the likelihood of making a mistake, even a tragic one, is increased because of having that inaccurate belief.


I wish to have two simple words to refer to these two criteria for legitimizing belief. I will use the word, "accuracy," to refer to the criterion that is whether the belief allows one to predict accurately, or is consistent with other beliefs that allow one to predict accurately. I will use the word, "comfort," to refer to the criterion that is whether the belief causes the believer to feel good, or at least better.


(Please note that my use of the word, "comfort," includes reference to good feelings, even ecstatic ones, as well as the absence of or relative improvement of bad feelings.)


(And also please note that although we simplify things by talking about a belief as being "accurate" or "inaccurate," we really are referring to a property that is usually a matter of degree, such that a belief may be considered somewhat accurate, or more accurate than another belief but less accurate than a third one.)


It should be noted that there is evidence that sometimes believing that which produces comfort, even if inaccurate, actually improves the health of individuals, including the outcomes of medical treatments. So it is likely that some comfortable but inaccurate beliefs have primarily a beneficial effect, whereas other comfortable, inaccurate beliefs lead to pain, suffering, disability, and early death, on the part of self and/or others.


I believe, however, that the vast majority of examples of pain, suffering, disability, and early death are indeed at least in part caused by inaccurate beliefs (leading to mistakes). And then if we look closely at most of the examples of inaccurate belief that have caused us such harm, I believe that we will find that the inaccurate belief was maintained in part or even primarily because of comfort.


Let us also recognize the breadth of the concept of maintenance of belief because of comfort. It is obvious that we may have a tendency to believe certain things because of the comfort that is produced by virtue of certain circumstances of our own personal lives, having little or nothing to do with others around us. But there is another extremely important kind of comfort produced by certain beliefs, often referred to as the need for conformity. In other words, because of the beliefs of the group, subculture, or culture to which one belongs, and because of the value placed on those beliefs by the others, the individual may feel the necessity to believe certain things as an act of obedience to the others. In fact, there have been, and still are, situations in which to believe otherwise than others do subjects one to the fear of losing one's close relationships, social standing, livelihood, and even life. There has indeed been enormous loss of life due to deviation of belief. And the reaction of the others to one who believes differently is often in part brought about by the discomfort produced in the others by that individual's questioning of their beliefs. The belief that an individual should be shunned or killed then may be maintained because of the comfort it provides. So we should not underestimate the degree to which comfort has indeed been used as a criterion of legitimization of belief.


The reader should note that there is indeed a very basic dilemma that actually represents our most serious problem of all. Having comfortable, inaccurate beliefs does much good AND does much harm.


Is it okay to believe something just because it makes one feel good, or better? Is it the right thing to do to use that criterion, of comfort, to legitimate a belief?


If the belief is accurate, there is no problem. If I indeed do not have cancer, my comforting belief that I don't have cancer is not a problem.


If the belief is inaccurate, there is the potential of making decisions based upon it that will turn out to be mistakes. If I do have cancer, my belief that I don't, despite resulting in relief, may lead to mistakes that could cost me my life.


But which is worse, the bad from the mistakes made based upon predictions that would be produced by the inaccurate belief or the bad from the loss of the good effects from the comfort produced by the inaccurate belief? Would the pain, suffering, disability, and/or early death produced by mistakes resulting from the comforting, inaccurate belief be less than the pain, suffering, disability, and/or early death resulting from failing to maintain that belief?


But how would one arrive at such a conclusion?


An assessment would have to made (a belief would have to be arrived at) as to what the negative effects would be of acting according to the inaccurate belief. But in order to make that assessment, one would have to have an accurate belief about the outcomes of acting according to the potential predictions that constituted the meaning of that belief.


Let us consider a particular belief that satisfies the criterion of accuracy. We will call it Belief A, for accuracy. It will be modeled (put into words) by us using "Proposition A."


And let us consider a particular belief that satisfies the criterion of comfort. We will call it Belief C, for comfort. It will be modeled (put into words) by us using "Proposition C."


And let us assume that Propositions A and C are contradictory. We could say, for instance, that C was a belief that A was not true. For instance, I believe that what the doctors have told me (namely, that I have cancer) is wrong. (Proposition A is underlined, and Proposition C is italicized.)


Would we be able to say that we should always believe Proposition C? This would be saying that we should always believe what makes us feel good. But we have seen many examples of the horrible consequences of inaccurate beliefs, maintained because of comfort. (For example, many years ago, it made the newspaper when a person, under the influence of a drug, believed, I assume with exhilaration, that she could fly and consequently lost her life when she jumped out of a window.) So I believe that we would agree that this possibility is ruled out. It is often true that it is important for us to believe some things that make us feel bad. (In fact, as we have already noted, the bad feeling may be an important motivational state that calls us to appropriate action to avert an even worse state of affairs.)


Would we be able to say that we should always believe Proposition A? We are questioning this, because we know that sometimes believing C does a lot of good. So let us table this possibility.


Would we be able to say that we should sometimes believe Proposition A and sometimes believe Proposition C? This would be acceptable if and only if we always tried to choose the belief according to what would give the best set of outcomes, or produce the least mistakes. And the reader should remember that, for the purposes of our discussion, a mistake would be a decision that led to outcomes, or that would lead to outcomes, that were not consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. So we should maintain those beliefs the maintenance of which will foster the survival of our species and the good life for all of us, now and in the future.


The problem becomes especially complex because of the probabilistic nature of the world. We might have an inaccurate belief that (if we only knew it) would never be activated by a situation into a prediction that would lead to a mistake. Or at least we might have an inaccurate belief that seemed very unlikely to produce such a prediction, perhaps because of the low probability that the situation would ever occur in which such a belief would be relevant and therefore would be activated into a prediction such as to influence a decision.


So if we compared the low probability of a mistake occurring by activation of the inaccurate belief with the high probability, perhaps, that the inaccurate belief would do much good because of the comfort it produces, we might indeed conclude that it would be better to maintain the inaccurate belief.


But there is one problem with this way of making the judgment. How would we know (come to believe) that we had correctly assessed how bad the mistakes would be that would be made due to predictions produced by the inaccurate belief (belief in Proposition C)? We would have to have an accurate belief about the accuracy of Proposition C and therefore of Proposition A. But this is just another way of saying that we would have to have the accurate belief!


So I believe that "Homo rationalis" will have concluded that we should ALWAYS attempt to have ACCURATE beliefs, that is, beliefs for which the preponderance of evidence exists, even if some of those beliefs make us feel bad. I believe that "Homo rationalis" will indeed have this as one of their highest ethical principles. And in fact this will be the way in which they will have a lifestyle that is drastically different from ours. This is why I believe that they and we will be almost like two different species. It will be why they and we would not want to be around each other. It will be why some readers have now thrown this book away.


But for those who are still reading, let us look at a brief possible dialogue or debate between the advocates of accepting this unitary criterion and the advocates of not doing so (represented by statements in italics).


We are simply never going to be able to use the one criterion, because life would be too painful. We would have to give up some of our cherished beliefs, and the pain would be too great.


Well, this might be so, but then again it might not. If we look at how we are now, and try to imagine the change taking place now, I would certainly agree. But we are not talking about such a change occurring even in our lifetimes. We are talking about a change that could take many generations. Also, we are talking about a change such that, more and more, we are reared as children to value accuracy of belief as a supreme value. And because we will no longer be filling our children with anger that interferes with good relationships, we will be much more supportive of each other, even during life's most tragic and frightening times. Currently, we are somewhat relieved of a sense of responsibility for this kind of support, because we see the individual as needing us less by virtue of his or her inaccurate belief that makes him or her feel better. In fact, when we feel the discomfort produced by an individual apparently trying to obtain such support from us, we often try to induce in that individual some beliefs that will make the individual feel better and feel less needful of us, even though those beliefs may be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence. We exhort the individual to make the effort to so believe. (Of course, we do not do this only to relieve ourselves of responsibility; we indeed want to alleviate suffering anyway.) Actually, if the truth were known, the most important need of such an individual would be the need to avoid feeling alone. He or she would want to know that others really knew how he or she was feeling, and cared. So the inaccurate beliefs probably are a poor substitute for this feeling of belonging, togetherness, and concern.


Also, although we do indeed agree that currently many individuals would simply be unable to make such a transition, we do observe, with regard to any particular belief that has been maintained because of how it has made the individual feel, that occasionally such individuals do give up such beliefs for more accurate ones. In other words, there is no specific inaccurate belief that we can identify, I believe, that has not been given up by someone at some time, without disaster having occurred for that individual. He or she may indeed say that he or she has been "disillusioned," and that it was a painful experience, but he or she will usually describe being better off by virtue of the disillusionment.


Finally, we must ask the question as to what extent our culture has actually taught us that life without comforting though inaccurate belief may be intolerable. Do we make the assumption, even in our child rearing, that individuals cannot bear the truth, so to speak?


Note that we readily assume that children must be protected from the truth, because they would not be able to handle certain kinds of knowledge. Although this may indeed be true to a certain (unclear) extent, we should ask the question as to whether it is more our own discomfort and our belief that children cannot handle the truth that brings this state of affairs about. (Many parents know the difference in the reaction of the child to calm, comforting attention compared to anxiety-ridden alarm when the child falls down.) What do we convey to children when something is presumably so awful it cannot even be mentioned or talked about openly? We certainly know that many children are protected as much as possible from information about the world that other children are acquainted with first hand, because of their (perhaps unfortunate) cultural or temporal circumstances. If in fact we have examples of children having experiences that we believe they should be protected from who nevertheless seem to be functioning adequately and without significant suffering, we could ask what factors make such a difference.


Yes, we do know that posttraumatic stress disorder can happen to any of us, including children, but to what extent does this occur because we are not able, through lack of knowledge and through emotionally driven avoidance, to assist such individuals to "deal with" whatever they have gone through? And to what extent is the experience traumatic primarily by virtue of how the culture regards and responds to such events? I believe we probably always will have some psychological vulnerability to trauma, but I also think that we all live in a very judgmental and somewhat hostile and dangerous interpersonal environment, in which we find that it is very difficult to talk openly about some of our central concerns. Some individuals find that being understood is very difficult to accomplish, especially if their lifestyles differ significantly from the norm.


But how would we ever make such a transition? How will those of us that can do it force others to do it also?


It is here that we see one of the greatest differences between "Homo rationalis" and ourselves. We do indeed tend to think that improvement in our lifestyles must be forced on some of us. My belief is that all of the changes that will take place in this exponential transition to "Homo rationalis" will take place in a voluntary manner, on the basis that those changes seem right to those making them. Such changes will take place primarily because individuals (such as the reader, hopefully) will become convinced of the good involved in making such changes, and in doing so themselves will model for identification such changes and thus help others to make them also. We, because of being reared in the authoritarian-ethical model of child rearing, tend to see transitions to better ways of doing things as transitions that are forced upon us, often with the threat of punishment if we do not change.


Certainly, there will be many for whom such transition is impossible within their lifetimes, and those making the transition will need to be understanding of the limitations of such individuals. The only time when such confrontation will really become important or necessary is when it becomes apparent that an individual is likely to act on some inaccurate belief in such a way as to cause unacceptable harm to others. Under those circumstances, it should be accepted as necessary to ask the individual to legitimate his or her belief according to its consistency with evidence. But going around and attempting, without invitation, to "prove others wrong," would very likely be inconsistent with making the world a better place for everyone. As this transition becomes more and more talked about (and it is indeed being talked about to a slight degree even now, this being a part of the beginning acceleration of the third exponential change), others will join in when they are ready. Social growth through advocacy, logical appeal, and success, rather than revolution and domination, will be the only possible way, because, as has previously been described, there is probably no good outcome of a struggle for dominance, if one considers the total outcome, and because attempting to force others to believe is the exact opposite of what has been described as "friendly debate," as described in the chapter on "Basic Methods in This Book," or the "open, listening attitude," as described in the chapter on "Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention." Modeling the open, listening attitude is the most effective way of promoting it.


Hopefully, the reader, having read the above dialogue, is able to consider that such a change may indeed be possible, and that it would indeed be a good change, or at least the reader is able to continue contemplating this question while I proceed ahead with further clarification.


The reader might say at this point that it is hard to imagine the appropriateness of giving up all inaccurate beliefs that make one feel good or better, since so much benefit appears at times to come from having those beliefs. This is indeed a distressing dilemma, that believing things because of how they make one feel can have such beneficial effects (such as improved responses to medical treatments), along with having such terrible effects (such as flying into the World Trade Center). I believe there are some answers to this, however, and the answers again lie in the concept of the development of supervisory parts of the brain, higher level beliefs about one's beliefs. Again, we will note that this answer consists of behavior that we already engage in and are familiar with to some extent, though we engage in it inconsistently, unskillfully, and fairly ineffectively, and sometimes even tragically.


What is basically needed is the ability to believe something only to the extent that doing so produces some benefit, but not to the extent that doing so leads to harm. For instance, if one did not act according to the belief, the belief would not cause a mistake. But in order for this situation to exist, there would also have to be in the brain the corresponding accurate belief, ready to become active should a situation develop in which the belief would be relevant to decision-making. But then there obviously would also need to be a part of the brain that would make that decision, that would inhibit the inaccurate belief and activate the accurate one when the situation made doing so appropriate.


We may think of this activity as pseudobelief management, a subheading under the heading of belief management. A pseudobelief is a model in the brain which by itself would qualify as a belief but which is under the supervision of (being activated or inhibited by) another part of the brain that regards it as (believes it to be) an inaccurate belief. We would consider someone to be engaging in pseudobelief if he or she were purposefully making himself or herself believe that which he or she believes is really not accurate, but doing so only to an extent that is not harmful or productive of a mistake. With our current language, we might refer to this phenomenon as "purposely imagining something to be so when one knows it is not."


In other words, the individual "partly" believes something because doing so accomplishes an outcome, but the belief is "supervised" by the higher level ethical belief that this belief is not accurate and should not be acted upon, or should be acted upon only within certain limits that are consistent with what would be produced by accurate beliefs also. The actor behaving in a genuinely fearful manner, but only to the extent consistent with the situation of putting on a performance (i.e., not running off the stage), was an example.


So belief management includes any purposeful activation or inhibition of belief by a higher level ethical belief, whereas pseudobelief management (a kind of belief management) is any such activation or inhibition that also includes the belief at the higher level that the belief being activated or inhibited is actually inaccurate.


The reader may begin to see the importance of the concept of the highest level of belief in the brain, the supervisory level, that makes judgments (consists of beliefs) about both beliefs and pseudobeliefs, and activates and inhibits them as needed, according to certain ethical principles. "Homo rationalis" will have this capability to a much greater extent than we do, by virtue of helping children to develop it through their process of child rearing.


With our current child rearing, children begin to be able to think about their own thinking primarily in adolescence, but because we do not have this capability to any great extent, and do not foster it systematically within the child rearing model we use, we really do not know how early a child might begin to develop this capability given more optimal child rearing. Obviously, the child will need to see the parent thinking about his or her own thinking, as manifested by the parent relating to the child with the open, listening attitude, and of course this seldom happens currently.


But we do engage in pseudobelief management to some extent, and we have ways of referring to this phenomenon.


We might say that we were "pretending" that something was so, but doing it so effectively that we had the emotions to go along with what we were pretending. ("I actually started convincing myself!")


We might say that in order to meet a particular time-limited challenge we were convincing ourselves of something we really did not believe to be that certain. (In some sports, some individuals will "psych" themselves up, producing the belief that success is certain, in order to generate an emotion, or motivational state, that fosters maximal effort. The intention to break a board with one's hand in Karate comes to mind.)


We might say that we were just refusing to worry about something until the time came when we had to do something about a situation. (We might refer to it as convincing oneself that there is nothing to worry about.)


We might say that we are assuming the best while preparing for the worst, and we might refer to this as "positive thinking."


And all of these ways of speaking might be referred to as engaging in good "mental hygiene."


Some of these examples involve a supervisory part of the brain inhibiting the activation of accurate belief into predictions producing negative, and perhaps harmful, motivational states, but retaining the ability to activate them when a situation comes that requires decision-making that would be influenced by those beliefs. Some of them also involve specifically activating an inaccurate belief because of the beneficial motivational states it produces, while at the same time being prepared to act on another, contradictory but more accurate belief if the necessity arises.


Finally, I want to convey to the reader again, and to an even greater extent, how different we are from the way "Homo rationalis" will be, because it will be quite difficult for us to imagine something we have never seen. We tend to take it for granted that the way we are is the way to be. We take it for granted that what most people think is probably the right thing to think.


But it is probably nowhere else that the differences between us will be so profound, other than in the area of belief management.


In order to help the reader see this difference more clearly, I plan to give my prediction as to how "Homo rationalis" will approach the whole topic of belief management. In other words, I will present the matter "from the top down," using the reasoning that they, I believe, will use. In doing so, there will be some reviewing and repetition, but this is necessary to convey the differences between the way we engage in belief management and the way they will. (In fact, we do very little "top down" reasoning.)


Remember that the primary difference between "Homo rationalis" and ourselves is that they will have shifted completely to rational ethics (away from authoritarian ethics). They will maintain, arbitrarily, that the highest ethical principle is that we should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future. Since every decision we make can be questioned as to whether we should have made it or not, then all decision-making, all behavior, is subject to this ultimate ethical principle. Ethics will not just be something to think about in certain kinds of situations, but instead will be the most important factor in all decision-making. At any time, a person can ask, "Is this that I am doing right now what I should be doing?" And the "meaning of life" for them will be the goal of getting as close as possible to accomplishing consistency with the ultimate ethical principle.


Now, because they will make the same observation that we can easily also make, namely, that there is not a single thing that we can have or that we can do that does not require others having done their part, they will conclude that they should do their part in making the world a better place. They will say, "I should do my part to make the world a better place, within my sphere of influence and within the limits of my capabilities." Please note that, so far, we, also, could conceivably agree to live this way individually, even though most of us do not.


But let us now look at an implication of the above. When we talk about applying the ultimate ethical principle to every aspect of our behavior, this means that we are attempting to optimize all behavior. But what does this mean? It means that when we engage in any decision-making, we hope that the outcome of that behavior will be consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. Thus, in order to do better than just leaving that to chance, we must try to predict the outcomes of our behavior, to see if they are consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. Since we have defined behavior that is less than optimal, namely that leads to a bad outcome, as a mistake, we are attempting to avoid making mistakes.


And from earlier in this chapter, we saw that the primary, most effective way of avoiding making mistakes is to do whatever we can to promote our having accurate beliefs. Accurate beliefs produce accurate predictions, which promote behavior least likely to be different from what we are seeking.


So, "Homo rationalis" will consider the ethical principle that we should do whatever will promote accuracy of belief as the second highest ethical principle. Since it is the second highest ethical principle, perhaps even indistinguishable from the first, this ethical belief will be the highest level "supervisory" ethical belief in the brain of each individual.


And this supervisory ethical belief should be an extremely strong one. For it to be strong, it will have to be practiced. The "pathways in the brain" that represent this ethical belief will need to be used over and over. So the culture in the time of "Homo rationalis" will need to promote this belief in every appropriate way, including in their methods of child rearing.


Please note, again, how different this is from the way we currently are. We have talked about how we agree to avoid the very behavior that would increase our trend toward accuracy of belief, namely, using any opportunity for sharing and comparing different beliefs, while utilizing the open, listening attitude.


Now remember that the open, listening attitude is the operation of a very high level supervisory ethical belief that whatever belief we currently have could actually be inaccurate or wrong, accompanied by the motivation (ethical sense) to try to understand the reasoning of any individual that believes differently from the way we do. By understanding the reasoning we mean understanding the other person's beliefs and understanding why those beliefs seem to that person to be accurate. The goal is to find, as much as possible, what the basic differences are in belief, and then to see how the two different beliefs seem to meet the criterion of being consistent with other beliefs that are in turn considered accurate because of the rules of logic and the rules of evidence.


Remember that one of their highest level ethical principles, perhaps even indistinguishable from the ultimate ethical principle, will be that we should try to attain accuracy of belief. This means that we would have to engage in behavior that would optimize the chances for attainment of accuracy of belief. And we have seen that much of our behavior is designed to promote a second criterion of legitimization of belief, namely, comfort, which at times leads to legitimizing beliefs that are not only inaccurate but likely to lead to decisions that produce pain, suffering, disability, and early death.


So let's take a look at behavior that we freely engage in, and the corresponding behavior that they would engage in.


Nowhere is this more evident than our utilizing the natural attitude (I know I'm right, so you are either lying, dumb, or crazy, or just plain bad) rather than the open, listening attitude (I could be wrong, especially if you think so, and if I am, I would appreciate your helping me to see it). The "just plain bad" component of this attitude partially explains why there is a very high probability that difference of opinion will result in anger. We regard almost all difference of opinion as being a state of "conflict," and we evaluate ourselves and each other as to how well we "fight."


Imagine a politician manifesting the open, listening attitude during a debate, saying, "This is what I believe, but of course I could be wrong." Think of what attributes of prominent people are valued by the public. What wins approval, admiration, and votes is dogmatism, certainty, and a display of strength and power. Strong, declarative statements that imply that "you are either with me or against me," accompanied by non-verbal behavior that even has a hostile component to it, such as indignation, defiance, or threat, are much more prone to inspire a following than are calm, reflective questions and clarifications, with the acknowledgment that the issues are uncertain and that both sides have much to say for them.


Think also of how our superheroes behave. We want to be taken care of by strong, parental figures who are dangerous to our foes.


We love the struggle for dominance, no matter how much pain, suffering, disability, and early death it produces. We certainly have seen times when going to war or battle produced euphoria. Our language uses hostile terms to describe efforts to resolve difference of opinion. Political processes are referred to using terms from our worst behavior as a species, such as the battle for nomination or the fight in the legislature or the overwhelming slaughter of someone in the election.


In our public debates, there is applause for subtle, skilled hostility that stays just within the bounds of agreed-upon propriety.


And think about the cultural attitudes toward those individuals who go into fields that are based upon accuracy of belief and non-dogmatic inquiry, such as the sciences and education, compared to those individuals who go into competitive, aggressive and at times hostile sports. When, for instance, would a scientist or a teacher ever evoke the displays of admiration that a professional boxer or wrestler routinely does? And think of their relative incomes.


Our culture has terms for those who are uncertain and non-hostile, such as "wimp" and "wuss." And those young people who value understanding the way the world really is are often referred to as "nerds" and "geeks," with the implication of some sort of deficiency.


It is only when we really look at the possibility of maintaining at all times a non-hostile, open, listening attitude that we see how much closer we are to chimpanzees than we are to "Homo rationalis."


Yet, I believe the reader can sense that there is value in attaining accuracy of belief, and also can sense the value in benevolent understanding of one another rather than interminable, cruel conflict, psychological and physical injury, and mutual murder.


And especially perhaps during a time of threatened or actual disaster, it becomes starkly evident that the people who save us and take care of us are those with the most accurate beliefs about the nature and functioning of the world.


Our greatest heroes tend to be the most like chimpanzees, strong, powerful, and dominating. But I believe we can imagine that the greatest heroes of "Homo rationalis" will be those who have attained the greatest knowledge about how the world really is and who have done the most with that knowledge to make the world a better place for everyone. And I believe we can to some extent acknowledge how much better for us all the values of "Homo rationalis" would be.


For any one of us, appreciating the values of "Homo rationalis" and attempting to make them a part of one's own life and interactions with others will involve taking a "supervisory" role with regard to one's own basic animal nature. But that is something that only we humans can do. This, I believe, is the third exponential change. It is just beginning, but we are far enough along that we can see and understand this change, and experience even a sense of excitement about the appearance on this planet of something quite new and different. I believe that if we ever hear from extraterrestrials, they will have accomplished this third exponential change, since I believe that we are quite limited as to what we can accomplish continuing only as talking, hi tech, angry chimpanzees.


So we have now attempted to obtain an idea of what "Homo Rationalis" will be like and how, in the areas of anger prevention, child rearing, and belief management we can make use of such insights in order to make our own lives better and make the world a better place for others. What I wish to do now is make some predictions as to the culture of "Homo rationalis," primarily having to do with their government and their religion, assuming those predictions will follow from what we have covered so far. This will allow us, hopefully, to get an even greater perspective regarding the cultures in which we are immersed, and how we can work toward becoming freer and freer of victimization by those cultures.