Information selection and substitution

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Information selection and substitution refers to a category of largely subconscious processes that distort a person's thinking and conclusions. (They are also known as conversive psychological phenomena or conversive thinking.) To avoid uncomfortable conclusions, premises which would lead to them are suppressed and replaced – leading to new and more comfortable, but erroneous, conclusions.

General description

Unconscious psychological processes outstrip conscious reasoning, both in time and in scope, which makes many psychological phenomena possible: including those generally described as conversive, such as subconscious blocking out of conclusions, the selection, and, also, substitution of seemingly uncomfortable premises. [...]

Our subconscious may carry the roots of human genius within, but its operation is not perfect; sometimes it is reminiscent of a blind computer, especially whenever we allow it to be cluttered with anxiously rejected material. This explains why conscious monitoring, even at the price of courageously accepting disintegrative states, is likewise necessary to our nature, not to mention our individual and social good. [...]

We should point out that the erroneous thought processes described herein also, as a rule, violate the laws of logic with characteristic treachery. Educating people in the art of proper reasoning can thus serve to counteract such tendencies; it has a hallowed age-old tradition which seems to have been insufficiently effective for centuries. As an example: according to the laws of logic, a question containing an erroneous or unconfirmed suggestion has no answer. Nevertheless, not only does operating with such questions become epidemic among people with a tendency to conversion thinking, and a source of terror when used by psychopathical individuals; it also occurs among people who think normally, or even those who have studied logic.

Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology

These processes may be better understood in light of the more recent research into the adaptive unconscious, also called System 1 (in contrast to the conscious System 2).

Information selection and substitution may occur to different degrees: the mildest being the blocking out of clonclusions at the end of the reasoning process, and the more severe involving the blocking out or even replacement of premises earlier in the reasoning process.

Blocking out of conclusions

The mildest form of information selection and substitution only involves the blocking out of conclusions at the final stages of reasoning – though even this can have severe consequences.

We speak of blocking out conclusions if the inferential process was proper in principle and has almost arrived at a conclusion and final comprehension within the act of internal projection, but becomes stymied by a preceding directive from the subconscious, which considers it inexpedient or disturbing. This is primitive prevention of personality disintegration, which may seem advantageous; however, it also prevents all the advantages which could be derived from consciously elaborated conclusion and reintegration. A conclusion thus rejected remains in our subconscious and in a more unconscious way causes the next blocking and selection of this kind. This can be extremely harmful, progressively enslaving a person to his own subconscious, and is often accompanied by a feeling of tension and bitterness.

Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology

Selection of premises

When information selection and substitution has become more firmly rooted in a person's thinking process, the blocking out of information extends from affecting the final conclusions to also including that information which would lead to them. At an even more extreme level, the conscious mind can be enlisted in order to replace the information – something that can also take place as a group activity in hystericized groups.

We speak of selection of premises whenever the feedback goes deeper into the resulting reasoning and from its database thus deletes and represses into the subconscious just that piece of information which was responsible for arriving at the uncomfortable conclusion. Our subconscious then permits further logical reasoning, except that the outcome will be erroneous in direct proportion to the actual significance of the repressed data. An ever-greater number of such repressed information is collected in our subconscious memory. Finally, a kind of habit seems to take over: similar material is treated the same way even if reasoning would have reached an outcome quite advantageous to the person.

The most complex process of this type is substitution of premises thus eliminated by other data, ensuring an ostensibly more comfortable conclusion. Our associative ability rapidly elaborates a new item to replace the removed one, but it is one leading to a comfortable conclusion. This operation takes the most time, and it is unlikely to be exclusively subconscious. Such substitutions are often effected collectively, in certain groups of people, through the use of verbal communication. That is why they best qualify for the moralizing epithet "hypocrisy" than either of the above-mentioned processes.

Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology

Conversive thinking and pathologies

Systematic and unchecked conversive thinking can occur in both the characteropathic and the psychopathic. Due to the contagiousness of conversive thinking, some may grow used to such "reasoning", accepting it and in turn allowing it to spread further, or even spreading it themselves.

Consequences of habitual and widespread conversive thinking

There is no such thing as a person whose perfect self-knowledge allows him to eliminate all tendencies toward conversive thinking, but some people are relatively close to this state, while others remain slaves to these processes. Those people who use conversive operations too often for the purpose of finding convenient conclusions, or constructing some cunning paralogistic or paramoralistic statements, eventually begin to undertake such behavior for ever more trivial reasons, losing the capacity for conscious control over their thought process altogether. This necessarily leads to behavior errors which must be paid for by others as well as themselves.

People who have lost their psychological hygiene and capacity of proper thought along this road also lose their natural critical faculties with regard to the statements and behavior of individuals whose abnormal thought processes were formed on a substratum of pathological anomalies, whether inherited or acquired. Hypocrites stop differentiating between pathological and normal individuals, thus opening an "infection entry" for the ponerologic role of pathological factors.

Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology

Widespread use of conversive thinking develops in a society during "good times" as part of its hystericization, leading to psychological blindnesses that leave the society open to the processes of ponerogenesis. Conversive thinking is thus a major part of what drives the hysteroidal cycle.

See also