Walk away from the illusion of conversation

We like the analytic mode of discourse. It is more Talmudic. So a while back we noted the use of the concept "illusion of competence" that someone employed to describe what happens when you practice at a golf driving range. When you later go out an play you find that how you do in practice has weak correlation to performance on the course.

In today's Times two academics published an op-ed that used the notion “illusion of explanatory depth,” calling it "an idea developed by the Yale psychologist Frank Keil and his students."

This essay describes research that separates real explanation and understanding from what we used to call "double talk", i.e., when someone explained the incomprehensible with additional incomprehensible or non-related ideas.

There is so much of that going around in this political season, more than we can ever recall. We resigned from political conversation of any kind this year because of that and because of one other concern, namely the utter rudeness and obnoxiousness of the discourse of this campaign.

We said to a right wing friend yesterday at a wonderful Shabbat Tea social event, that we would not engage with her in political discussion this time around because of the rude and obnoxious talk coming from both side of the aisle.

Apparently, that balanced criticism was not sufficiently clear or acceptable to her. She immediately responded by attacking me with her certainty that Obama supporters started the rudeness, hence she had every right to keep it going.

I walked away.

The Times essay is a brilliant restatement in social scientific terms of what we know from common sense. Thoughtful discussion on issues often brings people together. Harangues laden with double talk mostly keep people apart.

Read the essay by Steven Sloman, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University and Philip M. Fernbach, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. It purports to reveal, "why partisans can't explain their views."

And just walk away from those who want to harangue you. There is no point in staying to try to talk.

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