The ‘Brain Shift’ power warps reality


My job puts me at the centre of a movement of people working with others and the government to tackle climate change. It’s something I feel very privileged to be doing. But not long ago, my day job was still the usual corporate rat race of the city. Despite the differences between these two worlds, I have noticed the same inter and intra-group dynamics at play. (Lecture 4.3)

Even as we seek to be inclusive, the reality is that we still tend to operate in a bubble of those we see ‘like us’. Whether it’s the joke we share, the news we follow or the people we dislike.

I decided to test my 2nd empathetic superpower to step into the minds of an important out-group in the climate change issue, climate skeptics.

By watching the US Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on climate change it presented two sides of the debate in what was a relatively unfiltered and direct dialogue with some climate skeptics, both scientists and officials.

As I first watched the video I found myself feeling time and time again, the frustration and anger whilst listening to people whose views contradicted my own. My own thoughts and feelings interjected in all too familiar ways.

To ponder this further I sought to understand not just the arguments, but also why it was people believed these things.

When I re-watched the hearing, a strange thing happened. By trying to see the world from someone else’s point of view using cognitive empathy (Lecture 6.1), I disturbed the reliability of my own biases and raised the uncomfortable signs of cognitive dissonance (Lecture 2.4).

*Wub* This is about principled science. We must uphold the rigour of scientific standards. We cannot pick and choose what we call science. The facts are not the facts, unless we see them all.

*Wub* Lumbering people with higher costs is unfair, for those of us just going about our business and getting on with our lives. It doesn’t make sense to risk a massive upheaval and make sweeping changes to the way things are.

As I heard their words and inhabited these thoughts, I began to even feel quite convinced by their views. Their words sounded different, layered as they were with the echoes of some very understandable human beliefs.

Pondering mouse

“Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”
The Mouse





Coursera Social Psychology:  Lecture 4.3 The Minimal Group: From Dots to Discrimination in 60 seconds. Lecture 6.1 Is Empathy a Magic Bullet? The Power of Outrospection. Lecture 2.4 Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception.

Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Climate Change – It’s happening now. July 2013

Some were united by “a conviction that data quality in various branches of climate science are below those required by “real science” Are climate sceptics the real champions of the scientific method? Warren Peace, July 2013

A reported study showed how climate scepticism is linked to system justification theory, where people “see the status quo as good, fair, legitimate, and desirable.” The Mind of the Climate Change Sceptic, John T. Jost and Erin P. Henne, July 2013

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