Impulse Winning the Battle Against Logic

Posted on February 18, 2020

I was wondering the other day how it could be that populism is so successful right now? How is it that the world almost seems upside down and logic is defied by impulse?

I am not an expert and even a psychologist that I do know, is baffled by what sometimes feels like a descent into madness. We are in a period where, whether you are in the workplace, or at the pub, if you put logic into an argument, you are the fool.

Impulse Over Logic

I have concluded that it must be that impulse is a more dominant force in the voting population than logic. Impulse comes when you react to something with the first thing that comes in your head (the front cortex). Logic comes from the brain digesting the information, thin slicing it and arriving at a plausible conclusion.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it is the correct answer. However, at least it will be plausible and based on working out the scenarios of the question. I will give you an example. It is one that I have spoken of before, so excuse the repetition.

Fishing Rights

A couple of years ago, I was in a pub near where I live. A simmering rather than a heated conversation, was taking place about UK fishing rights after Brexit. I kind of knew these guys on a basis where I’d say, “good evening”, so I took an interest in the debate.

So, what happened was one of them claimed that fishing made up a substantial proportion of UK GDP (I think he said 10%). Anyway, I thought this through for a few seconds and I knew it wasn’t right. I had read somewhere that it was 0.1%. However, I also made myself aware that fishing rights are complex, so I had better not get myself tangled up (what a pun that is!).

It was at this point that I realised I was thinking logically and not impulsively. I don’t think that makes me intelligent by the way. I just think it is a learned process where I have caught myself out in the past and realised it is best to stick with what you know.

All this took place over what was probably just a few seconds, but it allowed me enough time to join in the conversation with a degree of confidence. So, I answered with something along the lines of, “I am not an expert on the complexities of EU fishing rights but the GDP of it, is, I believe, more like 0.1%, isn’t it?”

I turned what I believed to be fact into a question. This was in a bid to not embarrass anyone or appear smug (even if I felt it, a little bit). I was giving him a get out, firstly because I think that is reasonable and secondly, because I didn’t really fancy getting my face punched in over EU fishing rights.

The Result

The result was mixed. Granted, I didn’t get my face punched in, but I did find myself in a situation where I was suddenly the antagonist. This was because I questioned what was, in all intents and purposes, pub bullshit, from someone with a bullshit argument.

He replied, “IT’S NOT 0.1%! to which I said, “I am sure it is near that figure and it certainly isn’t 10%… someone has misinformed you”. As you can see, I gave him another get out clause by trying to say he wasn’t the idiot, the person giving him the information was. I’m afraid to admit that, once again, this was part of a punched face avoidance scheme.

So, anyway, he said, “I came hear for a quiet pint mate, not an argument”. He then turned his back on me. I paused for a moment, then I picked up a pool cue and smashed him around the back of the head. I then stood over him and said, “It’s 0.1%, you prick!”

I didn’t of course, but I fantasised about it when I got home. I left the pub without saying a word and I have never gone back since. I am being honest here when I say it’s not because I am scared. It’s just that I realised my life is too short to be wasted with pub bullshitters.

The semi-dramatic events of that evening made me realise why the country has got itself in such a pickle. Bullshit emanating from impulse rather than logic, is king. The government, whether it is driving through austerity, Brexit, repatriation, anti-terrorism, trade deals or borders, knows this. It can get its way if it successfully plays on the populist impulses of anything upwards of 35% of the voting population.

The only way to halt it is if those who use logic over impulse, unite to fight against populism and the normalisation of bullshit answers to complex questions.

That seems a long way off right now.

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