Our Pigheaded Core: How We Became Smarter to Be Influenced by Other People

SIGNALING, COMMITMENT, AND EMOTION Brett Calcott, Richard Joyce, & Kim Sterelny, eds., MIT Press, 2011

38 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2011

Date Written: June 11, 2010

Abstract

(Other) people‘s gullibility is a common source of complaint in the political world. Republicans lament that Democrats naively trust the 'liberal media.' Democrats wonder how Republicans can be so credulous as to believe Fox News. In this kind of attack, gullibility is often equated with lack of sophistication, the subtext is - How can they be so stupid? (Sophisticated is a common antonym of gullible). Indeed, there seems to be a widespread intuition that the best way to influence people is to stop them from thinking. Politicians, newscasters and educators are wont to dumb down their messages; ad men try to distract us so that their slogans will remain unexamined; interrogators try to break suspects‘ ability to reason through continuous questioning or sleep deprivation (or worse). Yet it is possible to argue that this intuition is profoundly misguided and that, overall, the best way to influence people is to tap into their most sophisticated psychological mechanisms, especially the complex calibration of trust and reasoning. In support of this claim, I will first offer an evolutionary argument and then proceed to - peel off the mechanisms we use to evaluate information to reveal older mechanisms that are harder to influence: our pigheaded core.

Keywords: gullibility, influence, evolution, epistemic vigilance

Suggested Citation

Mercier, Hugo, Our Pigheaded Core: How We Became Smarter to Be Influenced by Other People (June 11, 2010). SIGNALING, COMMITMENT, AND EMOTION Brett Calcott, Richard Joyce, & Kim Sterelny, eds., MIT Press, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1862667

Hugo Mercier (Contact Author)

University of Neuchatel ( email )

Espace Louis Agassiz 1
Neuchâtel, 2000
Switzerland

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