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Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

Why does logical discussion alone not always convince people?

Asked by Questionsaboutstuff (199 points ) November 17th, 2012

What’s the neuroscience of influencing the sub conscious mind?

You can’t just use logical discussion to talk people out of their irrational fears, but other techniques work. Why do certain techniques seem to influence the sub conscious brain and other techniques dont?

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33 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

Reason is the servant of feelings.

Our worldviews are based, first and foremost, on likes and dislikes, affinities and aversions. The gut. We then deploy reason to put together an intellectually satisfactory justification for feeling that way. Evidence is filtered through the screen of our biases, cherry-picked to support our foregone conclusions.

No one believes that this is true of themselves, but it’s true of all of us. Even scientists who study biases and the influence of the subconscious are powerless to disarm this mechanism. At best, they simply know and accept that this is the case, whereas the rest of us go on convinced that we’re fundamentally creatures of reason.

Coloma's avatar

There are a multitude of factors, including intelligence, mental/emotional health, depth of neurosis, personality style, desire/motivation, on and on. Those whose personalities fall into the rational thinking categories will have an easier time processing logical theory and conceptual thought than a feeling type.
I have had great success with several experiences with hypnosis for relaxation and smoking cessation over the years and have been told by the therapists that hypnosis is the most effective with those of higher intelligence. “They” are not sure why, but the more intelligent ( perhaps correlating with open mindedness ) the subject, the more receptive they are to subconscious suggestion.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

@thorninmud
I want to understand this on a neuro scientific level, so REPEAT I DONT WANT JUST PSYCHOLOGY. Evolutionary psychology if anything.

On a nonscientific level why does some information affect the sub conscious but other information that seems logical doesnt?

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

@Coloma
You could be perfectly logical and still have an irrational fear, you can even know it’s silly and makes no sense but that doesnt effect your sub conscious. So why do some techniques work on a neuro scientific level and why do others not work.

So I dont care what techniques work to change sub conscious feelings, I want to know why that works

Bill1939's avatar

Emotion is a primal function that enables quick responses to cues related to individual and specie survival. Depending upon their strength, they can overwhelm ration thought. However by redefining scenarios dictating debilitating emotions, reason can take precedence. One process in “talk therapy” is to help the client to understand to reasons for the actions of others in past situations that are generating the client’s current inappropriate reactions.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

@Bill1939
Hello Bill thanks for replying. I just want to clarify a few things if you dont mind.

So it makes sense that that we have some primal emotions that drive us, what I want to know is how the cortex talks to the emotional parts of the brain to let it know what knew things to be scared of like a car. So how can the cortex tell the emotional part of the brain to not stand in front of fast cars but we can also have irrational fears were we know its silly but we cant seem to change our primal emotions on it

So stuff your cortex thinks it knows doesnt always seem to get through to the emotional parts of the brain

Coloma's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff Well….hypnosis is an area where there is no scientific reason WHY it works, it just does, for some. The brain is not the mind, and irrational fears are in the mind and need to be teased apart. This is why a neurotic person would visit a psychologist instead of a neurologist. To learn to change their thinking patterns and re-program their neuropathways towards healthier, more rational thought.

thorninmud's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff The limbic system, which is the brain’s seat of emotions, is far older in evolutionary terms than the cortex, and is the first part of the brain to respond to situations. The organs of the limbic system are essential survival tools, and are common to almost all vertebrates; they’re wired for rapid response, not accuracy. From a survival standpoint, a limbic system that’s overly responsive to threat is better than one that’s under-responsive, or that waits for feedback from the cortex before initiating action.

Shippy's avatar

If anyone really knew the answer to this question I reckon they’d be pretty wealthy. Plus if you are using this in a scientific way you would use the term unconscious mind not subconscious Which other techniques are you referring to? Perhaps substantiate your question a little more with examples and correct scientific terminology for a scientific answer..

marinelife's avatar

Because thoughts are not always logical. They also take into account a slew of other things: feelings, prejudices, beliefs.

Bill1939's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff, I’m not sure I understand your question, re: cortex. Memories of past events have emotions associated with them. These memories can be altered, thus changing their associated emotions. Memories of childhood events, which could not be fully understood at the time, can be altered through a more mature reflection. For example, a parent’s anger, (which a young child often assumes is due to something it did) which has generated an undesirable reflexive behavior, may be explained when the circumstances (such as the economic stresses that existed then) are understood.

Coloma's avatar

Given all the interesting and “logical” replies to this Q. I am wondering, are you, @Questionsaboutstuff convinced yet, that there are multiple choice answers to this question? lol ;-)

dabbler's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff In your original post :“What’s the neuroscience of influencing the sub conscious mind?”
Then : “I want to understand this on a nonscientific level”
Wha….?

“what I want to know is how the cortex talks to the emotional parts of the brain to let it know what knew things to be scared of like a car. ”
Our emotions arise from our experiences. And we have a tremendous capacity for imagining experiences. The cortex can visualize the idea of the car and the possible problems with encountering one. That virtual (imagined) experience can easily produce emotions such as fear.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

@dabbler
Sorry it was suppose to say neuro scientific level

ETpro's avatar

Look into the work of 19th century self-taught author, scientist and philosopher, Edward Burnett Taylor and his theory of cultural evolutionism. He has given us one of our best (IMHO) working theories of the origin of religion. He posits that the human mind seeks to rationalize and explain what it observes. In doing so, it uses a fundamental logic that seeks to explain observations in familiar terms. You can read more about his ideas of cultural evolutionism here.

I believe he is right, and that such ideas are often our earliest understanding of the world around us, even in today’s scientifically informed world. Once adopted as explanations of forces we don’t fully understand, such superstitious imaginings are difficult to purge from the mind. And once adopted, these logical “hunches” serve to slake our thirst for a more authentic explanation. That riddle seems solved, and the mind races to resolve the next conundrum.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

@dabbler
So lets look at it from an evolutionary perspective, as all actions can be explained with that, either with evolution itself or indirectly in how did evolution effect how the brain developed over time. If we look it at from those levels, let me go off to rephrase the question.

ETpro's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff BTW, welcome to Fluther. I am glad to see you are interested in an evolutionary approach to human thought and beliefs. That’s just what E. B. Taylor and others that built his work into the science of Cultural Anthropology have provided us.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

I think @thorninmud answer is the most satisfactory to what you’re asking along with @coloma. There is not just one answer to this question because several factors contribute to irrationality and rebuild in light if “logic”. First off there are many examples to your question so you need to specify what you’re referring to, is it religion? Is it phobia? Is it neurosis? Neurosis is a subset of mental illness, dysfunctional portions of that brain that affect perception, thought and logical processing. Phobias are results of psychological conditioning whether from an early age or traumatic event. Those with a larger or more developed angular gyrus and active temporal lobe are less susceptible to irrational thought therefore less vulnerable, while those more active in the c, b or d quadrants of thinking style are more likely to fall into the aforementioned conditions.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

Emotion is interchangeable with irrationality, humans are not computers therefore each one is burdened by emotion and in turn burdened by irrationality in some form this is why even the most gifted physicists can be an arachnophobe, Pythagorean, or influenced by his mothers opinion of his wife. One can know they’re being irrational and not change because its difficult to re configure a system that has been established over time, therapists know this and base techniques around this principle. Verbal treatment works with some people while others need something more practical. So to answer some of your questions you’ve said to others, it’s a multitude of factors in the human condition, evolutionary Theory IMO doesn’t fit here unless we look at how intelligence has been secondary until recent history

digitalimpression's avatar

Because the “logical conversation” only features the tip of each person’s iceberg. The weight of the iceberg beneath the water prevents it from moving too much.

bolwerk's avatar

It may not be the conscious mind you need to influence. Many people are consciously aware of their desires and preferences, and finding reality does not comport to those desires and preferences initiates defense mechanisms. Those who get over that see the world much more clearly.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think most of the answers are overlooking the way the brain functions. All actions and thoughts nothing more than a series of electrical impulses that occur in a certain area of the brain, in an as yet unknown sequence, apparently controlled by a set of chemical reactions.

As yet, no one knows exactly how these processes work. People are able to somehow train their brain to react in a prescribed manner, by trial and error.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

@YARNLADY yes but that’s not really addressing the core issue, those electrical impulses, depending on where, are simply reactors and signals I.e if you see a dog run, if you’re afraid of heights vomit an scream. It’s only cause and effect physiologically, we have yet to know if they play a key role or transmit information

cazzie's avatar

People are FAR from rational and logical beings. That is it really. Trying to use logic on anything other than a computer is, generally, a waste of time. Humans are packed full of strange emotive reactions that we are completely unaware of and they always influence our decision making process. Marketing companies LOVE this fact. Sales people make a living from it. People are irrational and illogical and their prejudices and fears are ALL TOO easily exploited. Sad really. They should be more like me, because I am an alien.

LostInParadise's avatar

Here is one aspect of logical thinking to ponder. Beliefs do not occur in isolation. They are linked to one another. A religious fundamentalist, for example, has many related and mutually supporting beliefs. One reason that they get so worked up over evolution is that it challenges what many of them think of as their strongest argument in favor of the existence of God – how orderly and complex the world is. If they lose that then their whole belief system is threatened with unraveling or, at the very least, in for major readjustment.

syz's avatar

‘Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is to important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core beliefs.” – Frantz Fanon

Jeruba's avatar

I found Jonah Lehrer’s book How We Decide very interesting on this topic, and very readable as well. It uses neuroscience to explain the mechanics of decision-making, including the involvement of various areas of the brain and the all-important emotional component.

Sunny2's avatar

I don’t know why or how logic doesn’t convince me, but I know how I feel. And I feel the opposite about what you are saying. You’ll never convince me I’m wrong. Even neuroscience, whatever that is, won’t change my mind. The way I feel is what is important; that’s all.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

@Sunny2 makes an apt point, how does egocentrism play a role in information processing? How is It essential to the survival of an individual and their decision making? Frantz Fanon said it best in regards to one’s belief system and how it combats logic. Egocentrism is a component that enables this action, our individuality relies not only on our intellect, talents or personality but also our beliefs and values, without those beliefs, and in turn drives, we are virtually nothing in terms of functioning in society. Without egocentrism an individual is lost or at least their configuration becomes vulnerable and unstable. A human needs certain beliefs to function and this is why whatever refutes those beliefs must be kept at afar

rooeytoo's avatar

One person’s logic is another’s gobbledygook.

Jeruba's avatar

@Sunny2, neuroscience is the branch of science that studies how the nervous system, including the brain, works. One of the interesting things that Jonah Lehrer explained is that in the absence of emotion, people can’t decide. Rather than being completely rational in their decisions, they’re paralyzed with indecision.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

What I’ll do is post another question to hopefully make it clearer what point of view im coming from

Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

It all depends on the scale. For example telling humanity there are billions of stars in the universe, that would convince them. But telling them the plate is hot, they would normally test it out. For the most part people don’t truly trust what other people say or at least they prefer experimenting it for themselves, proving it themselves.

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