Sep. 16, ’11: Do You Have Pendulemia?

Do you have pendulemia?  As you are a person, you sometimes do.  It is the cause of most errors of judgment, so it is worth knowing about.

The phenomenon consists of a rigid dichotomy of choices, like a cognitive pendulum, hence the term “pendulemia.”  As an effect of high stress, I have referred to  it  as “dichotomous thinking.”

Sometimes our errors are just a matter of too little information, as when we are ill informed.  Yet, when the mistake is a matter of judgment, the cause will  be some version of pendulemia.

Take politics (please).  Perhaps you have heard the expression, “A conservative is  a liberal who has been mugged.”  There is a counterpart, which is, “A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested.”  This humorously illustrates a process of choosing one polarized opposite in reaction against the other pole.

Similarly, political arguments in favor of one point of view are often fallaciously persuasive when they use the “slippery slope” argument about the other side.  Presenting  one extreme point of view provides motivation to adopt the opposite point of view.  This is sometimes called a “straw man” argument, because it sets up a ridiculous extreme of an opposing argument, so that it can be knocked  down as easily as a straw man.

One who thinks that he is never pendulemic is a confirmed pendulemic.  On the other hand, those who want to improved the nuance and balance of their judgments can start to scan for a key symptom:  If you tend to render those who disagree with you as extreme, then your own point of view is probably skewed by a cognitive pendulum.

If you want to catch it, you can ask yourself what your perspective is about any of the following:

Next, ask yourself how you view people with a different outlook.  If you privately or publicly render them as ridiculous or evil, then this will exaggerate your own view compared with what it would otherwise be, were you free to think clearly.

For this reason, in my recent book, a large section addresses the pendulemic aspects of the human condition.

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This entry was posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 1:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Sep. 16, ’11: Do You Have Pendulemia?”

  1. linda tucker Says:

    I like this. Appropriate for our times and the political climate. The pendulemic Political climate, right now, in this country is discouraging. And, the challenge, I guess is to not become part of the problem.

    It is very difficult , for me, to free myself of this kind of thinking – although part of me is uncomfortable using derogatory adjectives to describe people who do not share my outlook. – perhaps that is the part of my mind where I should hang out a bit more- the part that is “uncomfortable” and considered by some to be “not firm”, etc. Maybe the challenge is to allow these uncomfortable, uncertain feelings. To float in that uncertainty, without rushing to have an answer . To be willing to not know, for sure, what that supposed right answer is. Maybe that is when creativity, true intelligence and problem solving can happen.

    Thanks Rick. Helpful, right now.

  2. Dr. Rick Blum Says:

    Thanks, Linda, for adding this important insight about the brave discomfort sometimes required to move beyond pendulemic polarities. That is why (see Sept. 2 ’11 post) the best way to find balance is often through “reciprocal discomfort.” Putting it differently: Comfortable equals stuck!

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