Monday, 24 February 2014

An ancient survival tactic - but can it really save the UK?.

I was watching a fascinating Horizon program on how we human's make decisions and further how this programing occurred far back in the evolutionary tree of the primates some 35 million years ago.

In simple terms we humans have two decision making systems - an instantaneous one which is virtually automatic and a slow decision making process where we seek to think logically like Mr Spock.

The tendency of most humans is to use the quick decision making system, the problem is this system is riddled with bias and relies on what we think or wish to be true. This system makes a decision and then whether right or wrong seeks to justify or prove this decision is 'right' via the slow decision making process. Of course the slow decision process will only identify information or knowledge which agrees with the decision. It is why the 'status quo' or 'Aye been' position is so comfortable for the majority of humans because it saves us from really looking at the decisions we have made or have failed to make. locked into all this is a deep seated, hard wired decision making process to be loss averse. So hard wired that behavioural scientists estimate it goes back down the primate evolutionary tree some 35 million years after a study undertaken on Rhesus Monkeys.

This brings me to the point: I have never seen such a dislocation between the politics of the UK Government, its opposition and the majority of rest of the UK Electorate - even considering how distant UK Government policies are from Scottish aspirations. This is seen on threads discussing a Yes vote in September 2014. There are a hard core of Britnats lurking around on the Gruniad threads but I am seeing more posts saying Scotland go for it, get out from under this incompetent UK Government of fools, good luck.

I believe it is because Westminster is now making fast decisions on the bias of loss aversion. There is no rational basis to their clinging on to the failed theory of austerity and yet both the main parties keep trying to prove austerity is working when all the hard evidence (rising Government debt / reduced UK Treasury tax surplus compared to previous years) demonstrates otherwise. The same with the failed benefit reforms - the actual figures are no where near as good as Mr Duncan-Smith had tried to claim in self justification for his socially destructive reforms, to the extent the National Audit Office has censured both the Minister at the DWP and his department for their misuse of data. Yet the Labour party are peddling the same 'truths' as fact.

We see this loss averse decision making in the sudden rejection of UK Treasury advice (July 2013) to Osbourne that a currency union was of mutual benefit to both sides on a Yes vote. This new 'plan' to exclude an independent Scotland from Sterling (even if they could) is not a rational fiscal or economic plan for a post 'Yes vote' world; it is a decision to try and prevent loss, to keep their present world intact and, as we see in the daft, biased and increasingly bizarre threats, to justify their position. Even in the face of a number of slow decision studies which prove the opposite, the sovereign parliament of England and Wales will incur severe fiscal damage. Clearly Westminster is not frightened about the disaster they claim they are 'saving' an independent Scotland by keeping the Union intact rather they are acting from fear for themselves and themselves alone and are driven to protect what they hold.

What does this all mean?

Simply this: to expect Westminster to be able to change its set path against an independent Scotland is not realistic. Westminster is locked into this 35 million year old, hard wired, 'risk averse' thinking where slow decision making or logic has no place except to self justify. This is the inherent weakness in the Better Together negative campaign; when other humans begin to apply slow decision making thinking to Westminster fast decisions the holes appear in Westminster's logic. The 'I hate Salmond' defence for the 'status quo' no voters also comes under threat in the face of ever more irrational and antagonistic political posturing from Westminster.

Psychologists call what is happening to the shifting ' Don't know / No vote', cognitive dissonance; this is where the objective evidence no longer supports what you believe be true but you do not want to believe it. The tension created by cognitive dissonance builds up and you either accept you are wrong, change you mind or plunge into deep and painful denial. Most human's do not like inflicting pain on themselves, even those in denial - they may vote 'No' but it will be full of irrational self justification and blame for the leaders of the side they claimed was right for getting it so very wrong.

Amongst died in the wool 'No voters' you can already begin hear the blame game winding into action - Cameron's a liability, he needs to stop annoying Scots, he's wrecking the Union, Darling's not much better.

1 comment:

  1. Peter,I always assumed that the Westminster elite and friends were descendants of Neanderthals but clearly their stupidity goes much further back in time.Perhaps I am doing a disservice to Neanderthals in that they could reason in a rational manner.
    Some of them appear to be much closer to amoeba than primates.
    Thanks Peter.