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← The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins (illustrated by Dave McKean)

Barry Pearson's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by Barry Pearson

Comment 46 by Paula Kirby :

I am genuinely baffled by the tendency displayed by so many people to read 'some' as 'all' - the wild exaggeration of an originally nuanced or specific point into some gross generalisation. In some cases it's pretty clearly wilful misrepresentation ... and very often it's used as a way of creating a strawman ... but I see it happen so often that I am beginning to think there's something in the human brain that keeps tripping us up here.... But I see it in other contexts too: it's not just a religious thing.

Long ago I was baffled by this, and reacted badly when it was done to me. I think I now understand it better and can handle it:

I had a manager whose reaction against any moderate position he disagreed with would be to exaggerate my position so that he could argue effectively and convincingly against it. It would have been harder for him to argue against the original position, and sometimes even petty. Sometimes I would make the mistake of allowing myself to be pushed towards the position he had chosen for me so that I in turn could argue against him.

I actually practiced in front of a video camera with someone deliberately play-acting in that way with a discussion afterwards so that even under pressure I could resist! It is simple, of course: just patiently stick to and repeat your moderate opinion. (Although that can irritate others who haven't spotted the game being played and think you are just repeating yourself).

What then happened is that my manager, in order to maintain the wide gap he thought necessary to argue against me, exaggerated his own position! He pushed himself towards extremes, while I remained om track! I suspect something like that is happening here.

Some of these people are not simply arguing for their own position. They feel the need to argue against our position, however moderate. They will therefore exaggerate our position, and if we don't allow that, they are likely to adopt a more extreme position themselves.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 15:01:20 UTC | #874435