Speaking of righteous and unrighteous, I’m still reading the Jonathan Haidt book. (I read several books at once, so that I’ll be sure to confuse them all.) I’m quite liking Part One, which argues for the primacy of intuition over reasoning. I’ve seen a lot of it before but not all of it, and anyway it’s presented well. It’s convincing.
Like the bit on p 55 about William Wundt and “affective primacy.”
Affect refers to small flashes of positive or negative feeling that prepare us to approach or avoid something.
I’ve been noticing something like that recently, with amusement, about driving – about a ridiculous little sorting thing going on in my head while driving that has to do with approval of the road I take and disparagement of the road others take. That’s related to stuff like “I’m going fast enough here, so the people behind me will know I know my way and I’m not some pathetic outsider who doesn’t know the way.” I have thoughts like that constantly, and then once in awhile I notice them and laugh at how ludicrous they are.
That’s not related to the affect, really, but to the small flashes.
Anyway, Wundt said that
affective reactions are so tightly integrated with perception that we find ourselves liking or disliking something the instant we notice it, sometimes even before we know what it is.
Wundt said it in the 1890s. In 1980 a social psychologist, Robert Zajonc, revived the idea, to correct the then-prevalent one that humans are “cool, rational information processors.”
Zajonc urged psychologists to use a dual-process model in which affect or “feeling” is the first process. It has primacy both because it happens first (it is part of perception and is therefore extremely fast) and because it is more powerful (it is closely linked to motivation, and therefore it strongly influences behavior). The second process – thinking – is an evolutionarily newer ability, rooted in language and not closely related to motivation.
Affect is more powerful than thinking.
I knew that, but that’s a particularly vivid way of explaining it, or reminding us of it.