Just Because You’re Smart, Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Stupid

By Neal Pollock

I. Background

 A.  People are mostly unconscious or subconscious, not conscious

            1.  Levels of Consciousness: rational, irrational, non-rational

                        a. personal unconscious or subconscious (Freud/Jung)

                        b. collective unconscious (Jung)

                        c. conscious mind--a new development

            2.  The Johari window:

a. what you know you know

b. what you know you don’t know

c. what you don’t know you know

d. what you don’t know you don’t know

3.  Basic character set in childhood (mostly unconscious)

            a. lots of trial and error

            b. learn from examples (how parents act)

            c. conscience is a non-rational process

 B.  People like to believe they are in control (i.e. conscious)

            1.  simple observation belies this belief

            2.  belief differs from knowledge; few study epistemology

            3.  people ascribe expertise to college degrees and job titles

                        a.  most scientists have never studied the Philosophy of Science

                        b.  understanding a specialty does not imply understanding per se

 C.  Our society supports a belief in causation--a bottoms-up approach--past drives the present

            1.  Jung developed synchronicity--meaningful coincidence

            2.  Jung spoke of a top-down approach, a teleological approach

                        a.  the desired goal, for instance, drives the present from the future

            3.  when planning a journey you need both the start point and the end point

a.  as the Mad Hatter told Alice, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road

will take you there.

4.  inductive vs. deductive reasoning; Yin vs. Yang; the play of opposites

 D.  Knowledge (relationships & symbols) vs. Convention (definitions & signs)

            1.  VA Standards of Learning in History for instance--memorization

            2.  mostly we are taught conventions, not knowledge

            3.  understanding comes through knowledge, not convention

            4.  knowledge can be experiential vs. intellectual

            5.  convention is only intellectual, surface oriented

            6.  people filter/color/screen percepts -- e.g. via Myers-Briggs preferences

 E.  Individuals are not constant, they are dynamic

            1.  bi-directional communications are dyadic, interactive

            2.  roles: “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

            3.  society/group effects: (paraphrasing Jung) when a group of people put their heads

together you get one big fathead.

II. Ethics and People (based on the above observations and conclusions)

 A.  Traditional morality is not based on individual conscious discrimination/thinking:

Jung, C. G. Civilization in Transition CW10, Princeton U. Press, Princeton, NJ 1964

p. 357 “The mere observance of a codified ‘Thou shalt not’ is not in any sense an ethical decision, but merely an act of obedience and, in certain circumstances, a convenient loophole that has nothing to do with ethics.”

            1. Group psychological effects:

Jung, The Symbolic Life CW18, p. 571 “Thus a hundred intelligent people together make one hydrocephalus.  The psychology of masses is always inferior, even in their most idealistic enterprises.  The whole of a nation never reacts like a normal modern individual, but always like a primitive group being…Man in the group is always unreasonable, irresponsible, emotional, erratic, and unreliable.  Crimes the individual alone could never stand are freely committed by the group being…The larger an organization the lower its morality.”


Jung, Psychological Types: p. 449 “The more a man’s life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is his individual immorality.”


Jung, Civilization in Transition: p. 228 “Any large company composed of wholly admirable persons has the morality and intelligence of an unwieldy, stupid, and violent animal.”


 B. Ethics (as work) based on individual conscious discrimination/thinking:

 Creativity and Work by Elliott Jaques: p.332  “what is experienced as psychic effort in work--the intensity or weight of responsibility--is entirely concerned with the discretionary content of work.  To conform to rules and regulations and other prescribed aspects of work requires knowledge; you either know or you do not; but it does not require the psychic effort of discretion and decision, with its attendant stirring of anxiety.  I was able to demonstrate that weight or level of responsibility is objectively measurable in terms of the maximum spans of time during which discretion must be exercised by a person on his own account.  The longer the span of time, the more the unconscious material that must be made conscious, and the longer must uncertainty about the final outcome and the anxiety about one’s judgement and discretion be tolerated.  In short, the longer the (p. 333) path toward gratification chosen…the greater is the experience of psychic effort or work.”


 C. Ethics as a dynamic vs. static process:

Freud and Psychoanalysis p. 288 “We should never forget that what today seems to us a moral commandment will tomorrow be cast into the (p.289) melting-pot and transformed, so that in the near or distant future it may serve as a basis for new ethical formations.  This much we ought to have learnt from the history of civilization, that the forms of morality belong to the category of transitory things.”


III. Practical Considerations

 A. standard and traditional methods often fail us at the worst possible times

            1. intellectual understanding of the principles of ethics are totally insufficient/ineffective under those circumstances where stressful, unprecedented, emotional choice must be made.

            2.  group action results in projection of group psychotic/irrational behaviors--mobs

            3.  people do NOT know themselves well at all; they cannot predict how they would act

B. Ethical decisions are work and require conscious discrimination.  Nevertheless, they can be

practiced so as to make them part of an individual (i.e. introjected) and an automatic process

            1. individuals need to identify their true values and beliefs--not group beliefs (cop-out)

            2. actions resulting from these values must be role-played under trying circumstances

                        a. similar to management in-box exercises and supervisory counseling role-plays

                        b. war games are exercises should be tailored to realistic ethical decision-making

            3. individual inconsistencies/hypocrisy need be identified and worked through/resolved

a. cognitive dissonance corrections, behavioral modification, therapy as

necessary, employed to correct situation

b. leadership role selection must reflect the ethical level of the candidates

            1) leaders must avoid seagull management (leave alone-zap)-Blanchard

c. individuals must accept responsibility for their actions and decisions

d. competence is transitive and task specific:

Yogiism: Just Because You’re Smart Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Stupid!

> Neal Pollock; pollockn@spawar.navy.mil

> Chief Acquisition Engineer, PEO(IT)C1

> (703) 602-4787; (703) 602-8540 Fax; DSN 332

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