These ways of minding our situation have worked very well for us in pursuit of survival, conquest of rival communities and exploitation of planetary resources. We take actions based on these strategies in order to make technological progress, to control others' ambitions, to dominate psychological conflicts and to win battles. We realize short term gains and fail to foresee the long term consequences. These cognitive strategies are typically identified with the left hemisphere of the neocortex.
- Categorical reasoning: We label the components of the situation to know exactly what we're dealing with.We quickly sort out who is friend and foe, part of the problem or on the team. It would undermine our actions to "get all iffy" about what the facts are. We cannot consider what it might be, could otherwise mean or possibly signify. We're being objective and avoiding any post-modern subjectivity or departure from dominant narratives. It is what it is and gets labeled accurately.
- Dichotomous reasoning: We think in "either/ or" terms. We insist both cannot be right. The action to be taken cannot be wrong and have truth in it or cannot play into a beneficial process with uncertain outcomes. We rule out grey areas, middle grounds and ambiguous approaches. We practice retributive justice and tale offense at wrong doing.
- Compartmentalized reasoning: We establish boundaries on the situation and limit what gets considered. We rule out extraneous issues to maintain our focus and resolve. We dissociate what would produce cognitive dissonance. We deny what would otherwise give us feelings of guilt, doubt or hesitation.
- Reductionistic reasoning: We infer a chain of events and a causal explanation for what happens. We assume we can get results by adopting a model where one thing leads to another in sequence. We believe we can make things happen by taking action in line with the established order. We rule out "chicken and egg problems", cyclical dynamics and symbiotic relationships. We cannot account for systemic backlash, escalation of symptoms or "feeding the problem" by taking actions in sequence.
- Empirical reasoning: We rely on established proof to take action confidently. We seek reliable solutions, cures and fixes that get consistent results. This cognitive strategy has no use for symptoms that disappear when given a different diagnosis or problems that vanish by letting go of fixing them.
- Superficial reasoning: We take the evidence at face value and read nothing into it. We avoid making wild speculations about hidden dynamics, underlying motives or sponsoring premises. We react to what's obviously changing, troublesome and threatening. We cannot consider that we might be falling for a baited trap, getting played by the game or getting suckered by our own predictable perceptions.
- Convergent reasoning: We zero in on what needs to be attended to and acted upon. We focus on the essentials to accomplish the task we're facing. We know what has to be said and done and do it. We cannot diverge into exploring possible changes in timing, venue, tools, understandings or goals. We mean business at this point so we close our minds to distractions.
These same cognitive strategies destroy climates and ecosystems. They do damage to learners, employees and communities. They undermine families, marriages and other relationships. They lead to product failures, pilot errors, medical malpractice and business downsizing. When they fail to handle dangerous situations adequately, they appear short sighted, dysfunctional, biased and insensitive. They are lacking in creativity and other features of right brain functionality. They give credence to my claim that
"The left half of the neocortex sucks at making decisions"