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The primal thinking behind exhibition of violence

No one will deny, what had happened in the past few months in Hong Kong was depressing, anxiety inducing and anger-provoking.  Hong Kong people are facing a chaotic situation that most will find threatening.  When we face stress or threats, we need an efficient cognitive processing to make sense of our environment in order to help us make quick decision for fight-or-flight responses. However, this simplistic thinking style makes us easier to commit thinking biases that will hijack our mind for irrational behaviours.  I am going to discuss the biases behind this type of simplistic thinking style so that we can be more aware of how information we obtained about the recent social situations can mislead us to make biased judgment.

When we face stress or threats, we become egocentric so that we can protect ourselves from getting hurt.  Primal thinking is involved in this egocentric state, as we tended to think in absolute terms for what is good or harmful to us.  It is primitive in a sense that it happened in the early stage of information processing.  It is also prominent in the early stage of development of children.  During primal thinking, the most salient feature of the information relevant for personal benefit or danger is extracted.  There is no room for reflection and fine discrimination.  Its simplicity helps trigger the most primal strategies to deal with the threats.

Despite its efficiency, primal thinking excludes a large amount of information due to selective reduction of data to a few crude categories.  This causes highlighting or exaggeration of a certain selected information and minimizing or excluding other contradictory information.  Sometimes, personally relevant information is taken out of context and this leads to a perception away from the reality.

Due to the advances in technology, we are now able to obtain a large amount of information daily about the recent social unrest.  However, the information may not reflect the whole picture of the scenario.  Think twice before we exhibit behaviours, such as violence, based on the selective information processing through primal thinking.

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