Psychological Perspectives on #MuslimBan

I never really wanted to politicize my blogging, after all I’m still pretty sure most of my views come from people directly related to me (Hi Mum, hi bro) but like a black hole politics tends to suck in the people around, and also like a black hole crush their souls into incomprehensible pulp. Also I recently came to the realization that being an easy going person is fine, but to also expand that attitude to affairs of the world is to silently condone them. Not that I plan on making massive differences I suppose but to have a voice in the maelstrom is important.

Anyways the true point of this post is prompted by someone older and wiser than myself who pointed out that part of Donald Trump’s success stemmed from a complacency on the efforts of progressives, who simply labelled Trump as a bigot and did not provide coherent arguments against his statements. Now I can understand this because typically one does not feel that a thorough argument in needed against a man who blames critical interview questions on the journalist being on her period, HOWEVER equally if you want people to be better you need to give them reason to be (other than to avoid the label bigot)

If you’re with me so far, basically I want to provide a perspective on why banning Muslims from entering the U.S. is bad. Just for the sake of clarity I am aware that the immigration restrictions are more complicated than an outright ban, however this is the rubric many people understand the policy and I want to provide a coherent argument against it.


Main Point – the ban plays in people’s psychology in all the wrong ways.

Something we all do is generalize (for example me just then). Generalization is a necessary process that stops our brains from exploding, and in many cases is an accurate way of understanding the world. The problem with generalization in today’s global world is that our brains don’t really have an ‘off switch’ or some little cognitive angel on our shoulder telling us “That generalization is too big.”

And when it comes to BIG groups generalization to be frank is outright incorrect. Put it this way, the smaller the assumption the better chance you have of some accuracy, for example if I made statements about men in their 30’s in my hometown. When is comes to massive groups like religions, gender, even nations generalizations become hideously, sometimes disastrously inaccurate. For example if I make statements about women as a whole, I’m referring to something like 3-4 billion people, gender is NOT a good way to make assumptions about 3 billion people!

Anyway there are estimated to be 1.6 billion Muslim people in the world. That is a lot of people to make a generalization about…

But wait, one might ask, what about the terrorism thing. You know ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, and so forth, there are/were all Muslims right? Not only that many of these people identify the reason for their animosity to be their religious belief!

Phew, OK this one is a bit harder to untangle but if anyone is following this argument please bear with me. First let me make a strange proposal, that is that we don’t take the word of the perpetrator for why violence occurs. In forensic or rehabilitative psychology it is not unusual to see perpetrators of crime have some form of plausible narrative about why they think they committed a grievous crime, suffice to say as a professional you don’t simply assume that their explanation is the more causative factors.

That probably sounded like gobbledygook (who would have thought Chrome would demand the correct spelling of that) so here is a real example:

A man accused of sexual abuse claimed that he had been hypnotized by the stars reflecting in his outdoor pool and committed this crime in a semi-conscious state. Now as a professional working with such a person, or even law enforcement trying to protect others you would seriously be wasting your time trying to prevent star hypnotism.

What has this all got to do with Muslim banning and terrorism. In short faith may be the explanation of the terrorist, however it would be wrong-headed to assume that the solution is to target their faith. It’s also doing something called “confusing the inverse” Confusing the inverse is when you understand that all dogs are mammals so assume that most mammals are dogs. 90-95% of prisoners are men, only 1-2% of men are criminals.

So I guess this diatribe has been a length argument for why restricting immigration for Muslims into the U.S. is a bad idea, beyond it being racist, or non-PC. I also believe such actions have serious consequences going forward including:

  • It galvanizes bad-thinking on behalf of the U.S. we all have cognitive biases and the more we allow them to inform decision making the less we can resist them
  • It also confirms the beliefs of those who do make the U.S. and western nations their enemy. I’m not saying that enemies can hold nations with emotional black-mail but I have always believed in humane treatment not necessarily because people deserve it but to maintain one’s own ethics.
  • Finally its simply not a good policy. Favouring Christian immigrants over Muslim plays into shallow thinkers hands terrorism has been conducted by people of all religions, again because its a big category its useless to generalize within it.

Anyway, time has grown short if anyone is reading this blog and has thoughts, criticism, arguments whatever feel free to comment.

One thought on “Psychological Perspectives on #MuslimBan

  1. I think it (blaming terrorism on islamic beliefs) is also an example of the way that we like to have a coherent narrative to explain something (similar to blaming school shootings on violent FPS games); it’s typically completely wrong (or at least over-simplifying).

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s