I think the desire for narratives also manifests itself when people radically change their political views. It's notable that when some people's politics change they often seem to go through a wholesale change. We can all think of examples of those formerly some way out on the Left who subsequently became thoroughly right-wing. That is of course absolutely their right, but it is surprising that a number of such people seem to shift their view from Left to Right on each and every issue. It's unlikely that any 'side' is the sole repositery for truth, therefore wouldn't we expect to see more people become unaligned (as they realise that the side they had affiliated with is 'wrong' on certain issues) or simply moderate their views, rather than shift from one pole to another? If people are rationally considering each and every issue we might well expect to find this happen, but if we are principally in the business of buying narratives then maybe it's not surprising to see people chuck out one and replace it with a diffrent one. It's a lot easier than thinking through each issue in detail.
I think this sort of holds together, but I think it needs fleshing out a bit. What I've been thinking about lately is how those big headline beliefs (ie Left vs Right) sit on top of a stack of smaller ideas (what I'm going to call 'prop' beliefs). Now in order to shift fundamentally from one position to another, and for your new position to be sound, I think you must need those prop beliefs to support your big new idea. But how do you acquire them?
Personally, I have shifted a lot in the direction of letting people get on with things rather than trying to direct them centrally, so I'm much more comfortable with markets (in general) than I have been before. In addition I'm much less confident about the degree of control that is possible in any case. But how have I acquired these views?
In large part it is the result of work-related reading, but I can split this into sub-categories. There are areas that I understand well, where I think what I have done is looked at the empirical evidence (ie investment performance figures) and reached a given conclusion. Then there are the bits that I understand less well, where I think I have largely accepted propositions that sound reasonable (probably because they have narrative rationality) and/or because they come with the social proof of being advocated by 'experts'. So these are the prop beliefs supporting my revised perspectives.
Hopefully that all makes sense so far, but what interests me is which comes first, the big ideas, or the prop beliefs? Intuitively the changes in the prop beliefs ought to affect the bigger beliefs that sit on top of them. But going back to my bit of blurb from a previous post, I wonder whether it doesn't sometimes happen the other way around.
Perhaps we don't always acquire our big reliefs rationally by building on top of smaller established prop beliefs. Perhaps (for whatever reason) we acquire the big belief and then rapidly establish the props in our mind required to support it. That would seem to fit more easily with those cases where people switch completely from one perspective to another. In my own case, have I made up my mind to adopt new beliefs, and am now working on the evidence to support them, or do the prop beliefs come first? What's sauce for the goose and all that... Tricky one eh?
Off on a bit of a tangent, I'm always amazed to read pieces arguing that people are afraid to criticise [insert minority group, default option: muslims] for fear of being seen as prejudiced. I'm particularly amazed when I read such articles in national newspapers that regularly run negative articles about minorities. As far I am concerned it is patently false that people are prevented from speaking out, because they seem to do it all the time.
What is also noticeable is that vehemence and self-righteousness with which these claims are made, and I wonder whether that isn't actually a bit of a clue to what is going on. For whatever reason, many people do feel a bit shameful about laying into minorities. However by instituting the prop belief that they are being censored from saying what they want they are able to utilise this to access a feeling of self-righteousness in 'speaking out'. In this example the prop belief would seem to be used to address cognitive dissonance arising from their desire to say something and their desire not to be seen as insensitive/prejudiced.
Or am I talking rubbish?