The Echoes of the Mind (69-2) The Uncanny

The Uncanny

That which is “uncanny” is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. ~ Sigmund Freud

We’re so motivated to get rid of that feeling that we look for meaning and coherence elsewhere. ~ American psychologist Travis Proulx

The mind savors security. Anomalies are demanding invitations to the mind to play its favorite game: making sense of the world which presents itself. Facing the uncanny, the mind ratchets itself into a higher gear: looking for patterns in which to fit the discovered oddity. Because of this, learning is facilitated by indulging in a bit of absurdity. Experiment participants do better finding difficult-to-discern patterns when the task is interrupted by reading an absurd text, as contrasted to a sample of sensible prose.

In the meantime, the mind reassures itself. When affronted with the unfamiliar, the mind seeks solace in the comfortable.

The Collective cling to their personal biases when feeling threatened. After thinking about their own inevitable death, people become more patriotic, more religious, and less tolerant of outsiders. Those insulted profess more loyalty to friends. Students who do poorly on a test identify more strongly with their school’s winning teams.

People in the grip of the uncanny tend to perceive patterns where none exist (apophenia): becoming more prone to conspiracy theories, among other inclinations. The internal urge for order satisfies itself, regardless of evidentiary quality.

Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved. ~ Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard