Imaginary Presidents and Imaginary Gods: The Real “Empty Chair” Effect | Bering in Mind, Scientific American Blog Network

For those who watched the Clint Eastwood empty chair performance at the RNC, a psychologist explains some of the evolutionary history behind his approach and audience reaction, primarily inside the hall. Quote:

We’re all susceptible to tales of the supernatural, in other words, but genuine belief matters. For those who truly believed in this laboratory concocted spiritual entity, she was real enough in their minds, anyway, to affect their behavior in an empirically demonstrable way. As I’ve been arguing for the past several years now, from an evolutionary perspective, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever if the belief itself is true or patently delusional. Natural selection isn’t a mind reader and isn’t concerned about ontological reality; rather, evolution operates on the organism’s behavioral output, and if that behavioral output consistently leads to reproductive success, then the mental processes responsible for it are going to undergo selective pressure. If our ancestors thought that they were alone and/or could get away with something, but in fact were underestimating other people’s finding out, then the illusion of a concerned “invisible agent” would have helped them to inhibit selfish, impulsive decisions that could have seriously compromised their reputations, and hence their genetic interests.

Imaginary Presidents and Imaginary Gods: The Real “Empty Chair” Effect | Bering in Mind, Scientific American Blog Network.

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