Dichotomous Thinking and Authoritarian Personality – Either you do what I say or you are against me. What I say and think is the only truth, the rest is a lie or nonsense. This type of reasoning defines the authoritarian person, whose thinking is always dichotomous and rigid.
Dichotomous thinking defines the people who construct their reality according to categories. For them, everything is white or black, good or bad, whether you are on their side or against them. This tendency to evaluate what surrounds them on the basis of such extreme or polarized concepts very often defines a clear authoritarian profile with which it is very complicated to live together.
Absolute terms are not as abundant as we think in our social universe. It’s something we need to understand in the first place. That is to say, experience always shows us that absolute happiness, for example, is not possible. Also, people are never completely good or completely bad. Our reality is changing, complex, full of nuances, and being able to accept all this variability is the key to well-being and intelligence.
However, some insist that everything that surrounds them fits into a rigid and stable calendar, a scheme as simple as possible so that everything is under control. In addition, as an old Serbian proverb says with mockery, there are two types of people in this world, those who believe that there are two types of people and those who do not. Beyond the irony (and success) of this idea, there is a fairly serious aspect.
Dichotomous thought and primitive spirit
This dichotomous approach is at the root of many prejudices, those which form the most damaging stereotypes. That’s what psychologists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer said in their day. Now, there is a fact on which it is worth thinking: dichotomous thinking is combated by encouraging critical and flexible thinking. Something that, unfortunately, is not always applied in schools or taught at home.
Thinking dichotomously or in black and white is harmful and must be obsolete. It is the vestige of a past where invented and clearly biased dichotomies were abundantly present (some races were superior to others, one genre stronger than another, etc.). In social psychology, we are told that this type of cognitive approach is much more than we think.
Some might surprise you, but thinking in absolute terms is a lot easier. The reason? It does not require any effort and it means that many people apply this pattern of thought without knowing it. They do it when they see things in terms of good or bad, good or bad, without appreciating the nuances that intervene and which, often, with a little more care and empathy, allow us to see a wider and richer reality.
It should be noted that psychologists such as Aaron T. Beck had already defined this type of reasoning in the 1960s as “primitive and immature thinking”. Thus, according to the father of cognitive therapy, who thinks in absolute terms and applies this kind of bias, the use of a type of very rigid mental process makes the character. Here are:
- They only look at the global aspects of reality. They are unable to analyze and conceptualize certain information at scales, degrees or dimensions.
- His thought is also immutable and irreversible.
Aaron T. Beck also indicated at the time that this type of mental focus on himself is not an indication of a mental disorder. Sometimes with add dichotomous thinking to other symptoms to form clinical conditions, such as borderline personality disorder.
On the other hand, where it is generally present, we observe an authoritarian behavior. Today, we even have a scale to measure dichotomous thinking, and this is thanks to studies such as those conducted by Dr. Atkushi Oshio
According to this work, dichotomous thinking is common among narcissists with low self-esteem, who also exhibit authoritarian behavior.
They are people who do not tolerate ambiguity, who have to control everything and who tend to devalue someone who thinks by opposing them.
Another factor that usually occurs in this type of personality is perfectionism.
The need to train our cognitive flexibility
To reverse dichotomous thinking, we must promote cognitive flexibility from an early age. This executive function would allow us, among other things, to solve more problems. After all, the contradiction is what rigid personality and has utoritaire does not accept. However, if there is something that is abundantly present in our reality
Daily D is of complex quality and variability.
If we could accept this wealth of stimuli and categories from a more open, respectful and flexible point of view, we would enrich ourselves much more as a person. Taking other perspectives into account is synonymous with empathy and intelligence. Moreover, flexible thinking, unlike dichotomous and rigid solutions, is a way of life in which we can adapt much better to the complexity of our environment.