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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Truth > Conformity

Martin Silvertant, who is now Eva Silvertant and pursuing a Masters in Psychology while working as a graphic designer. Eva discovered that she was autistic at the age of nineteen but was diagnosed at twenty-five. She is also the co-founder of Embrace Autism, a platform that was created to share research and experience-based information on autism to empower those with autism or who care for someone with ASD to help them make sense of life and fully understand themselves or someone who has differing abilities. Silvertant wrote an article titled "Valuing Truth over Conformity" in which she started by pointing out that in general, it seems as if people are not all that worried about truth and it seems much more valuable to those with autism. The first section of the piece focuses on curiosity. One thought Silvertant has is that intelligence and curiosity sort of go together. "Without curiosity, you wouldn't look for truth; and without intelligence, you wouldn't recognize it." However, for people with autism, navigating the social world is already confusing and it is common to want to rely on facts, since factual information about the social world can make it easier to understand and live within. Joscha Bach, a cognitive scientist and philosopher is cited by Silvertant for his theories on computational meta-psychology, which is the mind as a system that introduces biases and can undermine meaning as well as rationality. He suggests there is a social framework that may account for why people are not typically all that concerned with the truth. The first component of this framework is social learning and synchronization. The idea here is that social learning can lead to members of a group synchronizing their opinions. This means that our opinions and preferences can mesh with those of the groups that we associate with, but as human beings, we are innately social, so some level of conformity is assumed. The next concept in this framework is truth vs. opinion, which explains that the "best" opinion-forming system does not seek the truth, but normatively "right" opinions instead. "Best" in this situation refers to what is most conducive to the individual members of the group and their own relationship to the group as a whole. In simpler terms, it is easier to agree with others than it is to disagree and search for the truth on your own; agreement unites us. The third item is ostracism, meaning that if a person wishes to join or be liked by a group, they must optimize for agreement with their peers. Bach says, "In most people, the fear of ostracism is a greater force than the loss of meaning." A person must weigh how important it is to them to be liked by others when their values and interests don't necessarily align with everyone else's in the group in order to navigate their social landscape. The next item on this "list" is instinct. Most people are effortlessly able to use their own opinion-forming system that will give them the most useful opinion, that of which is of their environment. People are capable of instinctively adopting the dominant opinion within their social environment. For more on this topic, listen/watch to Joscha Bach's talk on the concept of Computational Meta-Psychology ( It is crucial to our social world that we as humans understand how each person navigates the landscape of their respective groups. Each person is going to behave differently depending on how they perceive the world around them; Bach's video helps to better understand this concept.

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