Individuals often do not realize that their brain has an unconscious behavior that brings happiness in their life. The psychological immune system is what a human's brain does by cooking up facts that turn negative situations into a positive situation. In the passage, "Immune to Reality," Daniel Gilbert focuses on analyzing the psychological immune system and how it manipulates the way people look at a situation allowing them to feel a sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction only comes from the users enjoying the content on their feed. In Franklin Foer's passage, "Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will," he emphasizes the use of algorithms that read users' likes and dislikes, which helps engineers develop user's feeds based on content that would keep them engaged. The algorithms incorporated in the system are, by definition, "gorgeous expressions of logical thinking" (Foer, 111). The logical thinking of algorithms is to condense the user's feed to only topics centered around what they like so they can voice their strong opinions. The passage discusses Facebook as a form of hacking that takes the users into the engineer's hands who create the algorithms. Although Foer denies the application of algorithms to accomplish what Facebook wants, he explains how Facebook keeps its users engaged on the app by gathering data of what makes them happy. An individual would benefit positively by raising awareness of their psychological immune system at the moment; this awareness comes from noticing their reactions, which will give them a better understanding of how to experience long term happiness.
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Through a scientific perspective, the psychological immune system pressures Facebook users to have thoughts that keep them engaged in their feed. It obstructs the ability for oneself to see the manipulation algorithms have on the individual's mind. Facebook eliminates the user's free will by preventing them from seeing whatever they desire and suggesting posts on their feed that engineers believe is best for them. Although the mind does not treat every situation the same and makes various inferences on the spot, these reactions explain why an individual concludes prematurely. Striving to change Facebook users' psychological thought process, Foer reiterates, "For one gathering, Facebook extracted the positive words from the posts in the News Feed; for another gathering, it eliminated the negative words" (Foer, 113). Gilbert broadens Foer's discussion of Facebook's experiments on how people cannot take control of what they experience, so the mind changes the view of the experience for them. As Gilbert recognizes a pattern of how people unwittingly make a positive perspective into a negative circumstance, he conveys, "Instead, their brains quickly consider the facts of which they are aware and draw the same kinds of plausible but mistaken inferences about themselves that an observer would probably draw about them” (Gilbert, 143). Every scene for an individual’s brain is going through a consistent strategy of forming their thoughts, and then making up illusions when asked about their behavior. For instance, Gilbert addresses an experiment conducted where volunteers were told to watch a screen with a set of words that appeared for a few milliseconds (Gilbert, 143). When the volunteers saw words on the screen, the brain influenced their reactions because of prior knowledge. Facebook performs experiment, a way of their manipulation, on users to achieve the desirable answer they want. To illustrate, Foer elaborates on an experiment done on users to discover if the emotions users feel are contagious among the platform. Each of these users, when interacting with the negative or positive post, then wrote about how they felt that resembled their mood (Foer, 113). When users made posts that revealed how they felt, the user’s words were how Facebook got their answer to see what causes users to have this frustration or happiness. Foer communicates Facebook's algorithmic way of changing users' mindsets to bring out emotions on their feed, which amplifies Gilbert's acknowledgment of the person's brain releasing emotions unconsciously at the moment, which are not well thought off. The unconscious behavior is due to the mind being subjective by changing the information presented, resulting in an outcome the brain believes is suitable.
Humans try to come up with an explanation to justify their behavior, they cannot think for themselves, so the mind is subjected to create an explanation. When people recall a past negative memory, they consolidate the worst of the situation wanting to go back to change their actions or words. This regretful action is because the individuals expressed words through their unconscious brain, not from the individual itself. Given that users do not know they are simply interacting with a machine, the algorithms help Facebook nudge users towards a path to addict them to the content. The people also do not know that their psychological immune system controls their emotions from what they post on their feed to what they see. Since the brain tries to use a form of deception in a traumatic event, Gilbert highlights, "Because our brains do their shopping unconsciously, we tend not to realize they will do it at all; hence, we blithely assume that the dreadful view we have when we look forward to the event is the dreadful view we have when we look back on it" (Gilbert, 132). Foer elucidates Gilbert's idea of how users unconsciously interact with a machine, and they do not realize that these algorithms are the ones controlling them. This secret of algorithms behind a user's feeds, Foer depicts as, "Algorithms are, by definition, invisibilia. However, we can typically detect their quality that some place somewhere out there, we're cooperating with a machine" (Foer, 112). The algorithms have the power to change users' behavior to suit their likings by interpreting many signals to develop a condensed list of what these users see. Indeed, these algorithms are disintegrating the freedom to see many topics to a concise list of issues like political or social news users enjoy. As people come across a subject, they already dislike, these topics will force them to have dreadful views because of their previous interaction, causing them to have that same dreadful view moving forward. Gilbert calls attention to how, when somebody may communicate a negative scenario, this leaves a remark in your brain every time the human reflects. For example, Gilbert discusses an experiment where a group of students received three shocks. Many of the students had a more painful experience than the other students. A group of students who had severe shocks had a pleasant experience since these high-intensity shocks triggered their psychological immune system, which immediately signaled a positive experience (Gilbert, 148). This experiment reinforces that experiencing a triggering event impacts people to predict they will have that same painful experience based on other's experiences. Based on both the passages, people would benefit if they develop a habit of controlling their actions by taking power over the mind from making decisions independently. This power will end for a person to stop predicting their future decision based on their past actions; therefore, instilling this idea in the human will result in them not experiencing the same dreadful emotion again.
Explicitly posting every detail of an individual on a platform like Facebook does not bring people closer together. When individuals express all of their feelings publicly, everyone knows their standing on a topic, which shows that a platform like Facebook works to make all details known but unrealistic. Foer describes this unrealistic way as algorithms that form the brain's thoughts forcing people to express opinions that may not necessarily be true of how they feel. Foer highlights Facebook's impact on individuals when he addresses, "The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives" (Foer, 105). Gilbert's idea powerfully illuminates an explanation of why Foer exhibits Facebook as an openness app to share every little detail that helps develop conformity amongst others. In reality, people are different from what they say to be on a platform like Facebook, proving them to be not true to themselves and the world. Sharing thoughts formed by the unconscious brain forces people to question themselves, which prompts Gilbert to note, "The benefit of all this unconscious cookery is that it works, but the cost is that it makes us strangers to ourselves" (Gilbert, 144). The "cookery" that the unconscious brain performs would fail to work if people became aware of how they act. Nonetheless, this sense of understanding would help people feel better about themselves rather than questioning their actions. Algorithms dominate over the brain, so when the mind wants to post everything, the individual's reality then shifts their focus by cooking up facts that do not define who they are. Gilbert underlines that this unconscious behavior works; for that reason, the psychological immune system acts as a mechanism for individuals to cope with disappointment. On the Facebook platform, engineers design algorithms to ensure users' brains share their opinions as much as possible to develop their best image. Gilbert accepts this unconscious behavior of the brain to be why people can cope with disappointment. The disappointment people feel supports Foer's claim of people lying to themselves, so they can showcase behind the screen as someone who fits into society. The concept of radical transparency is built into the system, so even if users do not intend to share their personal information, doing so Foer believes will result in the improvement of society. An idealistic approach is only to put details on social media that an individual believes would benefit others. Putting every detail of an individual out on an open platform makes the person want to fit into society, not make them come closer together.
For individuals to grab control of the mind requires them to make an effort also to recognize that they are not expected to act a certain way to fit in society. An individual must become aware of these mechanisms that rationalize the psychological immune system by grabbing control of the mind to fight against this long-term guilt; thus, the individual will have long term happiness. By not having awareness, people cannot have a self-connection or discover who they want to be. In "Immune to Reality," Daniel Gilbert clarifies that the audience first needs to become conscious of these defenses to help become their own person. Gilbert's examples of the creative mind's weaknesses and the explanations of flaws in an individual's observations show that they find it challenging to foresee happiness in their future because they base their future on prior knowledge. Individuals can only change their experience by modifying their strategy of forming their thoughts to perform actions themselves instead of the psychological immune system. In the article "Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will" by Franklin Foer, Foer has Facebook develop algorithms to ensure that Facebook can control what is best for humans. Users blindly follow the algorithms and do not see the manipulation they do to them that changes their vision suitable for them. Users will benefit if they become aware of the algorithm's presence and objective that signals the brain, forming the user's thoughts. This change in the psychological immune system starts with the person grabbing control over their own life to experience long term happiness and not regret it.
Foer, Franklin. “Mark Zuckerberg’s War on Free Will” The New Humanities Reader, 6th edition, edited by Richard E. Miller and Kurt Spellmeyer, Cengage, 2019, pp. 102-114
Gilbert, Daniel. “Immune to Reality.” The New Humanities Reader, 6th edition, edited by Richard E. Miller and Kurt Spellmeyer, Cengage, 2019, pp. 141-159
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