In the following post I shall introduce a concept which I've termed 'Theory of Reality'. In short, theory of reality is the mental model of reality held in the mind of an individual. Before going into more detail about what theory of reality is, we should clarify what it is not. Theory of reality is concerned with objective reality, therefore it is not applicable to things which are entirely subjective. Therefore, theory of reality is unrelated to an individuals perception of the self, this is more appropriately termed 'ego'. An individual suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect may have a perception of their skills which is incongruent with objective reality, but their actual self perception (ego) is subjective and therefore inherently true in itself. The subtle distinction is between the subjective perception (removed from theory of reality) and the objective reality (contained within theory of reality). Of course, this means that ego is intrinsically linked with theory of reality, but in itself is removed from it. Similarly, the ability to differentiate the self from other sentient beings is more properly termed 'theory of mind', which is distinct from theory of reality in itself, however the belief (or lack of belief) that other sentient beings have separate minds is encompassed in theory of reality. In this case, the distinction is between the ability and the belief, and again theory of mind is intrinsically linked to theory of reality despite being separate from it.
The classical Sally-Anne test is typically used to detect the presence of theory of mind, however it also clearly demonstrates theory of reality. In the Sally-Anne test, the subject is shown a sketch in which two characters (Sally and Anne) are in a room containing a box and a drawer. Sally has some marbles, and puts them into the drawer. Sally then leaves the room and goes for a walk. While Sally is gone, Anne takes the marbles out of the drawer and puts them into the box. Sally then returns to the room. At this point, the subject is asked where Sally will think the marbles are. If the subject answers that Sally will look in the box, it is indicative of a deficit in theory of mind. If the subject answers that Sally will look in the drawer, it is indicative of intact theory of mind.
Theory of reality is the ability for the subject to realize that the marbles are in the drawer prior to being moved, and in the box afterwards. In other words, a deficit in theory of mind is characterized by the false belief that ones theory of reality is universal, which in itself is indicative of a deficit in theory of reality.
Deficits in models of reality inherently present with anosoagnosia, the inability to recognize a deficit in the self. This is because deficits in the self held model of reality are inherently false beliefs that are counter to a true objective reality, and by virtue of being held false beliefs, the holder is intrinsically incapable of simultaneously recognizing that the belief is false.
It is possible to have deficits in the minds model of reality without deficits in theory of reality, these concepts must be separated. For example, an individual who grows up in a society that says God created the universe, and who has parents who claim that God created the universe, and who is taught at school that God created the universe, is extremely likely to have a deficit in their model of reality which consists of the belief that God created the universe. This is not indicative of a deficit in theory of reality, merely of a deficit in the model of reality.
Intact theory of reality is therefore the ability to correct deficits in the model of reality when presented with evidence. Theory of reality should be viewed as existing on a spectrum, similar to intelligence, ranging from various degrees of retardation to various degrees of genius. Theory of reality itself can be separated into two components, 'updating' and 'discriminating'. Updating is the ability to modify the theory of reality to take new evidence into account. Discriminating is the ability to select the more objective evidence when presented with two contradictory claims. The closer to genius an individual is the more rapidly they will be able to update their theory of reality, and the more accurate their discrimination between dichotomous pieces of evidence will be. It is important to note that theory of reality is at most moderately correlated with intelligence; indeed some people with genius level intelligence have profound deficits in their theory of reality. Someone with genius level theory of reality does not inherently have genius level intelligence.
Updating deficits in theory of reality are characterized by retarded ability to modify the self held model of reality in accordance with new evidence. At the most severely retarded end of the spectrum, individuals will completely fail to update their theory of reality when presented with new evidence. An individual may have a model of reality that consists of all black people being low intelligence. Although this doesn't inherently mean they have deficits in theory of reality (they may just have a flawed model of reality), if they for example one day meet a black person with superior intelligence, a deficit in theory of reality, caused by failure to update, will manifest if they fail to update their model of reality to take this new evidence into account.
Discrimination deficits in theory of reality are characterized by the inability to differentiate between rational evidence and irrational evidence. An individual who hasn't any religious background, and who believes the general scientific consensus on topics such as the age of the Earth, may be presented with a religious belief system that is counter to the scientific consensus. If they adopt the religious belief system, this is the manifestation of a discrimination deficit in theory of reality, obviously it is not an updating deficit as theory of reality was indeed updated, but the update brought the model of reality further from objectivity than it previously was.
I believe that high functioning sociopaths and high functioning autistic people tend to have very superior to genius level theory of reality, as contrasted with neurotypicals who, despite inherently having neurotypical levels of theory of reality, are comparatively severely retarded in theory of reality. Unfortunately, I believe that sociopaths are cognizant of theory of reality and the neurotypicals comparative deficits in it, and that they create false models of reality that are beneficial to themselves, and inject these false models of reality into the minds of neurotypicals, by exploiting their comparative deficits in theory of reality. Of course, the neurotypicals are oblivious to this, because, as I previously mentioned, those suffering from impaired theory of reality also have anosoagnosia.
Exploiting deficits in theory of reality is the art and science of propaganda. Seeing as people may have more deficient updating or discrimination, it is useful to give an example of individual attacks against deficits isolated to either of these subsystems, which can be used to deliver payloads in the form of flawed models of reality.
An example of an attack against an individual with adequate updating but deficient discrimination would be rebranding. Say that an individual initially is taught that smoking marijuana is very harmful, a false belief. However, this individual has adequate updating in relation to theory of reality. Over time, they will observe people who use marijuana and, depending on their individual ability in theory of reality updating, come to the conclusion that smoking marijuana is not actually as harmful as the propagandists make it appear to be. The propagandists can exploit their weakness in theory of reality discrimination by rebranding the propaganda. "This isn't your Grandpas marijuana!", they say that marijuana today is different that it was when the subject updated their theory of reality to escape from the original false belief. Oh no, now the subject has the faulty belief in their mind again, even though they originally escaped from it with their adequate theory of reality updating! This is because, despite adequate theory of reality updating, the subject has impaired theory of reality discrimination. Although it is true that marijuana is more potent today, the exploit completely ignores the fact that doses have been adjusted to take this into account, less marijuana is required for the same high, and in practice nothing has really changed.
An example of an attack against an individual with adequate discrimination but deficits in updating would be belief freezing. Say that many years ago, before the rise of the internet, almost without variance people who looked at child pornography paid for it. This led to the saying that demand for child pornography inherently correlates in a causative fashion with supply of child pornography, which at the time was true. An individual with adequate discrimination would not be manifesting a deficit in theory of reality to update their internal model of reality to be that the demand for child pornography inherently correlated with the supply of child pornography. However, if you fast forward to the present situation, with the internet, trivial file sharing, and trivial infinite copying of files, people today very rarely pay for child pornography, and it is today just as rare for someone who views child pornography to contribute to the abuse of children as it was in the past for them not to. However, despite having adequate theory of reality discrimination, a person with a deficit in theory of reality updating has retarded ability to take the new situation into account.
Last edited by mrz on Wed Jun 17, 2015 3:05 pm, edited 5 times in total.