Having dealt with nutbag “extremists” (left, right, religious, countercultural) my entire life, I generally agree with the arguments of this article. But a major qualification involves the need to reject the view that holding “centrist” views reflect psychological “normality,” while holding “extremist” views reflects abnormality. As Caitlin Johnstone has pointed out, the true “extremists” are the “centrist” empire apologists who think that the millions of deaths caused by the US empire are just another policy issue (or no issue at all), with the Communists who want to nationalize the entire economy, or militiamen/sovereign citizens who wage armed struggle against drivers’ licensing laws and who want to strip government down to the county level, being “moderates” in comparison.
By Sara Chodosh
Radical political views of all sorts seem to shape our lives to an almost unprecedented extent. But what attracts people to the fringes? A study from researchers at University College London offers some insight into one characteristic of those who hold extreme beliefs—their metacognition, or ability to evaluate whether or not they might be wrong.
“It’s been known for some time now that in studies of people holding radical beliefs, that they tend to… express higher confidence in their beliefs than others,” says Steve Fleming, a UCL cognitive neuroscientist and one of the paper’s authors. “But it was unknown whether this was just a general sense of confidence in everything they believe, or whether it was reflective of a change in metacognition.”