How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In slapstick comedy, the worst thing that could happen usually does: The person with a sore toe manages to stub it, sometimes twice. Such errors also arise in daily life, and research traces the tendency to do precisely the worst thing to ironic processes of mental control. These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations, but they also increase the likelihood of such errors when we attempt to exert control under mental load (stress, time pressure, or distraction). Ironic errors in attention and memory occur with identifiable brain activity and prompt recurrent unwanted thoughts; attraction to forbidden desires; expression of objectionable social prejudices; production of movement errors; and rebounds of negative experiences such as anxiety, pain, and depression. Such ironies can be overcome when effective control strategies are deployed and mental load is minimized.
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Gottfried Vosgerau & Martin Voss (2014). Authorship and Control Over Thoughts. Mind and Language 29 (5):534-565.
Michael Lewis (2011). The Origins and Uses of Self-Awarenesss or the Mental Representation of Me. Consciousness and Cognition 20 (1):120-129.
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