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Temple Grandin, the world renowned professor of animal behavior who is autistic, explains that some autistic people think visually, very much like animals. In fact, she credits that similarity with her ability to work innovatively with livestock. In her book, THINKING IN PICTURES, she describes a theoretical situation in which a dog is staring at a mailbox when he’s hit by a car. After agonizing recovery, does he learn to be warier of cars? No. The dog spends the rest of his life afraid of similar mailboxes, because he associates a mailbox with the pain he experienced. I’m wondering, do more people think in such associations than I realized…or follow those who do?
Consider people who encounter something truly frightening such as the many strains of COVID-19. Dr. Fauci is the face they see on TV explaining the risks and means of lessening them. So, do they rush out to receive the most cutting edge scientific vaccinations possible, following the expert’s best advice? No. They blame Dr. Fauci for the pandemic and the inconvenience it has caused, perhaps going so far as to send him threats. Or they may transfer the association of fear to Joe Biden, because he’s the president and appears on TV talking about masks.
So-called journalists who seem to lack professional ethics but may lack verbal reasoning skills, instead, then suggest any well-educated scientists are suspect. Are these “reporters” making the same kind of visual association they used with Dr. Fauci simply to manipulate the masses? Some of their viewers chose to trust blatantly irresponsible remedies such as drinking bleach or consuming horse wormer because an authority who acted like someone they could meet in a bar suggested them. He looked normal to them—especially when he associated himself with the BIBLE by holding it, regardless of whether he had a history of following the tenets of Christianity. Many pastors still accept his godly association without question.
Others who may be well educated associate vaccines with Big Pharma and refuse to accept the science behind them. They trust authorities who match their ideas of what followers of their belief system should sound like, consistently respecting their advice over research data, no matter the source. They see the totality of scientists as THE MAN who pushes weed killer and tainted water.
Visual association may exacerbate prejudices. People who’ve lost jobs feel defeated when the family suffers, but then they spot a member of a minority occupying a well-paid position. They may associate that minority person—be it a woman, an immigrant, or a member of a racial minority—with their despair, regardless of the quality of the work the employee is doing or its relevance to their former job. Instead of questioning economic policies (which are confusing, at best), they blame the person they see and anyone from that group.
I’m reading THE HANDMAID’S TALE and cringe because it’s too believable. Male dominated societies have visually associated women with downfall since Eve. Women’s bodies make them easy assignations as sexual objects (which would make wanton abortion attractive to them) or beings whose sole purpose for existing is procreation (so dying due to complications with childbirth would be noble, if pointless). Men wrote those associations into some of their holy books. Women are often indoctrinated to believe they have no other functions in modern society and have only to consult a mirror to see that “truth.” Women and minorities are often murdered or abused because they have low social value.
Of course, I’m speculating, but perhaps even inadvertent visual association isn’t as far-fetched as we might think. Why else would blatantly unqualified, emotionally insecure people be elected instead of reasonable choices? Smear campaigns are simply manufactured associations. Vaccines, for example, are scary for being foreign chemicals most of us don’t understand. Isn’t it logical to think that vaccines could be the stuff of conspiracies? Some supposedly reasonable people who accept that the government can afford and is anxious and able to organize secret techniques to insert expensive microchips in vaccines for everyone so they can monitor when Gladys and Fred Citizen go to Walmart are, perhaps, not considering the practicality of the situation. (By the way, autistic people are often too intelligent and logical to fall for absurd associations.) Or replacing white Americans with dark-skinned immigrants—aside from the legality, can you imagine the accompanying cost, educational demands, housing, etc.? And someone thinks such a plan would be popular in these times of financial woes and contagion? Associations are examples of knee-jerk reactions, generally dependent on fear and ignorance.