Conclusion: Cognitive Walls, Cognitive-Affective Revolution, and Real-World Utopias

  • Michelle MaieseEmail author
  • Robert Hanna


One characteristic feature of the truly malign effect of destructive, deforming institutions in contemporary neoliberal nation-states is that they systematically build up what we call cognitive walls. A cognitive wall is an entrenched or habitual belief, memory, stereotypical mental image, or emotion that acts as an effective screen against reality and truth. Well-attested cognitive phenomena like the persistence of false beliefs and the backfire effect, for example, show that cognitive walls are extremely difficult to correct, in part because they are self-reinforcing and fundamentally related to a person’s sense of identity. Insofar as people are embedded within collectively sociopathic social institutions, they pre-reflectively reproduce inflexible mental habits instead of reflectively adjusting their beliefs, affects, and actions by means of self-conscious critical thinking and feeling. We maintain that cognitive walls are a matter of someone’s being stuck in specific affective frames, and that concepts from dynamic systems theory can help us to make sense of the neurobiological dynamics involved. Dismantling these cognitive walls requires that the subject actively undertake a cognitive-affective revolution, that is, a dramatic shift in affective framing patterns. Although cognitive-affective revolution initially may seem frightening and unimaginable, nevertheless it is really possible to move toward real-world utopias, via transformative self-education and the creation of constructive, enabling institutions.


Cognitive walls Habitual beliefs False beliefs Cognitive-affective revolution Real-world utopia 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emmanuel CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Independent PhilosopherBoulderUSA

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