@May 25, 2023 Pav notes: This is one of the best articles I read in the last couple of years. Thumbnail looks a little technical, but it's actually not that much. I promise that some (like me) will get some big ahas! there.
Excerpt explaining main idea
“But in fact many political zealots never accept reality. It's not just that they're inherently skeptical of what the other party says. It's that even when something is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, they still won't believe it. This is where we need to bring in the idea of trapped priors. …
Van der Bergh et al suggest that when experience is too intolerable, your brain will decrease bandwidth on the "raw experience" channel to protect you from the traumatic emotions. This is why some trauma victims' descriptions of their traumas are often oddly short, un-detailed, and to-the-point. This protects the victim from having to experience the scary stimuli and negative emotions in all their gory details. But it also ensures that context (and not the raw experience itself) will play the dominant role in determining their perception of an event.
I've heard some people call this "bitch eating cracker syndrome". The idea is - you're in an abusive or otherwise terrible relationship. Your partner has given you ample reason to hate them. But now you don't just hate them when they abuse you. Now even something as seemingly innocent as seeing them eating crackers makes you actively angry. In theory, an interaction with your partner where they just eat crackers and don't bother you in any way ought to produce some habituation, be a tiny piece of evidence that they're not always that bad. In reality, it will just make you hate them worse. At this point, your prior on them being bad is so high that every single interaction, regardless of how it goes, will make you hate them more. Your prior that they're bad has become trapped. And it colors every aspect of your interaction with them, so that even interactions which out-of-context are perfectly innocuous feel nightmarish from the inside.”
Excerpt on getting out of trapped priors
“If you want to get out of a trapped prior, the most promising source of hope is the psychotherapeutic tradition of treating phobias and PTSD. These people tend to recommend very gradual exposure to the phobic stimulus, sometimes with special gimmicks to prevent you from getting scared or help you "process" the information
A final possibility is other practices and lifestyle changes that cause the brain to increase the weight of experience relative to priors. Meditation probably does this; see the discussion in the van der Bergh post for more detail. Probably every mental health intervention (good diet, exercise, etc) does this a little. And this is super speculative, and you should feel free to make fun of me for even thinking about it, but sensory deprivation might do this too, for the same reason that your eyes become more sensitive in the dark.”