The words “schemata”, “memeplexes”, and “paradigms” describe clusters of mental information in different contexts. Schemata are held by an individual, memeplexes held by a society and paradigms held by a group of scientists. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the processes associated with them have many features in common. They evolve with time but are resistant to change until a crisis occurs and they must be revised. They generally evolve in a direction which leads to greater success for the individual or community.
Factors which govern the success of a schema, memeplex, or paradigm are as follows:
- It must satisfy our biological, social, and psychological needs.
- It must satisfactorily reflect the real world, thereby enabling us to take decisions which are in our best interests.
- The information it contains must be consistent. For example, “The cheese on the floor is always eaten” is consistent with “There is a mouse in the house”. However, “The cheese on the floor is never eaten” is not. A degree of inconsistency can be acceptable because the benefits of the schema, memeplex or paradigm outweigh the effort of revising it. We have developed social and psychological mechanisms for dealing with such inconsistencies. For example, in the case of paradigms and memeplexes, the silencing or discrediting of dissenters. In the case of schemata, rationalisation, and denial. However, if sufficient inconsistencies accumulate, then the cluster of information will collapse.
Beliefs can also act as satisfiers. They may, for example, enable us to form better relationships with members of our community. To cite another example, a belief in a god can provide a feeling of safety in an unsafe world. However, our beliefs are often a result of socialisation and, as such, we may not be consciously aware of them. They also lie on Manfred MaxNeef’s scale. They can be: synergistic satisfiers which satisfy several needs; singular satisfiers which satisfy just one need; inhibiting satisfiers which prevent the satisfaction of other needs; pseudo-satisfiers which merely claim to satisfy a need; or violators which, in practice, hinder the satisfaction of a need.
An example of a belief which acts as a violator is “false consciousness”. This term was coined by Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895) to describe the way in which a subordinate social group can willingly adopt, to their detriment, the ideology of a dominant group.
Thus, it is not necessarily the truth of information which is of sole importance to people, but rather a consistent combination of information some of which is true and some of which may not be but which, nevertheless, satisfies our social and psychological needs. The implication is, of course, that we should not be surprised if others disagree with us even if this disagreement seems to be irrational, counter-factual, or unreasonable.