To maintain our independence of mind it is necessary to avoid unconscious beliefs and attitudes that we would prefer not to have. Suggestions as to how we might do so are listed below.
- Question the motives of charismatic leaders and role models.
- Avoid following authoritarian leaders or being managed by authoritarian managers. They will insist that we adopt their point of view if we wish to remain in the group that they lead. Inclusive leaders and managers, on the other hand, respect, and value independence of mind.
- Avoid following populist leaders. They will often place the blame for any difficult circumstances we find ourselves in on an “outgroup” rather than address the true reasons.
- Avoid ideologies. If we need to join a group to socialize, then we should join one whose members have a wide range of views rather than a particular ideology. This can be checked by adding “ism” to words in a group’s name.
- Practice awareness of our own emotions and those of others with whom we interact. Emotional contagion and emotional carry-over from previous decisions can both affect our current decisions. Furthermore, our emotions can be deliberately manipulated by others to achieve their desired ends.
- Our conscious skills can be strengthened by practicing highly focused mental and, possibly, physical activities, e.g., a personal project or Sudoku puzzles.
- Develop a clear personal ethic and set of values. It may need to evolve over time as circumstances alter it, but that is normal.
- Consciously rehearsing our ethics and values can strengthen them. A strongly held ethic makes it more difficult for contradictory unconscious beliefs and attitudes to gain a foothold.
- Acquaint ourselves with the verifiable facts around an issue before making decisions associated with it.
- Consciously criticise our decisions, especially apparently spontaneous ones. Judge them against our personal ethic and values. If necessary, veto them and think again.
- Avoid watching unsolicited advertising. For example, watch advertisement free channels or mute the TV when they are on. Cover the advertisements on the back of seats of buses and aircraft. If we need something we can search for it on the internet or consult a shopkeeper.
- It is particularly important to avoid watching the same advert repetitively. In the UK it is illegal for an ad. to repeat the same message more than three times as this subliminally reinforces it. So how do advertisers get around this? By frequently repeating their ad.
- Lobby government for greater controls over advertising. It should be factual, unintrusive, not personally targeted, not excessively repetitive, and not imply that the product has false benefits.