Clears law of recurrence: what is it and how does it describe communication?
What is Clear's law of recurrence? Let's see what this paradox of the struggle of ideas looks like.
We live in the times of interaction and communication.. Technological progress, to which we are inevitably subjected, makes it possible for anyone to access a huge amount of information in just a few seconds. From the comfort of the place where they live and without much effort.
This fast-paced development has allowed the facts that happen anywhere on the planet to spread at breakneck speed, immediately becoming a subject of global knowledge from which it is very difficult to remain oblivious. It is a totally new scenario in the history of humanity, whose impact on the way we interpret what surrounds us and the veracity that we can grant to our "social knowledge" is still unknown.
Although this is a question that aroused the curiosity of many philosophers in the past, the historical juncture in which we live impels us to take it up again with renewed interest. Therefore, in this article we will deal with one of the most popular explanatory theories on this subject: Clear's law of recurrence.
What is Clear's law of recurrence?
Ideas, understood as the representation of a phenomenon in subjective terms, have the ability to remain unmoved by the passing of time. Those who decide to assume any idea, in their condition as living beings, end up giving in to the inexorable finiteness to which we are all condemned. Nevertheless, these ideas endure beyond the death of the person who defends them, as if it were a simple vehicle to provide them with the strength they need to travel from the mouth of the person who pronounces them to the ears of the listener.
Ideas can take infinite formsThey can take infinite forms, as well as be made up of any of the fabrics that make up human reality: politics, science, religion or any other. Moreover, they have the power to unite people in any purpose when aligned in the same direction, but also to provoke the most impassable of abysses between them. This is why it is said that individuals with similar beliefs tend to be attracted to each other or, in any case, become more and more alike as they share time.
Although all ideas are worthy of respect as long as they do not harm others, there are also some ideas that are either outright false or do not match reality in the best possible way. Sometimes this inaccuracy (deliberate or not) extends its negative influence to individuals or broad groups, who are degraded by stereotyping or stigmatization. This has often occurred among people suffering from certain mental health disorders, unfairly labeled by others as violent or irrational.
Another interesting example of this comes from what has recently come to be known as fake news (or fake news). These are dubious rumors, or outright lies, that take on the appearance of veracity because they are published in recognized media or because they have been revealed (supposedly) by a person on whom society projects the best expectations.
Most often, they end up revealing the interests of third parties (political rivals, intimate enemies, etc.), so that the original intention is usually openly malicious.
Certain ideas, either because they are fake news or to stimulate social debate, are often the cause of heated discussions in which rarely either side is willing to abandon its position. The evidence tells us that the purpose of such dialectical frictions is never to reconcile the positions in order to seek a balance between the two contenders, but only to "achieve reason". All of this can be explained by the simple fact that they are often enormously distant counterweights on the spectrum of opinion on the issue at hand, thus minimizing any possibility of persuasion or influence.
Clear's law of recurrence postulates something that is undoubtedly very bad news for the side that opposes the idea being debated or discussed, for the end of the scale that would advocate "extirpating" it from the consciousness of every human being: the percentage of people who believe in any idea is directly proportional to the number of times this idea has been repeated over the last year (even if it is false).
Thus, the instant we decide to engage in a discussion with another person whose thinking we judge to be "abhorrent," we perpetuate his or her perspective on things on the "white canvas" of social opinion.
What is the significance of this?
The phenomenon we have just described, for which there is abundant empirical evidence in the field of social psychology, is especially important in today's Internet era, is especially important in the Internet era in which we live today.. And this is so because the spaces in which discussions once took place have shifted to an entirely virtual environment, in which most of the interacting subjects are absolute strangers.
This absence of information facilitates the generation of poisonous attribution for those who say something that offends us, so that the idea about which we disagree is extended to the rest of the traits of the person who defends it, whom we end up judging as a "bad person".We end up judging them in a way that is equivalent to the emotional reaction that their convictions provoke in us.
In situations that occur in "real" life, it is much more likely that, in one way or another, we get to know a little more about the people in front of us. This makes it easier to persuade the "rival" effectively, or for them to convince us with their arguments, especially if we perceive similarities in personality or values. This is diluted in online conversations, since the lack of knowledge and uncertainty we have about the other person is "filled" by inferences from what he says, embodying in him all the bad things we attribute to the naked idea he wields. In short: "if he thinks this is because, in the absence of more data, he is a bad person".
This means that, in order to maintain our reason and to raise the ideas that we consider more valid or ethical, we participate in intense and irreconcilable discussions that increase the "raw" number of times the issue we intend to "attack" is shown before the eyes of others..... As a direct result of this would also increase the percentage of people who believe in it; since all this (according to Clear's law of recurrence) is related to its availability and recurrence.
In short, it follows from this law that attempts to combat beliefs that we judge negatively (pseudosciences, political orientations, etc.) are not only ineffective on the vast majority of occasions, but also contribute to their undesired expansion among the population (since they increase their availability in the scenario where they are usually published). In this way, without even realizing it, we feed through repetition the terrible monster we wished to defeat.
This is one of the one of the mechanisms by means of which the virality of the fake news or other events of questionable credibility that become popular on the web.. This is even more evident in the case of platforms (such as Twitter) that make it possible to visualize the most talked-about topics at a given moment (or trend topics), since their simple appearance on these lists gives them a certain prestige without the need to delve much deeper into the reason why they are there.
In conclusion, new technologies are an ideal framework for the dissemination of all kinds of ideas, since they facilitate an exchange of opinions that is rarely resolved by consensus and only increases the number of times the issue (for better or worse) is mentioned. This, finally, would also stimulate the credibility that people give it.
So how does one combat an idea?
Ideas are abstract entities, that is, they are not objectively found in the reality of those who usually deal with them. In that sense, they are only found in the thoughts of human beings and become evident to others through the spoken or written word, this being the only ecosystem in which they are kept alive. Silence is a toxic environment for ideas.In it they lack nutrients on which to feed and related beliefs with which to reproduce themselves. In other words, it is silence that kills them. Slowly, but mercilessly.
If we want to fight against an idea, because we consider it opposed to our most intimate principles and values, the best way to carry out this task is to ignore it. But not only that, it will also be necessary to give voice to our deepest convictions, and let them reach the ears of those who wish to hear them. Best of all, in this process, any attack you receive will be nothing more than a valuable ally.
- Nekovee, M., Moreno, Y., Bianconi, G., Marsili, M. (2008). Theory of Rumour Spreading in Complex Social Networks. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 374, 457-470.
- Turenne, N. (2018). The rumour spectrum. PLoS ONE, 13, e0189080. doi: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0189080.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)