Leo  Taylor

Socrates Club

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At what point is our loyalty to someone or some ideal broken?

I am attempting to wrap my head around the psychological and neurological idea of loyalty and its breaking point. Many of of can be loyal to a spouse or religion or some other cause. However, every once in a while we become disillusioned and no longer have that loyalty. This may come on slowly over years, or perhaps it is sudden such as the instant realization of betrayal (eg. catching a spouse cheating)

I am curious to know the psychological factors for the breaking point and what is happening in our mind, how do we justify it and how much pain, abuse, insults, etc will we take before the loyalty is gone.

I am also curious to get input from neurologists, neuro-scientists etc. Constant input to neurons and synaptic firing create strong connections allowing us to build up heuristics that lead to loyalty. (if I have that concept correct) But, a sudden betrayal can change that very quickly. Anyone have an explanation for how the brain overrides years of neuronal patterns?

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    Mar 23 2013: I tend to think of it as an organization problem.

    An organization has a purpose and a goal and members. When the functions are performed the relationship is mutually beneficial and actually results in the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

    As someone makes a mistake we judge them on did the correct themselves so that they will not repeat the mistake. This might be an accident or a miscalculation. The key is did they change the Modus Operandi to prevent the same thing from occurring again.

    If the person doesn't change and continues in a careless manner then society will put him in jail as this conduct is unacceptable. This might be someone who drives while intoxicated gets caught and continues the careless behavior.
    At this point society and most people are going to call the person on this and fire them or put them in jail or not vote for them again.

    This may continue and the person becomes an out and out traitor to his group or country. When this is found out about is when the person will provoke contempt or scorn. as this is when the charity worker takes the money and spends it on himself or when a congressman becomes rich by insider trading or garners votes by allowing collective bargaining that everyone knows will bankrupt the public coffers. At this point most will break the relationship.

    It is also possible to be well thought of because you contribute so much to the group. This is the case with Jonas Salk, the Wright brothers, Stephen Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart. These people are held accountable by their customers and their group and contributed much more than they took and so are well thought of.
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      Mar 23 2013: Interesting way to look at it. If we apply the organizational idea to the context of loyalty in general we may be able to say that loyalty really is a two-way street. Even between individuals they may be loyal toward each other to achieve a similar goal. OR a person may be loyal to an organization with a similar goal. When it is learned that the stated or perceived goal has changed the dynamics of the loyalty will change as well.

      You mention Walt Disney and it brought to mind the trouble that company is getting into with buying TV channels that do not promote family values. I think there is a TED talk on this. There is now a perceived Brand betrayal to the customers.
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        Mar 23 2013: Me thinks you are a good student.

        This applies down to an individual level as the transgression that most troubles an individual is when he did something to himself which is he did something he did not agree with. As this is a transgression against himself and a degradation of his viewpoint which when you think about is all you have.

        This applies to a family as the purpose of a family is procreation. Most of the trouble between the partners stems from transgressions against this purpose which is to create a future.

        The same applies to an organization and a country and a planet.
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          Mar 23 2013: Interesting. I had not thought to take it to the level of the individual. Rather I started with a pair (spouses, or friends) and then expanded from there to the larger networks of social groups up through ideologies.

          I suppose at times we can be disloyal to ourselves and this would lead to an internal struggle. Perhaps a cognitive trap of ruminating.

          Thanks for the insight
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    Mar 25 2013: Well, I suppose if someone mistreats you even once, then that makes you realize they could mistreat you again, thus it's hard to feel 100% loyal to them. I would think we also gauge the mistreatment, the size of the mistreatment and we also think how easily it could have been avoided, for example some mistreatment we easily forgive because we can see how the other person would do it, and other mistreatment is harder to forgive because we think the other person really had to go to some effort to mistreat us in that way.
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    Mar 25 2013: Thanks all for the comments. Both offline and online. Here is what I have cobbled together. Keep in mind I am a neuro-philosopher so it comes from that point of view.

    Loyalty is a developed heuristic that is built upon a belief system. This allows us to make decisions and deal with interactions and situations with very little thought. eg. "Should I go to this movie with my children?".... "Its a Disney movie, so I will be alright". etc

    Once the trust or belief system is put into question by an act of the other party, (or any reason really) the belief system will be reevaluated. This point right here is a dangerous point, because belief systems can be destroyed by bombarding them with questions. If the questions are simple and quick then the loyalty may remain in tact. But if they continue over time, OR if the initial violation is so large then the questions will reach a tipping point. The underlying belief will be modified and loyalty will disappear.
  • Mar 23 2013: The loyalty breaks when He/She are against the Ideal whether it may be +ve or -ve.It all depends upon the person's state of mind.Example is Complicated!!!
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      Mar 23 2013: Can you explain +ve and -ve?
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    Gail .

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    Mar 23 2013: Did you know that it is now TED's official position that neuroscience is pseudoscience? Just sayin'

    But as to your question: I have an answer, but because it would outrage many who do not understand it, and because it could be a matter of life and death if I were not sufficiently articulate using 2,000 characters or less, I can't post it here.
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      Mar 23 2013: Gail..... :)

      Please tell me you are joking about the pseudo science. I cannot see your face and writing can be difficult to interpret as it has no emotional context without emoticons. :)

      That being said.... feel free to email me through TED. You will find me very open minded and non-judgemental. I enjoy hearing others opinions as I find that more opinions I have the easier it is for me to understand the entire scope of a subject
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    Mar 22 2013: I am loyal to ideals, never people. As long as you are faithful to an ideal I agree with, I'll stand next to you.