On Antiprocess

by Timothy Campbell

Antiprocess is the preemptive recognition and marginalization of undesired information by the interplay of mental defense mechanisms: the subconscious compromises information that would cause cognitive dissonance. It is often used to describe a difficulty encountered when people with sharply contrasting viewpoints are attempting (and failing) to discuss a topic. In other words, when one is debating with another, there may be a baffling disconnect despite his apparent understanding of the argument. Despite the apparently sufficient understanding to formulate counter-arguments, the mind of the debater does not allow him to be swayed by that knowledge.

There are many instances on the Internet where antiprocess can be observed, but the prime location to see it is in Usenet discussion groups, where discussions tend to be highly polarized. In such debates, both sides appear to have a highly sophisticated understanding of the other position, yet neither side is swayed. As a result, the debate can continue for years without any progress being made.

Antiprocess occurs because:
The mind is capable of multitasking;
The mind has the innate capability to evaluate and select information at a pre-conscious level so that we are not overwhelmed with the processing requirements;
It is not feasible to maintain two contradictory beliefs at the same time;
It is not possible for people to be aware of every factor leading up to decisions they make;
People learn argumentatively effective but logically invalid defensive strategies (such as rhetorical fallacies);
People tend to favor strategies of thinking that have served them well in the past; and
The truth is just too unpalatable to the mind to accept.

The ramifications of these factors are that people can be engaged in a debate sincerely, yet the appearances suggests that they are not. This can lead to acrimony if neither party is aware of antiprocess and does not adjust his or her debating style accordingly.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash


  1. I wonder if this somehow relates to a “determinist” view of the brain in that “we can only know what we know.” Hard determinism would say that even our next thought is determined by what we already have programmed into our brains. This would make it almost a prerogative to compartmentalise and engage in antiprocess because changing one’s brain content requires constant repetitive inputs. Instead of changing one’s mind, the emotional self engages in a flight pattern to protect its brain safety.

    There is a Buddhist concept that fits within the “karma” psychology that addresses the human ability to “change one’s mind” It is achieved by planting “seeds” of the desired change that can ripen into a new way of thinking in the future. I forget what they formally call it but the concept makes sense of our ability to overcome a deterministic outlook on our minds. It is this concept that makes me side with the “free will” side of that debate. Change of thought takes new information, willingness and time.

  2. Hello, Charlie.
    Your first conflating determinism with Antiprocess which says zero about determinism. It is a matter of psychology. You almost got part of it correct though as I purely stated it is a psychological defense mechanism. Surely you got that from what I wrote? I also like instead of addressing what I wrote you jump into a diatribe on Buddhism and "karma" psychology- please show me where there is any field of psychology that is reputable that fits into "karma" psychology? This is classic. You change the subject about free will so as not to address the embarrassing matter of Antiprocess. You can claim you're musing but all Apologetists claim musings when they don't know what they're talking about. Please, try to rebut what I've written not give me some disharmonious description of what I did write or didn't even write. If you want to do that then fine but do understand you are mirroring a great deal of Antiprocess in doing these very same things.

    I do hope this finds you and yours well although I stand in amazement that your mental gymnastics puts most Wu Shu to shame. You can do much better than this.



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