Café of Ideas exists to create a space where you're allowed to change your thinking - move away from fear towards possibility, whilst having a great time!
We all hold a world view – a framework of ideas and beliefs through which we interpret and interact with the world - and in our everyday lives we tend to steer towards those things that reinforce this outlook, while shying away from anything inconsistent with it.
Café of Ideas is about creating a space where we can genuinely think more about the things that challenge our world perspective than we do about those we’re already converted to.
Or, conversely, Café of Ideas is concerned with sidestepping what cognitive scientists have labeled 'the confirmation bias', which is literally the shutting down of one’s thought processes when confronted with an opposite point of view.
The Confirmation Bias
The confirmation bias can perhaps be best illustrated by an experiment conducted by psychologists during the 2004 US election.
Brain scans were carried out on thirty subjects - fifteen "strong Democrats" and fifteen "strong Republicans" – as they reviewed blatantly self-contradictory statements by their respective candidates.
Incredibly, what the psychologists found was that both the Republican and Democrat subjects found ways to reconcile their own candidate's inconsistencies and become even more fervent in their political standpoint.
And what's more, while the participants were considering these inconsistent statements, the part of the brain associated with reasoning revealed no signs of activity whatsoever. Instead, there lit up an alternative network of emotional circuits followed by activation of the brain's reward and pleasure centres.
In other words, given contradictory statements that challenged their world view, all these people quite literally stopped thinking, strengthened their original positions, then rewarded themselves for doing so!
Of course, this phenomenon isn't only confined to the political arena.
So in our contemporary, highly complex, fast-changing, culture-clashing world with its unprecedented global challenges, this state of affairs - the shutting down of thinking – has to be considered a grave one.
An Open Space
So the vision for Café of Ideas is to create a space where the opposite happens. A space where:
- We genuinely think more about challenges to our own perspectives than we do about points we're already converted to.
- We each see our own points of view as no more than that - just points of view.
- Our capacity for open, flexible thinking is encouraged and released.
- We realise that on any issue that matters, there's no such thing as "the right answer", just shades of probability that no-one can ever fully understand.
- We share fresh understandings through discourse, rather than seeking to "win" an argument or debate.
Oh, and not to forget - a space that's great fun!
Building On Success
With the combination of our solutions-focused approach, a relaxed atmosphere, and some great entertainment, we think we've had some success at creating such a space at our events so far, and this is what we'd like to build upon.
We believe this is important. In the words of one of our supporters, it's a VERY GOOD THING. It has the potential to play a part in transforming our lives at every level - personally, professionally, societally and globally.
If you're enthused by this vision, perhaps you'd be interested in playing a role on the team.