The knowledge of the chloroquine ideology – 25.06.2021 – Luciano Melo

It became the case of a large Brazilian hospital – perhaps true: a patient was outraged because he had not received a prescription for chloroquine and other drugs, the so-called early treatment for his newly diagnosed disease Covid-19. He complained and asked for new help, but next time he asked a right-wing doctor to prescribe what he thought was appropriate.

I close the obvious: for this man, it is the right or the left that moves the treatment against the coronavirus. From this perspective, the former pleads for an effective therapy, the latter for a wrong one. It is the absurd, the premise of the existence of two opposing ideological forces, both independent of the facts, one illuminating best clinical practice and the other standing in the way. The patient gives the truth on the basis of evidence.

However, there is plenty of good technical quality information, freely available, that eliminates the weak and previous evidence of the effectiveness of the drugs that make up “early therapy for Sars-CoV-2”. This is the information that supports the decent clinical guidelines on how to fight the coronavirus in both socialist and capitalist countries.

But in Brazil the subject has been taken over by leaders who incite supporters under the yoke of a shallow ideological cloak. Encouraged, the supporters are more convinced, connect more with the ideological content and show a willingness to inefficient treatment.

Ideologies form coherent theories that help people better understand the chaotic world and belong to groups. However, ideologies often attract followers who do not think about other ways of thinking, because otherwise they would risk their arguments and with them their ideals collapsing.

These compendia of fixed theories can encourage prejudice, class persecution, and heightened nationalism. With this in mind, many atrocities have been committed in the name of ideologies. These experiences do not prevent theories of violence from continuing to seduce the population, but there is a reason for it and it is linked to cognition.

The hospital patient’s behavior gives an indication of the mental architecture of ideological followers as it underlines the defense of an immutable idea while turning his back on good arguments. Technically, the patient showed a lack of mental ability and flexibility.

Cambridge University behavioral psychologist Leor Zmigrod, who studies cognition and ideologies, suggests that this inadequacy is a common trait among pre-made proponents, including radical leftists.

She has more to say, however, especially after completing a study comparing the cognitive performance of followers of the ideology with that of non-followers. It turned out that cognitive characteristics are more decisive for sticking to ideological explanations than social and demographic variables. A finding that questions the perspective that socio-economic indicators are the strongest determinants of beliefs.

The researcher revealed cognitive characteristics of those who believed rigidly. Conservatism and nationalism were associated with hesitation in making decisions and slowness in choosing an appropriate strategy. Dogmatism has been linked to decreased ability to memorize evidence and impulsiveness. Ideological beliefs therefore reflect specific cognitive deficits rather than personal needs. They arise through mental processes independent of emotions. Therefore, all over the world there will always be people willing to follow a mean populist.

Fortunately, there are those who do not submit to dogmatism, they know they have the potential to fail, so review their attitudes and concepts in the light of new events or dates. They admit ambiguities and think about the complexity of the circumstances and are exemplary of cognitive flexibility and intelligence.


Zmigrod, L. Précis from “The cognitive foundations of ideological thinking”. .

Zmigrod, L .; Eisenberg, I .; Bissett, P .; Robbins, TW; Poldrack, R. A data-driven analysis of the cognitive and perceptual attributes of ideological attitudes. PsyArXiv April 14, 2020.

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