The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves Are Not So Little, After All.

truth lie

Psychology Today says that “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs.” When people would like a certain idea to be true, they end up believing it to be true. This explains why many of us stay in unhealthy relationships or other living situations far longer than we should. We want to belong somewhere. We want to believe we were right in our choice of what that “somewhere” is. We want to believe we didn’t make a mistake. Because in our society, making a mistake is something to be ashamed of, rather than something that teaches us to be better and stronger. Confirmation bias leads us to stop gathering information when the evidence we’ve gathered so far confirms the perception we have that we’d prefer to be true.

And once we’ve formed a perception, we embrace only the information that confirms that perception, while ignoring or outright dismissing information that casts doubt on that view. We all do this. ALL. It isn’t only the people on the right or the people on the left who do this. None of us perceive circumstances objectively. We cherry pick only the data that make us feel good and confirms our beliefs. This makes us slaves to our assumptions. (Again –think of that significant other you should have dumped ages before you finally did it.)

But the real danger is the way politicians utilize our instinctive confirmation bias against us. They tell us what we want to hear, and we love it first, and question it later, usually when it’s too late to question it. Seeking to confirm our beliefs does indeed come naturally. It feels somehow wrong or disloyal to look for or examine evidence that contradicts our beliefs. This explains why damaging beliefs survive and spread. Changing our beliefs, changing our confirmation, would require us to look for evidence that disproves what we believe. And today, one of the best ways to maintain confirmation bias, to live in denial of facts, is to read or watch only the news that endorses what we already wish were true. We “unfriend” anyone who has a different opinion. We don’t want any people in our lives who don’t think as we do, don’t vote as we do, don’t pray as we do. As for our children, most of us want our children to be have the same beliefs we do, to grow up and become clones of ourselves. We don’t want our children’s teachers to instill in them the ability to think for themselves. Certainly not. In fact, today, teachers are openly discouraged from doing so. We want teachers to aid our children in rote memorizing our beliefs — a belief in a specific god, a belief in a specific political system, a belief in a very defined way of life.

But those who truly want to be alive, to experience change without fearing it, to be the best version of themselves they can be, and thus give something back to the world that only their truest personification can give, continually seek out information that might prove them wrong, no matter how embarrassed or small they might feel when they discover that they are, indeed, wrong. I think that this is the most meaningful definition of a full life, of self-love and self-confidence: to have the ability and desire to look at the world without feeling the constant need to impose our own beliefs on it, without feeling the constant need be part of a social or family group that reinforces only what we believe, or what we have been molded and manipulated to believe.


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