It’s a pretty simple question, but powerful nonetheless.
In a world of information, we choose which is worthy of our attention and which is not. With this, we easily become subject to confirmation bias — the idea that when we gather new information, we interpret it in a way to support what we think we already know. Hence, confirmation of prior beliefs. And guess what? We are all guilty of it.
The information we acquire shapes beliefs, and from there we gather new evidence that supports these priors. And when we find information that goes against what we think we know, we use our old sources of information to reject this new way of thinking. We become so entrenched in our beliefs that we close ourselves off from any other way of thinking.
We surround ourselves with like-minded people, connect with people with similar beliefs, and collaborate with those we mesh with because it is easy and convenient. We avoid conflict because it either makes us uncomfortable or because those we are butting heads with are “closed-minded.” If the latter, then think about that for a second… you’re saying those we disagree with are so deeply rooted in their beliefs that they refuse to listen to any other way of thinking. Sound familiar? Yeah, we all do it.
So as a thought experiment, I ask you to think about a topic you care deeply about. One that you have strong feelings for. One that you are so sure of your beliefs. And ask yourself: What would it take to change my mind?
It is a simple, yet crucial question that we all should ask ourselves. Whether it’s politics, religion, academics, or anything in between, just remember that our priors shape the way we interpret new information. Even more importantly, it gets worse as you devote more time to a particular subject matter (i.e., becoming an expert). So with that, take everything with a grain of salt and just be open. I truly believe that being conscious of your own biases is half the battle. And with that, I end with a quote:
“It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.” – Milar Kundera
I would love to get your thoughts on this.