Why we believe what we believe

Do you ever wonder how someone you met can believe what he/she believes?  A good friend of mine convinced me that people make up their own realities. They build a world that supports what they want to believe.  Our fears and desires can fool us. For instance, if you are a lover of french fries, and you read an opinion piece in the National Enquirer that claims french fries are good for you, you might create a reality for yourself that gives you permission to eat all the fries you like.  You ignore the hundreds of negative french fry articles because you WANT to eat fries.

In some people’s reality, cities might exist on the backs of flying turtles.  Here’s proof that they do.


Well, here’s an article I highly recommend that takes a slightly different and more scientific look at this phenomenon.  In it, the author describes several studies which seem to explain why people make regrettable decisions.  He writes that “under the right circumstances, a subconscious neurobiological sequence in our brains causes us to perceive the world around us in ways that contradict objective reality, distorting what we see and hear. This powerful shift in perception is unrelated to our intelligence, morals, or past behaviors. In fact, we don’t even know it’s happening, nor can we control it.”  He names this “brainshift”.

Though the article is fairly academic, there’s practical value in it if you believe what it says.  For me, understanding that people have their own realities allows me to spend a lot less time arguing.  If my reality is sufficiently different than yours, on what basis can we have a meaningful disagreement?

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