You’re Not Going to Believe Me

I’m not just saying that to be clever, it’s been scientifically proven.

Essentially, this article came out discussing how humans have a tendency to keep believing what they believe, regardless of facts. And rationalize any “competing information” away.

For instance, take the whole birther movement and the anti-vaccine theorists. Logically, it would make sense that our government has already seen a copy of President Obama’s birth certificate, otherwise he would not be allowed to be president, let alone run for president. You know, something about being born a U.S. Citizen that our constitution mentions. Furthermore, the ONE scientist who supported and pretty much made up the vaccine-autism link has lost his license and has been disgraced for faking his research. Still, on both issues, people continue believe that the president was not born in Hawaii and that vaccines cause autism.

You could call it insanity, but science has come to our defense. You see, we see life through a filter. The filter of our own agenda, way of being, belief system, whatever you would like to call it. As a former journalist, I can tell you that I have seen the filter in action. I would sit in meetings, recording the contents, and over and over again people would “mis-hear” simple sentences. Those “mis-heard” words, however, fit perfectly into the agenda or issue they were trying to push. Because there were typically 30 or more individuals in a room, anyone who asserted their faulty information as true would be shut down. They would be left feeling as if there was some sort of “conspiracy” against them. After all, they’d heard what they heard, right?

Meanwhile, I would be taking notes. The next day, I would sit at my computer, going over the recording to make sure I had my quotes verbatim. I would be surprised how often I was a few words off in my notes. On top of that, even if I heard a quote once, I would have to play it several times to get the word-for-word accuracy down.

The simple fact is, we don’t hear everything that is said. Sure, the sound travels into our ear. But then it gets put through our filter – the brain. Since we all have different brains, and different beliefs, it would stand to reason that information would process differently in each one of us. If the president said, “I like tomatoes,” some people would hear that he’s promoting his irrational eating philosophy on the families in this country, questioning parental judgement, and likes the color red, just like a Commie. Other folks might interpret his statement to mean that he is a healthy eater, supports vegetarianism, and the local food movement.

It’s why parenting is so dang hard – everyone has an opinion about what it means to be a “good parent”, but it’s based on their specific belief system. Which means that they will probably think you are destroying your child’s life. And you will get angry about it, because, dammit, you’re doing the best you can, and they should butt out. It’s probably not terribly comforting to know that according to science, you’re both wrong to some degree.

Compound all of that with buckets and buckets of information we process every day, and it’s no surprise that eventually, we stop fully listening. It’s called cherry picking. We hear what we are waiting to hear, the things that reinforce our beliefs and make us feel like we have made the right choice about a, b, or c.

This is why, when I come on here and write about toxic fertility-hampering products in skin care, hormones in food, and the evils of corn and soy, you just shrug me off. For one, this organic stuff is expensive. Two, it would require thinking and planning and changing habits, and three, these companies wouldn’t do anything to hurt the consumer, right? It’s much easier to just keep on believing what we want to believe.

We know smoking causes lung cancer, but people don’t care. We know alcohol is a neurotoxin and can feed certain cancers, but people don’t care. We know that our personal care products are full of untested and potentially harmful substances, but we keep rubbing them on our kids, and oh look, isn’t my hair so shiny? It’s not fair to say that we don’t really care. We do care. But only about the things we care about, if that makes sense. So if out-gassing, drug resistant bacteria, and gross, nasty chemicals in our water don’t bother you, then that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean those things are not affecting your life, your health and your family.

I get the imagine of an ostrich with its head in the sand (which they don’t actually, do, btw) imagining that it’s at a luau instead of in the middle of a desert. I’m sure the bird is much happier thinking it’s at a luau, but surely there are consequences to ignoring the fact there’s no water around and not trying to find some.

However, the fact is, whether you believe it or not, it is completely natural for us to simply ignore the facts if they doesn’t suit us. So the next time  you’re listening to a politician, your significant other, or you friends, remember – you are filtering what you hear.

The truth is out there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily exist in your brain.

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