Lies to ourselves

Metro © Natalia Martinez

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true” – Soren Kierkegaard

The quote above is one of my all-time favorites. I find it very apropos to most life moments because, let’s face it, we all engage in self-delusion and self-evasion at one time or another…sometimes for long periods of time, sometimes about pretty important decisions. To me, this goes along with the mirror-image fallacy, groupthink, and other errors of perception that we all engage in, but is of a distinctly different variety because it more-often-than-not concerns us. The things we hide from ourselves or avoid are usually elements of life that would be hurtul or difficult for us to acknowledge and in doing so, we hinder our own progress. It is a strange behavior because it seems maladaptive to me – if we don’t have an accurate perception of reality how can we make the best decisions and ensure our progress (and survival, in terms of an adaptive evolutionary sense)? In any case, I am a neophyte at all matters scientific, so this line of reasoning stops there. Synopsis: we all lie and delude ourselves about something or other and it is probably one of the most self-destructive habits we have as a species (in my opinion).

On a relevant topic of recent interest, here is a short article in Scientific American about confirmation bias — “the tendency to look for and perceive evidence consistent with our hypotheses and to deny, dismiss or distort evidence that is not.”

In matters of science what they recommend (and this could be helpful when analyzing personal lives), “The best antidote to fooling ourselves is adhering closely to scientific methods. Indeed, history teaches us that science is not a monolithic truth-gathering method but rather a motley assortment of tools designed to safeguard us against bias. In the behavioral sciences, such procedures as control groups, blinded designs and independent coding of data are essential methodological bulwarks against bias. They minimize the odds that our hypotheses will mislead us into seeing things that are not there and blind us from seeing things that are.


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