I want to describe, in my future blogs, what my experience has led me to believe about the way I see things and do things. For over 50 years as a counseling psychologist, I have been reading, writing and speaking about how people interpret reality and make up their minds. This journey has led me through believing in rational decision making (“by the book”), creative decision making (“positive uncertainty”) and investigating perceptions (“the process of illumination”). *
During my journey, I have witnessed many changes in theory and practice, and in the environment. Change continues to be more rapid, more unpredictable and apparently inevitable. Therefore, change and uncertainty will continue to be themes of my future way of seeing.
Although my previous writing and speaking has been for the purpose of illuminating and expanding the way others see things, these future blogs are for the purpose of illuminating and expanding the way I see things. Trying to explain and expose my changing beliefs to others may help me better understand them, especially if I get feedback about how others interpret my explanations. This may help us both become more enlightened and expand our worldviews. Here is my first new blog.
Certainty is Not Truth
Certainty sometimes creates an illusion of knowledge, a feeling of knowing the truth.
In 1989 I adopted my “Positive Uncertainty” decision making philosophy because it became apparent that rational decision making was not how most decisions are made. And quantum physics was showing that our observations of reality depended on how we choose to view reality and that total objectivity of the observer may not be possible.
In more recent years, my reading ** in brain, mind and consciousness research has provided significant evidence about the unreliability of how individuals interpret reality and make up their minds. This has increased my belief in the wisdom of being positive about uncertainty. And yet certainty remains popular in spite of evidence of its uncertainty.
Here is where I need help. Is my well established “uncertainty bias’ and selective reading distorting my view? Can you see some distortion in my beliefs and interpretation of reality? I believe uncertainty is unpopular because it doesn’t make us confident; it feels uncomfortable, while certainty feels good. To me a disadvantage of certainty is it leads to closed-mindedness — which inhibits flexibility, versatility, and change. The advantage of uncertainty is it keeps me open-minded — receptive to new learning and new knowing. Recent research has shown that when people are most confident of their perceptions, they are most likely to be wrong, and least likely to change.
Why is this important? I believe some of the biggest problems today in USA exist when politicians, voters, educational reformers, and decision makers feel certain about something and it makes that something feel true. Examples of this in current politics are easy to find. This illusion of truth prevents reasonable, rational, sensible choice, which is much needed in political and social decision making.
“The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth was
not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Daniel J. Boorstin
Do you believe that certainty is not truth? Explain.
How have the changes of reality affected your views of certainty and uncertainty?
What is your current understanding of the role of uncertainty in how political, social and personal decisions are made?
* For more about my history and recent writing, see my website: www.gelattpartners.com
** Here is a short sample of my recent reading:
A Mind of its Own, Cornelia Fine, 2008: How your brain distorts and deceives
Why We Believe What We Believe, Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman, 2006: How deep convictions emerge and influence our lives
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, 20011: Challenges the rational model of decision making
The Blind Spot, William Byers, 20011: Science and the crisis of uncertainty
On Being Certain, Robert Burton, 2008: Believing you are right even when you’re wrong
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, 2009: The hidden forces that shape our decisions
Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow, 2012: How your unconscious mind rules your behavior