They Determine What We Do
We prefer to believe what we prefer to be true. Francis Bacon
It seems to me that beliefs are the biggest problem in the world today. Our beliefs become behavior; what we decide to do is the result of what we believe. That’s what makes beliefs matter; believing is seeing and doing.
And why beliefs are the problem is explained by the Francis Bacon quote above. Obviously preferred beliefs aren’t always true beliefs, but might often be the preferred truth. Beliefs, preferred or true, have consequences.
If you believe it will rain, you will decide to carry an umbrella. If you believe climate change is dangerous, you will decide to do something about it. There is a lot of scientific evidence to support your belief in rain and the dangers of climate change. If you don’t believe it will rain and don’t carry an umbrella, you will likely get wet. If you don’t believe climate change is dangerous and don’t do anything about it, to may get more than wet. And maybe it won’t rain and maybe climate change isn’t dangerous.
Today, political beliefs may be more dangerous than environmental beliefs. If you believe Donald Trump and republican beliefs about immigration, the environment, the economy and the way to make America great again you will continue to be supportive.
Although there is scientific evidence available about these beliefs, other evidence will be coming to you from all directions, some reliable, some totally false and some with information trying to persuade you one way or the other. Today, social media is aimed at influencing personal beliefs. They focus on one’s preferred truths.
Preferred beliefs, unsupported by scientific evidence, are the result of the subjectivity of human consciousness, which is full of cognitive belief biases. These biases focus on personal preferences and support propaganda and indoctrination efforts. Here are four of the 71 cognitive biases identified.
Confirmation Bias: Our tendency to emphasize information that supports our beliefs while unconsciously ignoring or rejecting information that contradicts them.
Perceptual Bias: Our brain automatically assumes that our perceptions and beliefsreflect objective truths about ourselves and the world. (“Seeing is believing.”)
Self-Serving Bias: A tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way beneficial to their own interests.
Bandwagon Bias: This reflects our tendency to go along with the belief systems of whatever group we are involved with. The more people we are surrounded by, the more likely we’ll be to modify our beliefs to fit theirs.
A simple belief awareness exercise would be to use these four cognitive biases to analyze some of your preferred beliefs about the environment, the economy, politics and about America’s role in the world. Do you prefer to believe what you prefer to be true?
What matters more than beliefs? Dogmatic beliefs matter more. I think it is possible to say that many of the major problems of the world today are the result of dogmatic beliefs. This will be the topic of my next blog. Stay tuned.