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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 449: Tuning Devices in our Minds

This post continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Still another way in which we resist attempts at persuasion is through selective avoidance, which is a tendency  to direct our attention away from information that challenges our existing attitudes. Television viewing provides a clear illustration of the effects of selective avoidance. We do not simply sit in front of the television passively absorbing whatever the media decides to dish out. Instead, we channel surf, mute the commercials, tape our favourite programs, or simply cognitively tune out when confronted with information contrary to our views. The opposite effect occurs as well. When we encounter information that supports our views, we tend to give it our full attention. Such tendencies to ignore information that contradicts our attitudes, while actively attending to information consistent with them constitute two sides of what social psychologists term selective exposure. Such selectivity in what we make the focus of our attention helps ensure that many of our attitudes remain largely intact for long periods of time. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

We have our own tuning devices in our minds, tuning out what we don't want to process and tuning in on whatever will validate and empower our already pre-established views and opinions. It's really quite brilliant - what better way to ensure that we never question that which does not form part of our already present internal belief system?

This is why we do not actively initiate or participate in a change in the world: our tuning devices in our minds quite smoothly blocks all that out. If we are involved in some form of activism, our tuning devices keep us from questioning whether the activities we are participating in, which we believe to be activism that is changing the world, are actually an effective solution.

Some people use their tuning devices to remain in their safe and comfortable "happy zones" - they have a stable and decent income - enough to shelter them from the common problems afflicting those who are less fortunate.

Some people use their tuning devices to validate and support what they already believe to be true - blocking out all other possibilities so that they essentially are living in a protective bubble of their own beliefs, only ever seeing that which reinforces their beliefs.

Some people use their tuning devices to make themselves believe that they are good people who are making a difference in the world, when in reality their actions are insignificant and their plans to better the world are ill thought out and doomed to be a failure.

How do you use your tuning device? Do you push yourself to investigate all things fully and without bias so as to ensure a reliable and trustworthy outcome? Their are not many people who can honestly say that they do do this - our tuning devices work too well for such a thing to be a common occurrence. On the odd occasion that some piece of information does make it's way through our tuning device, we just so happen to have filters that will ensure that this information is perceived by us in such a way so as to not jeopardize our belief systems. This, my friends, is the sad truth.

Overcoming the filters and habits of our minds is no small feat, it takes practice in consciously seeking out that which we would not ordinarily seek out. Do you dare?

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