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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 653: Polar Opposites

This continues from my previous post - please watch the TED Talk embedded there for context.

There is plenty evidence showing the extent of human bias and fallacies. There is also plenty of research showing how the way we think is the cause of these biases and fallacies. I particularly enjoy Dan Gilbert and Dan Ariely's TED Talks on these topics and see them as a good starting point for someone wanting to find out more.

Now on to this TEDx Talk from my previous post. Alison Ledgerwood describes some studies that show how our opinions can very easily be manipulated, especially to see the 'not-so-bright' side of things. She shows how, once we are given information that is described in a negative light, we are very unlikely to be able to regard that information in a positive way again without conscious effort.

I can see absolutely what she is saying and I have seen it many times (I have experienced it many times as well) - but what I find interesting is that we can also get stuck in positives. The most common examples of this would be hope and faith - where we absolutely refuse to give up the notion that there is something great just out of reach (but it's coming closer! I know it!). We form this idea of what something is (even when there is no evidence to support that opinion) and we hold onto it as if our lives depend on it. We become aggressive or defensive when we feel like someone is attacking our belief, which usually just makes us hold on tighter. We flat out refuse to consider any alternatives to what we believe to be true.

Another aspect of being bullheadedly positive is when you look around at the world and you can see that there is something very wrong with this world, but you pretty much ignore that and focus on you and your happiness. I don't know about you, but I'd call that ignorant positivity - ignoring the plight of others to be able to continue a positive experience.

Part of this positivity comes from the value that we give to things (eg. beliefs). When we believe that something is important, and we feel that it is definitely important to us then we will strive to protect it - but in reality we are only protecting our belief - the value that we have given something. This in part is because we have a subconscious belief that if someone comes and proves our opinion wrong and removes that value, that somehow we actually become less valuable. Remember that I have never said that human reasoning makes sense - this is a very big reason that we are in the position we're in.

So now we have these 2 biases - the polar opposites of positive and negative - what do we do now? The answer sounds simple but it takes years of work to achieve: Let go of the beliefs and opinions. Keep an 'open mind'. Consider everything. Investigate everything. Look at things practically and without preconceived ideas. Realise that beliefs and opinions do not define you or your value. Get unstuck in thought patterns that generate positive or negative experiences - it's as simple as knowing which thoughts trigger the experience and then simply not participating in the thought. Once you see how silly it all is and you remove the power that the 'importance' of it all had over you, it becomes much easier to simply... stop.

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