NPR Story
7:46 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Why We Keep Holding On to False Beliefs

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 10:35 am

Our world these days is laden with a constant flow of information. It’s unavoidable. 

But how do we determine what information to believe? Once we’ve made that choice, what if we later find out that the information was false? How do we shed false beliefs?

On this week’s show, good doctors Art Markman and Bob Duke analyze the process of belief formation – and why our false beliefs are so insistent that we reconsider them.

Beliefs inherently require a certain amount of faith in the validity of the evidence that we recognize as support for those beliefs. An idea creates an imprint in our minds that we use to justify our commitment to accepting a belief as true or false – whatever the case may be. 

If we learn information later that challenges the validity of our belief – or if we learn that the belief was, in fact, false – we are then required to use our biological energy to create a new thought pattern imprint over the old one. It’s energy intensive.

The easiest way to view the world and the variety of differing beliefs or opinions in it is to identify ourselves with the people who share our beliefs. 

We tend to divide the world into two categories – the people who share our beliefs, and the idiots. 

While this may conserve energy, learning to appreciate differing beliefs or opinions is more socially appropriate. You’ll have more friends if you are open to accepting differing beliefs.

Our current and rapidly developing technology-loaded existence can be very isolating. Society doesn’t require much confrontation with differing beliefs that will challenge our own, so we have to manually inject such exposure into our lives. 

In the nonstop stream of constant information flowing, try examining something outside your usual path. If you identify as a Democrat, watch Fox News. If you’re a Republican, watch the Colbert Report. You might find something interesting.


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