June 15, 2010

Don't Believe Everything You Think

Don`t Believe Everything You ThinkA while ago I saw a bumper sticker that read : Don't Believe What You Think.
Apparently there is a book with the title too.   It might be an interesting read.   The bumper sticker stuck in my mind.    Its an obvious play off the old saying "don't believe everything you hear".   We certainly shouldn't believe everything we hear.   You also shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet (if that really needs saying).   But like the bumper sticker says we shouldn't believe everything we think either.   You see many of us have ideas in our heads that got there somehow at some point in our lives which are simply not true.

A while ago I stated in a comment on another blog that bananas cost 22¢ a pound.   I believed and thought that 22¢ was a typical cost for bananas.   This is what I thought at the time.   At some point I must have seen bananas for sale at 22¢ a pound so that is why I thought that is what they cost.   Someone rightfully challenged me on that figure which made me reexmine it.  I did a little Google searching and quickly found that normally bananas cost a lot more than 22¢ a pound.  Right now Safeway has them for 70¢ a pound.  Thats not a sale but its probably a normal price.    I don't know where or when I saw bananas for 22¢ a pound.  Maybe it was years ago and it was some sort of super sale during an abundant banana crop season. Its possible I simply remembered wrong and it was 22¢ per banana for small size bananas instead of per pound.   Or was it actually 29¢... ?

Sometimes what we think is based on an incorrect assumption or misapplication of the facts. People might take a generalization based on a statistic and then apply it as a fact.   You could for example read a statistic that says that the average Honda Civic lasts 180,000 miles and then misapply that information to assume that every Honda Civic will last 180,000 miles.   Its likely that your Honda will last a long time but there is no guarantee.   Maybe you actually heard 108,000 miles and remember it wrong or was it Toyota they were talking about?

Sometimes people believe what they want to believe.   People who are inclined to think global warming is hogwash might be happy to think that hybrid cars aren't really very green and its all just tree hugger propaganda perpetuated by car companies to try and sell you expensive technology.    Or people might think that recycling is always good even though sometimes it costs more and wastes more energy than simply hauling stuff to the trash.

People may think things that are simply based on incorrect information.   A while ago I head that G.E.D. does not actually stand for General Equivalency Degree as I'd always thought.   Apparently G.E.D. stands for General Educational Development.   But I've always heard that it stands or General Equivalency Degree (or Diploma).

People may believe things simply because they don't know otherwise and just assume.  Did you know that crime is going down in the USA?   Its a safe bet that many people think the opposite is true.   I mean the economy is bad and everything and just look at the news its full of crime.   But crime has been going down in US steadily for many years.   The FBI tracks the statistics and you can see the national figures for 1989 to 2008 in the Uniform Crime Report 2008.

People might believe things cause they just don't know how something really works.   Many people think that if you your income level puts you into the next tax bracket that you could end up losing money.  This is based on a common misunderstanding of how tax brackets work.   If you're in the 15% tax bracket and then get a $100 raise and get bumped up to the 25% bracket then that does not mean you'll be paying 25% on all your income versus 15%.   Yet many people think it works that way and some of them will even avoid making more money because of their incorrect understanding of the tax code.

Many of us are wrong about many things.   We believe things that are not correct for various reasons.  But what to do about it?   

If someone challenges you on something then don't automatically assume you're right and that they're wrong and dismiss them as ignorant.   Sometimes people argue with you because they are right and you are wrong.

Rethink what you know and be willing to take a new look at the facts.   Maybe what you think used to be true but has changed over time.

Recognize when your own biases might make you believe things that aren't true.   If you know your politics lean left or right then be more critical of your beliefs that support your own argument.   Be aware of your bias and ask yourself if what you believe is influenced due to your own bias.

Think about where you got the information.   Maybe it was from an undependable source. Maybe you can't even remember where you got the information which should be a red flag it may not be dependable.

We should all be willing to question the things that we think we know.   We are all capable of being wrong, misinformed or simply clinging to outdated information.

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