Born to believe
Many writers and historians believe that human beings are conditioned to believe, rather than disbelieve. Their for giving power to the liar, and their versions of the “facts”
Let’s do an experiment:
…you hear a noise in the grass. Is it a predator, or is it the wind? Your next choice could be the most important of your life. If you think that the noise in the grass is a predator and it turns out it’s the wind, you have made an error in cognition, a false positive. But no harm done. You just move away, you are more cautious, more vigilant.
On the other hand, if you believe that the noise in the grass is just the wind, and it turns out to be a predator, you’re done. Life is over.
A false positive in this case makes you more cautious, but it really costs nothing to believe that there maybe danger behind the noise.
In contrast to the false positive not believing in the danger, amd actually having it exist was deadly, and so we choose to believe. But more than just believing in that possible danger we tend to create patterns. That I turn helps us structure our lives. It creates meaning to what could easily be random. It is from there that we develop things like superstition and conspiracy theories. They make sense of what is random.
If this were all humans had to rely on for cognition — our limited brains making sense of that what we can’t understand — we would be in big trouble. Thankfully, however, we have verifiable facts. They ensure that what is random not just makes sense, but is also true.
And that’s where we get into some even more fascinating research about why people believe outright lies — easy to disprove lies like the kinds Donald Trump tells for example.
According to some, people tend to believe lies when they feel vulnerable. The less control people have over their lives, the more likely they are to try and regain control through mental gymnastics. Feelings of control are so important to people that a lack of control is inherently threatening. While some misperceptions can be bad or lead one astray, they’re extremely common and most likely satisfy a deep and enduring psychological need.
In normal life people find false patterns in data all the time. When they do, it’s usually because they feel a given situation is out of their control. A local example would be the Kennedy School Adition, people didn’t understand the numbers, felt out of control, and believed the lies spread to help ease their fear. It was easier to be angry and believe the false information that the School District was deceiving the community then it was to learn the difficult details and facts.
Fact or fiction
Of course, the more false the pattern, the more vulnerable you have to be to believe it. And of course, the more gymnastics your brain has to do to find the truth. The difficulty of the gymnastics mixed with fear or anger make the lies and falsehoods simply easier. That’s why certain individuals have very little other then tax complaints and fear of who I am to complain about.
Donald Trump, a man who is known for spreading falsehoods. He captured the imaginations of many people who felt vulnerable because of the past, present and future. He resonated in places of high unemployment, where manufacturing jobs have been on the decline for decades. These are places where a rational structure is needed to explain why things got so bad and why they don’t seem to be getting better.
But again this is not “rationality” as we think about it terms of reality. If it were, individuals would seek the truth no matter what their state of distress, because it is only when a problem is truly understood that the truth can be found.
Here is a relevant example. Donald Trump has dumped on China over and over again since he entered the national spotlight. He’s said that we are losing jobs to Chinese manufacturing and that the Trans Pacific Partnership was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.
In the world of facts, however, we know that thousands and thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation, not off-shoring to China. We also know that China is not involved with the TPP in any way. In fact, the country has been upset about TPP since talks for the agreement started.
The human desire to feel in control supersedes all of those facts because they are hard to find or understand, and in turn, pushes us to believe what may be irrational, but is simple, understandable, and gives us a sense of control.
Think about it: Say you believe all the lies Donald Trump has told about trade, China and the global economy. It’s a comforting notion, ultimately, because it means he also has the solutions. Voting for him, then, is a way to take control of that untruth.
Unfortunately, since it’s a lie, the problem will remain. Lies never solve anything, and the spreading of them by those in this community simply acting on revenge or some unknown agenda just make things worse. Things won’t change until we embrace the truth, and put in the effort to identify who is telling it, and who is not.