Ever gotten into a heated argument but been totally convinced you were still being reasonable? Or rejected inconvenient information but told yourself you were just being objective?
Yeah, we’ve all been there. But startling new research reveals just how easily our unspoken biases warp our perspective without us realizing.
The Disturbing Case That Started It All
Philosopher Julia Galef opens our eyes to this phenomenon by describing the historical case of Alfred Dreyfus. Back in 1894, this Jewish French army officer was convicted of treason solely based on flimsy circumstantial evidence and the military’s anti-Semitism.
Even when the real spy was found, the army twisted facts to justify Dreyfus’s guilt, genuinely believing their ridiculous rationalizations. They wanted him to be guilty, so they subconsciously made anything fit that narrative.
The Role Of “Motivated Reasoning”
Galef explains the officers fell victim to “motivated reasoning” – when inner desires shape how we interpret info to fit our existing views. Studies show we ALL do this, even when striving for objectivity.
Whether it’s sports, politics, or even self-assessment, we avoid info that contradicts our identity and embrace anything that confirms it. We tell ourselves it’s logic, even as irrational biases unconsciously steer us.
Overcoming Our Own Biases
So are we doomed by our own minds? Not necessarily. Galef suggests adopting “scout mindset” – a constant drive towards the messy truth no matter how uncomfortable.
Some tips: Recognize changing your mind isn’t weakness. Seek out opposing views. Find pleasure in discovering mistakes instead of defending your ego. And don’t tie your identity to any one perspective.
With rigor, we can counteract the biases we all share. Galef shows we can open our eyes to reality if we commit to the truth over being “right”. Her talk is a powerful call to value facts over feelings, even when it hurts.