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» We’re not all there.


We’re not all there.

2006-05-31 @ 8:12 » Français

By that I mean, we’re somewhat oblivious to what we actually do. Our image of ourselves, for better or worst, does not take all we do into account (then again, how could it). And I don’t mean things like the fact that what leaves the greatest impression on us when we meet something new is not the looks, but the smell. That’s a matter of biology and subconscious reactions. I mean readily observable behaviour we are blind to.

Two comments recently read on another blog:

“I am absolutely convinced that god doesn’t exist, but I’ll revise that opinion if some real evidence comes to light. I don’t think for a moment that it will, but if it does, i’ll have to change my mind.”

“I am a Roman Catholic, but if evidence comes to light that God doesn’t exist I’ll change my mind. Your argument is stupid because if verifiable, substantial evidence disproves any faith most people will stop believing it.”

Really? I would be very surprised if that was the case. As Kuhn pointed out in his study of scientific revolutions, most people, confronted with evidence that invalidate their belief, be they religious or scientific, simply disregard the evidence or try to explain it away.But, curiously enough, and as these two comments show, almost no one would say that they won’t change their mind if presented with contrary evidence. It’s the kind of thing we don’t notice in ourselves.

Also we don’t necessarily notice when we lie casually. According to recent experiments, 60% of people will lie (or “embellish”) an average of 3 times in a 10-minute conversation with a stranger, without even noticing it. It’s a reflex.

Another thing we don’t notice, is how we speak. Yesterday I was sitting near a young woman who couldn’t say a simple sentence without adding at least three superfluous “like” (with a sprinkle of “y’know” and “whatever”). She would probably be surprised if someone was to point this out to her, and would deny it. And it’s not just superfluous words, but a host of grammatical and lexical strangeties. Hence the importance of real data in linguistics.

[Update: yesterday, my friend was pointing out to me how my voice changes depending on who’s around; I hadn’t even noticed.]

The thing with these last two cases is that it’s fairly easy to prove: just tape the person and play the conversation back to them. But in the first case, it is as hard to make people change their mind, as to make them admit they won’t change their mind if presented with sufficient evidence. Nearly 50 years after the publication of his study, most scientists still believe that they follow the evidence, and not their beliefs.

Just something to think about.

What do you think?