Perception is a tricky thing. It’s our conduit to the world and yet at the same, it can be one of our worst enemies. We see or hear things wrong all the time because our senses trick us. As a result, we can be absolutely sure, just totally certain that we are seeing or hearing something that doesn’t exist or missing what is right in front of our face.
Here’s one. Do you see the cigar?
What about this one? Get your head out of the gutter you pervs, this is a folded piece of paper.
And there’s no illusion here, but then again, how many of you guys saw the gorilla?
It’s nothing new to say that our reality is shaped by our perceptions. This goes all the way back to the old Indian parable of the three blind guys describing an elephant. One of them grabs the trunk and thinks an elephant is a tree branch, one of them touches its leg and says an elephant is like a pillar and one of them grabs it between the legs and gets trampled to death, thus demonstrating the perils of science.
But when you get right down to it, everything we see is just a perspective. You don’t have to get into deep philosophical debates about the nature of reality to see that our senses fool us and that often we are not seeing the truth of things simply because we aren’t paying attention or we don’t take the time to get a well-rounded view of the big picture.
Now it’s not only our senses that let us down. We can see or hear something perfectly but still get twisted into knots because our brain uses our past experiences and conclusions to filter the information before we start thinking about it. This is called confirmation bias but is more commonly known as the “See, I knew it all the time!” approach. Our brains run this on us 24/7 and it gets us into all kinds of trouble.
There are nearly an infinity of reasons why someone would accept bad data and then be sure it’s true. We are given information with emotional overtones that make us angry or outraged or vindictive and those emotions can act like a barrier to accepting new information. In fact, getting people riled up this way is one of the best ways to make sure that the truth never gets out, because an angry mob of people are the last ones who are going to stop and fact check their sources before they lynch a guy for whatever crime they think he committed. Just go read the comments of any news or Facebook article and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Or maybe some authority figure like your parents or a minister or doctor told you something when you were young and it just has to be true because they said it. I mean, we all know that parents and ministers and doctors never ever lie. Some of these childhood fibs we learn aren’t true, like the Tooth Fairy or thinking that if we burp, fart and sneeze all at once we’ll turn inside out. But some of them we hold on to, so I just want you to know that if you still think those rumble strips on the sides of the highways are there for the blind drivers, you may be mistaken.
Confirmation bias becomes a real problem when we can’t or won’t take in new information because we’re so busy defending what we think is true or worse, fighting and even starting culture wars over it. It’s surprisingly easy to get people riled up but often the things they are mad about are not what they should be mad about. They just didn’t take the time to find that out.
For example, gun owners and NRA members get riled up to an almost frothing state about the idea that the government is coming to take their guns.
Yeah, that really happened, yet there has not been any serious legislation proposed to ban all firearms in quite some time. The last time it was tried in 2008 in Washington DC, the ban was quickly overturned by the Supreme Court. The right to bear arms in the US is a right that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Instead, what gun owners should be very upset about is that there are so many untrained civilian gun owners who think that just because they have a .45 or a .38 that they are ready to go full Rambo on criminal perpetrators.
Let me explain. Statistics show that an armed American is not necessarily a safe American. (a) we have more guns in the US than any other country, with various reports indicating anywhere from 90 – 112 guns for every 100 people living here; (b) the US has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate amongst the world’s developed nations; (c) statistics show that any gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide or a homicide than it is for self-defense.
What’s more, a 2015 report by Mount St Mary’s University on gun training showed that there is a woeful miscalculation on the part of untrained gun owners as to how safe they really are.
People who think that they just have to get good at target practice may be surprised to learn that 77% of shots fired in self-defense situations miss their targets, even when fired by trained gun-handlers.
Many think that they’ll see the bad guys coming, but 67% of the time, the bad guy is the first one to use lethal force in an ambush situation and doesn’t just pop up behind a barricade like on the shooting range, waiting for you to shoot them.
And finally, the average violent attack is over in 3 seconds, which is barely enough time for your average shopper to register that there is a free giveaway of Hostess donuts in aisle 3, much less register that someone is trying to kill them with enough time for them to pull, aim and fire at said bad guy.
So how many of our currently armed citizens know enough to take protective cover, issue commands to the assailants and attempt to de-escalate situations before they become deadly as well as exercise trigger discipline? Very damn few according to this study and if we want to be an armed nation, we should be an educated nation as well.
If you find yourself rolling your eyes right now over what I’m saying, I’ll simply invite you to look at the same information I did. Hopefully, you’ll do so without preconceived ideas about how efforts to educate or train firearm owners is not the same thing as Obama coming to take away your guns. I’ve included links below to all my sources of information.
Here’s the thing. Our perception of reality IS our reality. As critical thinkers, we need to make sure that we are looking at all the facts which means being open to accepting new information. Being so certain that it becomes a fixation which cannot be questioned or reasoned with, is called extremism. It’s a dangerous mindset to be in. All of us have strong ideas and opinions about lots of things and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, so long as we don’t lose sight of keeping an open mind.
We have the power to mold and shape our reality using facts and evidence or we have the ability to struggle and fight by refusing to look at them. I dare say, most conflict comes not from what people are disagreeing about, but what they THINK they are disagreeing about. This is why I often dive in to the comments section of my YouTube channel when people disagree with something I’ve said and I try to clarify what the problem is. Many times, I’ve found that what they thought they had a problem with was not what I actually said, but something they had heard somewhere else which they now assumed I was saying because it was somehow related to the content in my video. When I had a chance to iron it out, we found out that we didn’t actually disagree so much and they stopped thinking of me as that jerk liberal idiot who only calls himself a critical thinker because he’s so arrogant.
A good lesson in critical thinking is to be more careful about what you see and hear and how you act on it. No one ever lost out too much by paying more attention or being more mindful.
Thank you for watching.