I wonder while I wander

…musings about this wild and wonderful world

Oops, I fell into the prejudice trap (again)

4 Comments

I recently wrote a post about the way we let our prejudices prevent us from honestly considering new ideas and alternate opinions; about how we assess potentially new information based on what we want to believe, rather than simply looking at the facts.

Lest you think I’m being preachy and just pointing out flaws in other people, I’d like to share an example of this type of biased and prejudicial thinking in my own life.

I watched a TED talk last week about the evolution of human sexuality which was really excellent and worth at least one post of its own, so I won’t go into details about it now. The speaker was very engaging, well-spoken and humorous. He said some things that chimed well with beliefs and ideas I’d already formed, and I very much agreed with his open-minded approach to the whole topic.

In fact, I found it all so interesting, I immediately had a look on Amazon for his book, so I could read more extensively about his theories and research findings. While checking out some reviews I came across another book by a different author, written as a direct refutation of the first guy’s work and proposing some different views and conclusions.  By further investigating on the internet, it seems these two thinkers have a personal dislike of each other as well as conflicting views on human sexuality.

What I found most interesting in all this was how strongly I reacted in favour of one author and how ready I was to dismiss the other. When browsing on Amazon, I read numerous positive reviews and a few negative ones about each of the books, so in this respect, they looked about even. However, because I’d had an enjoyable 14 minutes watching the first author present his ideas, and maybe even just because I actually came across him and his ideas first, I had already formed a prejudice in his favour. He was clearly ‘more right’ than the other author, and I also felt that I liked her a bit less, because she clearly had it out for this intelligent, funny man I had heard speak. Seriously, what was her problem?

All of this happened in the space of about 20 minutes.

(1) I had been introduced to an idea, (2) learned there was some controversy about it, (3) decided which anthropological study was more valid based on my judgement of the presenters perceived likeability, (4) discounted the opposition as irrelevant and false without actually knowing what her position was, and (5) was eager to share my new ‘expert’ knowledge and new ‘correct’ understanding of an incredibly complex topic with the rest of the world. My oh my, the brain works quickly!

What!? She came to overly hasty and irrationally biased conclusions again? Nooooo! Make it stop!

What!? She came to overly hasty, irrational and biased conclusions again? Nooooo! Make it stop!

Fortunately for me, almost as quickly as I formed all those thoughts and prejudices, I realised what I was doing, and could have a bit of a laugh at how hasty and unreasonable I was being. At least by recognising the conclusions my brain was jumping to, I could take a step back from my initial reaction and try to look at things more rationally. 

To cut myself some slack, I think we, as humans, are hard-wired to make hasty judgements about many things. I mean, if a lion is running towards you, you do NOT want to take a deep breath and try to make a slow and deliberate assessment of the situation, draw a chart outlining your options and the pros and cons of each, or sit and ponder whether or not you are judging the actions and motivations of this particular lion unfairly. You want to make a hasty judgement and get the hell away from that lion!

Even in non-life-or-death situations, if we really thought deeply and logically analysed every bit of information and every experience we went through in life, we’d have no time for actually eating, sleeping, performing a job, just living! It would be complete overkill and ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ (as the saying goes)!

So, I’m saying it isn’t surprising that we do this. It’s no shock at all that we want to take mental short cuts, make hasty judgements based on what we already know and believe, and just want to get on with our lives. There are many situations where this tendency doesn’t matter too much, or can even be helpful.

However, there are certainly times when it is detrimental to making wise decisions. I know that in my own life it means I can be a bit (or sometimes very!) judgemental towards people who think differently than I do. It also means that during conversation I sometimes don’t truly listen to what others are saying because I’m not really interested in their opinions; I’m just waiting to say what I think and ‘save’ them from the error of their ways!

At the end of the day, I think that developing an awareness of our prejudices and the way our minds work is a necessary first step towards becoming more balanced and fair when seeking out facts and listening to the views of others. It’s a key move towards better communication and deeper understanding with our fellow humans.

One has to start somewhere, after all!

Advertisements

Author: Kim

Originally from Midwestern USA, now living in Istanbul, Turkey, with my husband and two boys, and soon to be moving to Ireland. Living simply, continually learning more about the world, and enjoying an amazing life!

4 thoughts on “Oops, I fell into the prejudice trap (again)

  1. I love this post! I do this sometimes too. I form a position and then I want other people to see it and have my own way.

    Then from the other extreme, I can become quite too aware of the need for balance and become, as my supervisor called me, a grocer.

    It’s hard to find the balance!

    • Thanks 🙂 I completely agree, it is hard to find balance between actually having opinions and making judgements and trying to be objective. I don’t want to be a ‘relativist’ but I want to keep my hasty opinionated self under control too!
      I can see from taking a quick look at your blog that you are also interested in culture and diversity! I’m looking forward to reading more. It is a topic I am so interested in! Actually, I’ve been pondering over some particular ideas about culture presented by a friend over the last few days, and it is one of those situations, where the more I think about the questions, the less able I am to take a definite stance, it just keeps getting more complex, spilling over into other issues and there is an exception to every ‘rule’ I come up with! But I love thinking about it for that same reason. I will have to make sure I don’t just become a ‘grocer’though! 🙂 Thanks a million for commenting and I’m looking forward to checking out your writing too!

      • I think it’s always so case by case. We learned to look at all the positions and then trace the dominant views, then the missing pieces, and try find ways where they can all work together.

        It does grow more complex, but I find that’s the wonder of the work! I am a grocer, so not the best in that regard, but we learned to take a position based on exposing the limits of the argument and tracing back to what that reveals about the centre, then taking a position. I’m still learning though.

        I like your blog, by the way!

  2. Hello, fellow blogger! A peaceful day to you!
    Congrats! You are nominated for the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award.
    You can check Community of bloggers http://wp.me/p2EeT0-ow via @wordpressdotcom

    Regards,
    Nicci

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s