Every where I look, I see people getting married and having babies. It seems peculiar because I never recalled seeing them in such overwhelming quantities before, but all of a sudden there they are, at my local café, on my Facebook feed, at the bookshop, cropping up in chats, texts and emails from friends and family. This evidence before my very eyes seems to run in direct contrast to the statistical reality that fewer and fewer people are getting married and choosing to have children, but whatever. I’m seeing it. Therefore it’s there.
We help make sense of the world by looking around us. With everything we take in with our senses, we piece together, bit by bit, how things are, what they mean, and why they are that way. Often we place such emphasis on this sensory information that we fail to acknowledge the individual, psychological filters this information passes through in order to reach our smart, little brain boxes. The reality of this situation is that there isn’t an irregularly massive number of people getting married and having babies, rather I’ve been thinking more about marriage and babies (due to societal pressure, a close friend’s upcoming wedding, seeing a photo of Megan Fox’s unusually attractive offspring, etc) and therefore, all evidence of marriage and babies has become disproportionally emphasised by nothing more than my mind’s inclination to see it. There are plenty of people I know, see, FB stalk, who aren’t getting married and producing small people, but these guys don’t work with my current theory that “EVERYONE IS GETTING MARRIED AND HAVING BABIES”, so I disregard them, and instead focus on those who make me feel like I’m RIGHT.
“Cognitive scientists have studied our natural tendency to look only for corroboration; they call this vulnerability to the corroboration error the confirmation bias”. And we humans are complete suckers for it. We see what we want to see, when we want to see it, and are reluctant to change our minds about it. Changing our minds about beliefs we hold to be true takes a lot more effort and consideration than continuing to reinforce any pre-existing beliefs. We’re keen to understand new things with as little energy expended as possible. In which case, we give things explanations and/or narratives to help store new information in an accessible location of our mental Kennards, and explanations that further reinforce existing beliefs are the easiest and most convenient method of storage! Only, when we’re a long way off being right, it takes a helluva lot for us to see the other side (imagine how sensible it seemed to once believe the earth was flat!)
Anais Nin said “We don’t see things are they are, we see them as we are” and you should try and remember that when you’re feeling chubby and ugly and every person you (choose to) see looks like Kate Moss, or when you’re feeling like a professional failure and everyone you (selectively) hear about is getting record deals and Harvard scholarships. If you’re anything like me, your mind is your personal saboteur, fashioning the world around you to make your mistakes and shortcomings even more graphic and pitiful. But remember, even though it often feels like you’re just taking the world in as a cool and impartial observer, we forget about those filters that shape and distort, emphasise and neglect, and churn out weddings and babies on every Insta post and street corner.
(Quote taken from Nicolas Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan. Image via Pinterest)