Believe or not believe: a controversial study

    Believe or not believe: a controversial study Are you naturally gullible or do you have a tendency to be critical? In previous articles I have referred to the fact that some people have a tendency in some circumstances to believe paranormal explanations, but this time the question is: we spontaneously believe in a natural way what we read in the newspapers, what the agencies broadcast. information or what we find written in the various blogs on the net or are we rather critical about the new information that reaches us? Do we believe and then later we understand or rather do we believe because we have well understood the new information? These questions turn into the center of a dilemma that has its roots at least 400 years ago. Descartes argued that understanding and believing are two independent processes: first the person considers the information, analyzes it, and then decides what to do with it, at this point beliefs would come into play. Undoubtedly his proposal, expressed in concise form, is attractive and seems to explain how our mind works but it is not the only way to explain how we work. Another philosopher, Spinoza, argued that the act of understanding involves believing in information. Until we have evidence to the contrary, we will believe the information presented to us without discussion. A bit like according to the famous maxim that "one is innocent until proven guilty". So… which of these two theories applies to practice? Gilbert together with a group of psychologists put it to the test involving 71 volunteers. Participants in the trial were shown a series of claims about two different thefts, later they were supposed to sentence the thieves to jail. Some of the information was designed to give a particularly negative imprint on the theft, for example, it was said that the thief had a weapon, while other information tended to minimize the seriousness of the crime itself by claiming that the thief had acted that way because he had children to feed. Obviously, only one of the information was true while the rest were false. Participants were told that true information would be shown in green and false information in red. Where was the pitfall? Half of the participants were intentionally distracted while the other half had ample time to analyze the claims. If Spinoza's theory were certain those people who were distracted while reading the false information would not have had enough time to process it correctly and thus it would have influenced them to issue a sentence. On the other hand, if Descartes were right, the distraction would not make a significant difference as people would analyze all the information in detail. The results showed that negative information had a greater impact than information that attempted to undermine the fact. However… the participants who were distracted were much tougher in their sentences, with an average of 6 years in prison the latter applied a sentence of 11 years, almost double! This difference was not observed in the group that was not distracted. What does this mean? That only when people have enough time to think do they act accordingly, considering the false and true that the statements may contain. Conversely, when there is no time to reflect, people simply believe everything they read. The authors of the experiment affirm that Spinoza was right: understanding and believing are not two processes that occur separately. Only fractions of a second after reading something will we believe it unless there is information that proves otherwise. We have a tendency to be gullible. This study also concluded that we all have a tendency to believe that: - People's behaviors reflect their personality while in reality they only show a precise situation. - That people tend to assume that others tell the truth even when they lie. - When we try to prove a theory we have a tendency to look for facts that confirm it rather than pay attention to facts that deny it. How in tune with reality are these conclusions? As with all theories, this attempt to give an explanation summarizes the ways of thinking and acting of a majority and in this perspective I believe that the results must be considered. The most appropriate thing is that from now on we do not go around the world disheartened and believing that everything is uncertain and false.



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