Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm about to nerd it up: the confirmation bias

We see the world through a filter, and you can't get rid of that filter no matter what you do or how much you want to avoid it. It's called the confirmation bias, which scares me and interests my inner psych nerd at the same time.

The confirmation bias means that everyone subconsciously pays more attention to information that confirms what they already believe. The example I read was this: Let's say you're at a party and someone mentions that long dead Nickelodeon show Catdog. You haven't even thought about Catdog since the 90s and you never hear anything about it. Suddenly, you start seeing Catdog everywhere. You wonder why everyone is suddenly so interested in Catdog, but it's really just that the conversation at the party brought it to your conscious and made you more aware of things related to it.

Everything you have ever seen or heard enters your brain. Whether or not you remember it depends on whether or not you process it, and in order to process it, you have to have a reason to pay attention to it. When something is on your mind, like a recent Catdog conversation, you start paying attention to things related to what's on your mind. Because of this, we see only what we want to see, only things that confirm what we already know. We ignore everything else, not because we're close-minded, but because that's how our brains work.

This whole concept of information processing applies to our beliefs. If we think something is true, we subconsciously search for information consistent with that belief, and interpret the information we see to confirm. This is like paradigm theory. We have a paradigm, or a general idea that's considered true, and we use it to guide all research in that area. When the paradigm changes, they reevaluate everything they thought they knew to fit the new paradigm (like flat Earth vs. round Earth).

I think this is so interesting because it makes me think that our world exists within our minds. We see the world through a filter, and really isn't a way to see the world as it truly is. Because no one can see the world without a filter or a bias, true reality does not exist. A combination of genetic predisposition, conditioning, cognitive schemas, cultural influence, and experience lead people to construct their world from the inside out.

Like paint samples in a design studio, people choose from the world's innumerable stimuli and paint their world in their own colors. This fascinates me and scares me at the same time. I wonder what colors I chose and just how much I'm missing.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Something I have to say

In 18 years, there is only one person I have ever truly hated. I can't even express how deeply upset she makes me. It's something I probably couldn't even talk about with a therapist without crying uncontrollably. She is my biggest fear, the cause of the most emotional pain I have ever experienced, and the star of at least one of my nightmares each week. I get a sickening feeling like no other when I think about her and if I think about her for too long, without exaggeration, I will throw up. My heart starts to race whenever the phone rings because I'm always afraid it could be her. I feel powerless knowing she's still allowed to continue living without medication and hurting as many people as she does. If I gathered the pain, both emotional and physical, that she has caused others and sent it back to her, I think she would die from the overload.

Nothing makes me sadder, angrier, and feel more defeated than knowing she still gets what she wants. Everyone tries to keep her happy when she is the one making everyone miserable. They don't understand. I hate that I can't make them understand. She needs to be arrested, committed, whatever it takes to get her on medication. It's a responsibility, and a duty to society. But I can't make anyone understand anything or do anything. I hate her for everything she's done, but I hate myself for not being able to stop her. The only thing I can think to do is channel my hate toward her back to myself. If I was worth anything, I would not let her hurt the people that mean the most to me. I would stop this. But I can't.

I hate her passionately, but I also hate myself for being powerless against her.