So apparently some Australian researchers took a look at how people search the web for health information. And guess what they found?
People pretty much just pay attention to stuff that confirms what they already believe.
As one of the researchers said: "Even if people read the right material, they are stubborn to changing their views. This means that providing people with the right information on its own may not be enough."
Gosh, what a surprise.
I recognize this "I'm going to believe what I want to believe" tendency in myself, obviously. But I do at least know it's a fault, not a virtue. As much as I spout off my opinions, I am at least kind of aware they're opinions, and I try to take other points of view into consideration. Sometimes, I even change my mind!
So this study got me to thinking about the idea psychological maturity. Because I think the ability to get past your own biases and take in new information has something to do with that. So we'll leave the dull topic of "health information on the web" far behind as I go out on a limb and invent my own Simplistic Psychological Dichotomy!
Unfortunately, personality traits do not come in convenient black and white categories. But it's much more fun to pretend they do instead of dealing with a big messy continuum. So for the sake of discussion, we're going to divide the world up into two kinds of people: the Screaming Baby-Heads, and Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups.
Who are the Screaming Baby-Heads? Well, their whole lives are like the Australian study. They only take in information they want to take in. They just haven't achieved the ego-strength to separate their own desires, biases, emotions, and fantasies from reality. A "reality" apart from their own self-interest is too threatening and just not very much fun, so it can't exist.
The Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups, while not immune from Baby-Headedness in certain circumstances, have at least learned that they filter "reality" through their own perception. These people acknowledge, at least in theory, that they are not always right about everything. They know that even if they really want something to be true, sometimes it isn't. When evidence changes or new perspectives emerge, they may even (gasp) change their minds. These people are not, obviously, allowed to head up corporations or run our governments or even be listened to much anymore because they "flip-flop" and they're not decisive, strong, and steadfast like people who never question themselves. They're boring when they speak because they're always saying things like "possibly" and "I could be wrong" and "on the other hand."
(And actually, not all Screaming Baby-Heads are obnoxious over-confident assholes. There are different kinds of baby-headedness. Some SBH's can freely admit to mistakes, and can actually be really nice to people with whom they don't agree. But, like the obnoxious variety, these babyheads are incapable of believing that their own emotions and desires are not reality. These people fall for the same sociopathic boyfriends over and over, max out their credit cards for luxuries and expect no consequences, and keep believing those ads for miracle diets that will allow them to lose 50 lbs a month while eating all they want.)
So, assuming most of you are WWGU's and know all about the joys and disappointments of boring every-day fact-based reality, here's a brief guide to the life on the other side.
What's good about being a Screaming Baby-Head? Plenty! Check it out:
- Life is simple.
- All the people you like are good people.
- Coincidentally, all the people you don't like are bad people.
- You are the center of the universe.
- Your religion is 100% right and everyone else is screwed, but that's okay because they must deserve it for some reason.
- Your chances of buying a winning lotto ticket are much higher than anyone else's.
- Even though bad things may happen, they will probably go away soon and are never your fault.
- If you are angry at someone, they must have done something very bad to make you angry. Conveniently enough, your emotions are always a perfect mirror of reality. This means you never need to apologize for anything!
- If you are attracted to someone, it's because they're perfect.
- If you are no longer attracted to someone who seemed perfect, this is because they are evil and they tricked you. This makes it easy to move on with no regrets.
- Whatever you desire, you deserve.
- You don't have to worry about how your actions affect others, because you never do anything wrong.
- Tomorrow is always going to be way better than today, because you're special!
- Because TV networks, box-office hits, and political campaigns are totally tapped into the SBH market, there's always something good to watch and someone great to vote for!
So what's bad about being a Screaming Baby-Head?
- Oddly enough, considering you're such a special person, you don't catch as many breaks as other people. For example, you may get fired for no reason at all!
- Again, strangely, since you're incredibly likable, many people are not nice to you and even people who don't deserve you as a friend don't even try very hard to get to know you.
- People who start off "good people" can instantly turn evil.
- Most mystifying of all: so many things keep turning out differently than they should! Where is that happy marriage, that fit healthy body, that rewarding career, that fortune in the bank you deserve? What the hell is up with that?
Of course I have plenty of babyheadedness of my own to deal with, as I assume we all do... but do any of you know any real Babyheads out there? Or is the whole notion sort of, well, Babyheaded?