Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Do You See?

I've been intrigued lately with the research indicating that we tend to discount facts and data that contradict our beliefs.  We like to think we are open-minded, but we tend to dig in our heels and stick to our position.  We tend to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.  It seems like every few months there is a story on the radio about new research or a new book on the topic. 

I faced it first-hand recently.  A friend of mine uses a different technique for dyeing fabric than I do, and she feels she gets more vibrant colors.  She decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the two methods.  I didn't really feel that I was tied to my way of doing things. I was interested to see the results, to see if it was worth trying her technique.  She showed me the the samples, and just as I was thinking, "Hmm, not really that much difference between the two.  I guess it doesn't really matter."  she said something like,  "So you can really see the difference - how much brighter the colors are with my method."  My first thought was that she  was so attached to her method, she saw what she wanted to see in the samples.  She believed her method produced more vibrant colors, so that's what she saw.  And there probably is some truth in that, but I was doing the same thing.  When I first looked at the samples, I did see a difference, however it didn't seem significant to me.  Not significant enough to change the way I was dyeing.  So then my brain ignored the difference that was there.

It just amazes me that we were both looking at the same "facts", but we each saw something different. I like to think I'm open-minded, but I see how easy it is to get caught up in that way of thinking.  So the question is how to remain open to new information.  I suppose awareness of these tendencies is a good place to start. 

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