Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Perspective Changes Everything

Public transport brings out the crazy in people during the day when all the normal people are at school or at work. Today I met a very interesting man, an extrovert much like myself. In fact, I hadn't been at the bus stop for more than a second when he interested himself and started talking about who knows what.

He was approaching fifty years old, ridiculously polite, and interested in Doctor Who, alternative medicine, and conspiracy theories. He spent a fifteen minute bus ride talking to me mostly about 9/11 and the conspiracy theories surrounding the event.

He wasn't one of the lunatics I picture when thinking about conspiracy theories, who look like they're on drugs, or dressed like hippies. In fact, this man was very well educated. He knew a lot about history, and politics, and psychology, he was very engaging and friendly. I thought he must've been a professor or a teacher, I think he'd make a really good one.

Anyway, it got me thinking about conspiracies, different opinions, and all the evidence that is produced. I mean this guy had a lot of evidence to back up what he told me, granted, a lot of his sources were from the internet, but there were also eyewitness accounts.

Interesting, because there were eyewitness accounts that support the opposite theory. Perhaps one of them is lying, it makes no matter. I'm not going to discuss theories and evidence, but what I do want to share is something I learnt a long time ago.

Two opposing parties can be presented with exactly the same information, from the same sources, in the same context, and both can use it to argue completely different views. Because it's not about the evidence itself, it's the perspective.

Perspective changes everything. Especially if you have a predisposition to something. A pessimist and an optimist can be presented with the same situation and react very differently because they have different predispositions. Like the famous half full and half empty illustration.

Even more so is the effect of what you want to find. When you're looking for something, you're much more likely to find it than you would if you weren't looking for it. Seems logical enough. But the same thing can be applied to theories and evidence.

When you look at a piece of evidence, and you want to find a conclusion that supports your predisposition, you will probably find one. If there's a case where the guilty party is one of two men, and one is your best friend, and the other is your worst enemy, and you look at all the evidence. Consciously, or unconsciously, you would rather find your enemy guilty than your friend, so you will look harder for evidence that supports your friend's case, maybe even ignore the evidence that supports your enemy.

It's just something I find really interesting, but also disturbing. The fact that logic and reason is often lost in emotions. Personal preference takes precedence over fact, and our own desires can cloud our judgement.

Very recently I learnt a very valuable lesson. Your emotions can be deceived. You can be tricked, you can be broken, you can be hurt. But don't let it change what you see in the world around you. Hold onto what you know to be truth, let your head control you, rather than your heart.

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