Monday, 3 February 2014

Humans are good at uncritically accepting what they are told!

I have just been reading a discussion post by Maxi-Pad entitled

Science channels, If they show it, It must be true

in which he says:
I have been having a very interesting (by interesting meaning mostly ridiculous) conversation with a coworker who believes in the bible literally and that the universe is 6,000 years old. We can get pass the "don't even talk to people like her, it is pointless." However, as we kept conversating, she proceeded to tell me that she does believe in ghosts. When I asked her why she simply replied "well, don't you? They have all these shows in National Geographic and all the science channels, If they say it, it has to be true. Thats what the channels are about." I was shocked. I proceeded to tell her that just because something is shown on TV, it doesn't mean its true. She was very surprised to hear that and proceeded to ask me how is that possible. That is the moment I realized that there actually are people out there that believe everything they see on TV just because the channels claim to be science channels.
This is obviously impacting the science community with almost no effort it feels. I would like to know any thoughts or ideas about this, or even what can we do to make people like this woman who was never properly taught from a young age to just learn to question.
I replied:

Lets be honest. Most things that most people "know" is taken on trust from what other people (including books, TV, etc) tell them.
If we think about the evolution of the brain the critical factor relating to the size of the brain is learning time. There is a limit to what you can learn by simple trial and error copying. Once a species can support a culture which provides better survival prospects the faster it can learn from other members of the species the better. So once language started it provided a very quick route to absorb cultural information. Evolution meant that the human brain responded by providing an express learning route - if someone tells you something learn it without question - because (on average) it is far better than anything you can learn by personal trial and error experiments.
My work on the brain's neural code suggests that the brain's basic mechanism is automatically slanted towards what psychologists call confirmation bias. Put the two things together and the human brain is prone to "follow my leader" and be strongly influenced by the first things it learns - which acts as a filter to only accept things which it has know are "true" for a long time. And because a child's brain is optimized to suck in new information at speed there is no checking real checking that information from different sources is logically consistent.
Our brain is not, at the biological level, optimized to understanding sophisticated mathematical logic. If a child is repeatedly told, at a receptive age, that anything which disagrees with the bible is illogical, and that everything that supports the idea that the world was created a few thousand years is true we should not assume that the resulting adult is stupid - we should blame the education system that primed their brain with such ideas.

1 comment:

  1. People are very uncritical. As a jobseeker I realized that these days the companies use all these recruiting websites where you need to fill out your whole resume again even though the one you spent hours on making is perfect. I did, but started to question why I had to do it twice. It made me very upset because it took so much of my time. I asked people about it, and nobody had asked themselves why it had to be done. I understand it saves the company a lot of time since they can seach up relevant words for the position, as well it serves as a filter. Before it took me 1/3 of the time that it takes today. I know the jobseekers are the ones who bares the cost of this, while the companies managed to lower theirs. I see nobody questioning the big WHY. If I do, all I get to hear is that I am negative and with a negative attitude I will never get a job. I start thinking people are brainwashed. I understand why, but still I go on and do it because I have no choise, and that's exactly why the companies can make the process so long, time cosuming and inefficient for the job seekers. In many cases outsource are the ones finding the right candidate for a job, and who are those people? They might have a bachelor in Psychology and they are going to tell you wheter you are qualified for a job as a carpinter. This is an exageration, I know. But I will always ask the WHY.