Being Certain is a Sign of Ignorance

Even scientific knowledge is "only" based on probabilities, so how can anyone be certain of being right? Actually, it´s very likely that the one who's sure about something actually often knows less than others.

"Those people are just so stupid! They just don't seem to get it!"

I see or hear comments like that daily, often related to other people’s “wrong” opinions or behaviour. Funny thing is that the people saying those things are often lacking understanding just as much as the ones they're mocking. We know that people are different, but internalizing and displaying it in practice is very, very hard.

Mind this!

Our conscious thoughts consist of about 50 bit / sec. The same second, in the unconscious processes of our brain, about 11.000.000 bits of sensory information are being processed and classified as avoidable threats and desirable rewards. So, according to neuroscience rationalising is like counting complex mathematical equations with an abacus.

So, how can we conclude that WE are right about something? Well, it's same time both easy and impossible.

The five P´s for understanding peoples minds

1. Perspective

We see the world from our own angle. That perspective is made up of both physical and mental qualities and values. Our gene-based personalities, life experiences, education, geopolitical and environmental factors and social circles vary and spice up the ways we interpret the world.

The number drawn in the sand looks either six or nine depending on which side we´re standing.

2. Personality

We are born with different personalities. Some are, for example more conscientious, outgoing and agreeable while others are more scatterbrained, closed and defiant. For the most part, our personality is made up of nuances of many different traits. It's found that even religiousness is affected by our genes.

There are also differences in the anatomy and the processing of our brains. For example the sensitivity of metacognition (= thinking about thinking) varies between individuals. Radical beliefs can be caused by the lowered ability to weight ones thoughts.

3. People around us (Social Circles)

Human is a social and communal animal whose survival has been aided by belonging to a group. Thinking alike has kept and keeps us part of the group, what has been wise in terms of survival.

4. Psychology

Brain processing aka thinking can be broadly divided into two parts:

Type 1 is fast, intuitive, heuristic and unconscious

Type 2 is slow and calculating requiring much more conscious effort

Type 2 is much more resistant to cognitive biases but our lazy brains prefer using Type 1.

Here´s a few classic biases that helps our brain uses to make quick close-enough decisions:

Availability Bias We make decisions of the immediate information that comes to our mind. Combining this with Confirmation bias, Halo effect, argumentation fallacies like ad hominem and prejudices like stereotyping it's easy to come up with a though that someone's stupid and wrong - even just wearing a certain red cap (you know what I mean) might be enough for making that interpretation.

Bandwagon Effect A person is more likely to share a belief if there are many others who believe the same. This is also called “herd mentality” or “group think.”

Confirmation Bias Paying more attention to information that supports our previously held beliefs and ignoring evidence to the contrary

False Consensus Effect

Causing people to see their own behavioral choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances.

Fundamental Attribution Error Overemphasizing personal factors and under-estimating situational factors when explaining other people’s behavior

Halo Effect Assuming that because someone is good or bad at one thing they will be equally good or bad at another.

Ingroup Preference Bias People tend to divide themselves into groups, and then attribute positive attributes to their own group.

Calling someone stupid is not solution-oriented and usually only strengthens the other’s defense.This effect is called a Backfire effect.

Find more biases and effects HERE

5. Philosophy

There is no universal justice. Cosmos don't punish or reward people for their behaviour (If you believe God does, it's fine by me). So far only people (and capuchin monkeys) show a sense of fairness. Only people write laws that are based on prevailing moral perceptions. Just like the value of a piece of paper - money - human moral and ethics are invented ideas by people and for the people. Thus, there are even individual differences how people see for example animal and human rights. Some people think trophy hunting is fine. (I personally think that even catch-and-release fishing is ethically questionable.)

" Only by understanding - but not necessarily accepting - different views it´s possible to find a solution oriented consensus. "

We all want to be happy. We just have different mental tools for achieving it. Of course breaking the law, depriving our common environment or hurting other living creatures for ones own pleasure or because of heartless ignorance is not supportable. Only by understanding - but not necessarily accepting - different views it's possible to find a solution oriented consensus. If you feel like learning more about the things I wrote about, here's a few book recommendations (ads):