Millions of stimuli come flying toward most people every day. Because of the volume of information, people have to very quickly identify the information and decide the action to take on the information. Some information is simply ignored while other information is filtered and connected to previous knowledge and experiences.
Although, people filter information out of necessity, it can also be a detriment at times. We can decide to throw away information too quickly that could have led to learning or a wonderful experience. Similarly, quick decisions we make about the information that we retain can result in some mis-associations between that information and previous knowledge or beliefs.
Since people are quick to dismiss information, they miss opportunities. This is why people are more likely to notice things and even to fall in love when they are on vacation or out of their usual environment. In these situations, people tend to slow down and pay attention. In part, this is because everything is unfamiliar and they must analyze far more information. They also are learning and enjoying new sights. All of these things help to take a person off of automatic mode.
In addition to missing opportunities, quick determinations about information can lead to assumptions about information that are incorrect. This occurs when people hear some information and assume something based on stereotypes, biases, information they have read in the past, or even their own past experiences.
The problem is that these connections are misleading and result in people believing things that are simple not true. This then feeds on itself because people have an instinct reaction to defend what they believe to be true. Therefore, there is an urge to fight anyone who challenges their interpretation of this information. This ingrains the information into their mind as true even though it is false.
This makes it extremely difficult for a person to change their point of view about an event or situation. They have already created a story about the information by connecting the new information to other information and beliefs they already have. In addition, the person may have even defended their version of the story further increasing their investment in their story.
When the person receives new information that is contrary to the story that they have created, they tend to dismiss that information because it does not support what they believe to be true. At this point, it can be nearly impossible to change a person’s mind. The new information, no matter how strong and how well supported, just doesn’t fit into the story. Thus, it is dismissed.
And, this is the reason why two people can hear the exact same information, but come away with two completely different stories!
Next time you find yourself defending your version of a story, take a moment, slow down, and breath deeply. Then, ask yourself, “What do I really know about this situation?” Start from the beginning and consider every piece of data like you might if you are visiting a different country. Ask yourself where the road may lead and check for information about navigating the situation.
In the end, you may still believe the original version of the story. But, then again, you may not!