Why do you Believe . . .

. . . the things that you do believe? I’m not talking here about religious faith, though this could impact some aspects of faith. I’m talking about just about any topic on which you choose to believe one source over another.

I’ve seen a number of cases recently on blogs, in the mainstream media, in church, and in my daily life in which people have expressed very decided opinions that one person is right and another is wrong. In some cases, I believe the people knew where they had gotten their information and had made some judgment as to whether it was right or not. That doesn’t necessarily mean they agree with me. It does mean that their viewpoint was thoughtful. Others simply repeated what they had heard from a source they felt was credible.

But why do we feel certain sources are credible while others are not? Unfortunately, this is frequently not something we think about seriously. We just find ourselves believing what is written in periodicals we like, on blogs we like, or in books written by authors we like, and we haven’t really considered the reasons. I am not certain how one could survey this. The survey questions would be self-defeating. But I suspect that for many of us the choice is made based on whether the source agrees with our own opinions most of the time. That is likely the main, unconscious reason. (If you’re someone who carefully checks sources, this doesn’t apply to you!)

I believe we also tend to believe people who share our religious or political beliefs. We check our opponents out much more carefully than our friends. Finally, we tend to develop feelings based on who we associate with on a regular basis. I have observed this in many political campaigns. People who associated regularly with people who supported a particular candidate or party tended to believe their candidate or party would win despite all other evidence. They would remember polls that favored their candidates and forget those opposed.

Election season is a good time to ask yourself just how reliable your sources are. I’m not trying to tell you what or who to believe. I’m just suggesting that you make that choice conscious. Find the most objective data possible and evaluate who you listen to. Learn a bit more about learning.

It’s a good goal for election season.

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