Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Confirmation Bias

July 3rd, 2008 Posted in Psychology

I don’t think anyone will disagree if I say that humans are imperfect creatures. Sure, we have some truly amazing abilities: our exquisitely tuned senses, our talent for analytical thought and our faculty for arts and emotions. But we also have our shortcomings, and our incredible brain is hardly the perfect logical machine that we might wish it were.  We are prone to a number of extremely tempting logical fallacies, of which perhaps the most straightforward is our desire to seek out evidence that confirms what we already believe. It’s called confirmation bias, and it’s the very reason why we have double-blind experiments in science – to make sure that human desire is factored out of the equation.

But this fallacy has another side that is rarely discussed, which is the way human beings usually project their own personalities onto others.  Not only do we want the universe to behave as we believe it does, but we also want other people to behave as we ourselves do.  Often the most honest and well-meaning people are those most at risk from paranormal scams because they are far less likely to assume that other human beings may choose to lie and deceive as easily as they eat and breathe.

Often the most likely explanation for paranormal claims is simply human dishonesty. It’s not the only factor, but it’s probably the most common. It’s amazing how plausible a liar can sound, especially if he’s saying the things you want to hear.

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