When Things Are Familiar, We Assume They’re True

When Things Are Familiar, We Assume They’re True

I heard someone quote Robert Kegan, Harvard professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development for 40 years and author of An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization on one of the many webinars I’ve been watching lately:

When things are familiar, we assume they’re true. When things are not familiar, we assume they’re false.

Very much in line with emerging research about confirmation bias – the tendency to search for and interpret new information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.

We all experience confirmation bias – about the restaurants we choose to patronize, about the news we choose to listen to, about the people we choose to associate with.  [See the PBS Hacking Your Mind episode Us v. Them]

And many excellent researchers are developing strategies to overcome our deeply embedded tendencies toward confirmation bias and implicit bias.  [See Stanford University researcher Jennifer Eberhardt’s very recent and most excellent TED talk: How Racial Bias Works, and How to Disrupt It]

Among my favorite recommendations to safely venture into the unfamiliar are 52 Ways to Avoid Hardening of the Categories from Louis Cozolino’s The Healthy Aging Brain, in the context of this wisdom from Pearl S. Buck:

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.

– Pearl S. Buck

Suggestions for training your brain to stay open to the new and unfamiliar:

Go to a new restaurant and eat something that sounds a little strange.

Take unfamiliar routes to familiar places.

Take familiar routes to unfamiliar places.

Make up some new stories about your past.

Do something that everyone tells you you’re too old for.

Identify a rut you’ve gotten into and climb out.

Stay at a youth hostel and listen to what young adults have to say.

Start a conversation with a stranger each day this week.

Buy some new gadget and ask a young person to teach you how to use it.

Etc. from Appendix One, The Healthy Aging Brain by Louis Cozolino, PhD.

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