Many Want to Be Free, but Few Want the Truth

by Oct 1, 2021Theme: What Is Truth?

Continued from yesterday…

If you’ve ever watched the movie A Few Good Men, you’ll probably remember the courtroom drama between the fierce General Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) and the lazy lieutenant and defense lawyer Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise). In a heated exchange, Kaffee demands to know the truth. After a slight pause and with a furious look on his face, Jack Nicholson’s character forcefully shouts back, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Research now indicates that the General’s angered response is more than just good acting. Most people can’t handle the truth, nor do they really want to know the truth. Our minds are made up: we already know the truth (or at least that’s what we’ve convinced ourselves).

To risk being wrong about what we believe invokes fear and insecurity. Since our sense of identity is attached to what we think, questioning our beliefs shakes the very foundation of who we are.

It is, therefore, easier to just assume that whatever we believe must be the truth. So rather than objectively pursue truth, we look for information that supports what we already think to be true. In cognitive science, this is referred to as motivated reasoning.

Peter Ditto, Ph.D, a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies how motivation, emotion, and intuition influence judgment, says:

“People are capable of being thoughtful and rational, but our wishes, hopes, fears, and motivations often tip the scales to make us more likely to accept something as true if it supports what we want to believe.”

In other words, our view of reality is filtered by what our minds have been conditioned to see.

To be continued tomorrow…

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