learning-bias

The Learning Bias – Stop Believing Everything You Learn

Anything can be learned. The problem is, that doesn’t mean what’s learned is the truth.

This is something that I like to call the Learning Bias.

We like to think that something we learned, becomes true to who we are. I.e. being vegan or having some sort of truth leading to you becoming a vegan is the only “right” way to eat.

The problem is, we’ve become susceptible to the availability of information backing up the truth behind it.

The Malleable Human Mind

Our minds are fascinating.

Baby’s are born with 200 billion nuerons firing and wiring, until they wittle themsleves down to about 100 billion nuerons primed with pathways that wire together.

This makes up many of the actions and decisions that we repeatedly do.

Over time, we become a collection of our experiences, beliefs, thoughts, and information that we come to understand.

Which is a good and a bad thing.

Let’s walk through a breif experiment in the malleability of the human mind.

Start with a Blank Mind

Take a child.

Optimisitc and constantly learning about their environment. They believe what they see and learn, because up to this point, they have no reason to question the nature of the information delivered from them.

Now, take something as basic as stop signs and basic street signals…

Teaching this child that green means stop, red means go, those red signs with the cross mean that it is okay to walk, and that you should never look both ways before crossing, will stickĀ into their mind.

They’ve yet to realize that you could be lying, or that they were taught something incorrectly.

Thus, this malleable mind takes in the information and teaches the child their new truth… Until they are hit by a car, and all of what they learned is thrown into the trash.

We as humans can learn anything, but the problem is, it is not always right. 

Actually, I would argue it almost never is.

Specializing in Nonsense

Take specialists.

People who get rid of all other focuses in order to learn just one thing. 

A foot doctor, a engine repairman (as opposed to a car mechanic), or even an advertiser.

Each of these is a speciality in a different field. One main focus and the purposeful neglect of learning in fields that aren’t their own.

By narrowing down your focus, you lose sight of the periphery.

For instance, maybe it’s your spine that is out of place, causing your foot to feel pain every time you walk.

The foot doctor would prescribe something only for the foot, not for the holistic wellbeing of the pateint.

Often in our society this is what continually happens.

When we dive deep into a subject, any subject, and neglect to learn the fields that touch it horizontally (a general practitioner vs. a specialist) we often end up with an inflated ego about what we know as well as a decreased amount of knowledge.

As talked about in spirituality, don’t look at the finger pointing to the moon, look at the moon.

You Can Be Correct About Anything (Depending on How You Look At It)

When we dive into specialization we often encounter a hard truth; all truths can be true.

Now that may warrant a discussion, but I’ll link Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris arguing about what truth is for 2 hours below.

Truth itself is arbitrary.

It’s not that anything or nothing is true, but it typically means that with the amount of evidence that we specifically have, some sort of information is deemed truth.

If you’ve ever dove into nutrition or exercise science you can see this happen.

We have vegans, meatatarians, paleo, fruitarians, IIFYM people, and just about anything that you can think of.

Each of these camps, believes to the best of their knowledge, that the nutritional protocols they follow are the best and reflected by current research.

Although, many of these are contrarian ideologies subsequently showing how truth can be a fallacy.

Even worse is when the deemed “expert” is the one highlighting that truth.

The Expert Fallacy

What is an expert?

Malcolm Gladwell may deem it someone who spends 10,000 hours becoming world class at something.

Although, the word expert, like the word success, is as arbitrary as value.

We place faith that someone has become an expert at flying planes when we get in the airplane, we do this also with fitness, and with doctors, and with priests and so on.

To many of us, everyone who has studied something for a variable amount of time becomes an expert.

Yet, it isn’t necessarily us who are in the wrong. Instead, it becomes the false confidence of trust being given to the expert that leads them to also consider themselves an expert.

Any expert that considers themselves an expert is either arrogant or over-compensating because they aren’t an expert.

Experts, and just about anyone, who starts on the quest to learn something, realizeĀ that there is a lot more too… everything.

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

From the way that doorknobs rotate to the way we perceive spirit and ourselves.

Actually, that brings up one of the best points.

Are you an expert on yourself? Often you’ll have people point out things about you that you don’t even know. So are you an self-expert?

What Does It Mean to Be Right?

Experts often and unequivocally think they are right.

They mistake their “solid” information for truth. Which begs the question; What does it mean to be right?

In absolute terms, we likely can never be right. Although, in our societies collective viewpoint, certain ideas can be more right than others.

Take for instance, nutritional sciences (yes, once again).

Nutritional sciences contain mounds of evidence that support almost every diet and theory out there.

Yet, some people believe certain diets are more effective than others.

The collective comes together (whether that be a small group or a large one) and decide that this is the most-true in their model.

I talked about models a lot in the post on how to learn anything, and it is something that we all need to utilize when thinking about the truth.

Truth to us likely is just a complex model in which all cards (bits of knowledge) create a stable house.

Until, of course, we learn something that dissuades us from believing what we previously did.

Intellectual Honesty on the Path of Truth

Now, in practical sense, how can you make sure you are living by your inner most truth?

Intellectual Honesty.

When new (credible) information arises that changes your model of some certain bit of information, previously your truth, see where it fits in.

If it fits, and it actually seems to be a good fit, then likely it is part of your truth.

All in all, yes you can learn anything, but that does not mean what you’ve learned is correct.

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