Our worldview is a theory we have of the world, which we use each day for living in the world. It is a framework of ideas and attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life. It is our comprehensive system of beliefs.
This comic shares insight on how our worldview can be influenced by a psychological phenomena known as the Backfire Effect. David McRaney writes of this cognitive condition:
"Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead. Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper."
This is a fascinating and uncomfortable concept, and as McRaney suggests, self-delusion is as much a part of the human condition as fingers and toes.
We are not born with biases, we learn them from mentors and peers in our environment. The great news is that if we can learn them, we can unlearn them.
Psychologist and author Grace Bullock suggests that most of the fundamental stories that we create about our identities were shaped by the perceptions of parents, teachers and significant others; the more consistent the feedback, the more indelible the story or worldview.
As we move through adolescence and into adulthood, these personal narratives are interwoven into the fabric of who we are and how we inhabit the world. They also feed forward into the types of experiences and relationships that we seek, and either confirming or refute our beliefs and expectations. More often than not, we seek out information and gravitate to environments and situations that reinforce our personal narratives.
These stories, and ultimately the confirmation bias or worldview created, can have a tremendous influence on how we view ourselves and who we become.
Grace recommends identifying a few of our own stories and asking these questions:
Where did this story come from?
Is this my story or someone else’s?
Is this story true of me now?
Is this story contributing to or undermining my happiness?
Do I choose to continue to live this story or is it time to write a new one?
We can use these questions as mentors when our mentees need guidance to shine a different light on their stories in order to write new ones.
We are not our stories, and we are not defined by them. We can choose whether we live by them or let them go.
Mentoring children and adolescents to understand it's OK to stop, listen, reflect, and change is a great way to overcome biases and shape compassionate worldviews.
Which bias could you unlearn today, and how will that influence those you mentor?