How I learned to like gays and country music
I was talking to Sarah about prejudice, how idiotic it is and how could it still exist in this day and age with all the science and information we have and I thought of two articles I had read recently.
The two are not related but I see a relationship in them that I would like to explore. The first was brought to my attention by @etherielmusings(twitter poet) -Its a New York times article by Errol Morris, about not knowing what you don’t know. The second article by blogger David McRaney was found by @newmediajim. It is about Confirmation Bias – the human phenomenon where we tend to agree with the things that are known in our lives and certain conclusions are drawn because of what we have been previously taught or know.
I believe that we don’t know what we don’t know because we allow confirmational bias to create preconceived notions that thinly answer questions. If those answers were not available the questions would remain but with the answers provided to us they are no longer needed.
Lets take prejudice as an example and kinda run it through this little test I have been devising in my head using these two arguments. So lets take a gay person. Good ol homosexual, easy target for anyone. And truly one of the last minorities to earn the respect they deserve. (How crazy it is that gay people cant be married! It drives me nuts. We have heteros getting married, having babies, beating wives, cheating on each other, getting divorced, leaving their kids and we dare dictate to someone else how they can love. What the hell.) So Lets say I was brought up thinking homos were bad. That they were sent by someone sinister to make me gay. That they were unnatrual and all that other hogwash I hear. So lets apply our two conditions above. First the confirmation bias kicks in and answers any questions I have about the origin of gays. I know they were sent from a bad place, I know they are unnatural and that’s all there is to it. So I don’t need to ask anymore questions. And any that come up will be discarded easily by my bias. So I kind of enter into a self-induced “Not knowing what you don’t Know” condition. Now, take confirmation bias and reapply- Everything I have been taught about gays, I see in them. I was taught they are femmy and flamey, so I see gays that may be more flamboyant. I was told they all want me, so if I happen to see a gay on the street I feel he is ready to pounce on me. I was told they break up families, so I knew a guy that knew a guy that was gay and left his wife. All the things I perceive strengthen and confirm my already prejudiced beliefs. These two conditions feed on each other. Until a life-changing moment occurs this cycle will continue.
These phenomena apply to more than just personal prejudice. Ever since I read those articles I have tried to become more aware. I didn’t like country music, it was weepy, sad and whatever else. But then I really sat and thought about it and could find no logical explanation why I would totally cut off a genre of music just because I didn’t like a few songs. Maybe I would have liked them had my own confirmational bias not kicked in. So I went back and listened to some country music and it’s not all bad. I have plenty to learn about it and am excited about a new option I have added to my musical repertoire.
At work I have attempted to look past the I “don’t know what I don’t know” rule. Trying to see the things that I don’t know but only don’t know because I have already answered a half-heartedly-asked question with answers from my preconceived notions that originated with my own confirmational bias. In every experience we have, these conditions hold some sway over us. Looking at the way people feel about race, religion, music, video games or even food I find them at play time and time again.
I now know that I must take a longer glance at situations both new and old to understand more, listen better and judge less.