Why is it that so many people adamantly claim one thing to be true while so many others insist on another version of reality? People disagree on what’s real and true both in the material world and the spiritual world. Everyone clings to their opinion as if it’s the “real truth” and everyone else is just an idiot.

Why is this? I’ve explored some reasons in the past and today will look at a new one.

One reason we have different versions of reality which I have frequently mentioned is because we each hold our own worldview. These worldviews sit silently in the background of our consciousness and guide both what we choose to become aware of and how we interpret those experiences. Although everyone’s worldview differs slightly, there is enough commonality that we can group them into certain categories. The work of Clare Graves, Don Beck in the theory of Spiral Dynamics is one such map of worldviews. Here’s a link to an earlier article with more detail.

Most social scientists see three predominant worldviews at play in the Western world. One is very traditional (religious fundamentalism), one is very materialistic (strict science, Wall Street), one is very humanistic (the cultural creatives). The point here is two people with different worldviews will look at the same objective facts in both see them differently and interpret them differently.

Although I believe our different worldviews can explain a lot of our seeing life differently, I recently came across another motive has to why this might occur. I’ve been reading the new book by Chip and Dan Heath entitled Decisive. This is their third book joining Switch and Made to Stick. I highly recommend all three. In fact, when I was still with the government I bought copies of Made to Stick for all of my outreach staff.  I found it that helpful.

In Decisive, the authors review a number of psychological research findings so as to provide us an easy to use map in making better decisions. One such study they described went like this – students in a college class were exposed periodically to strange words written on the corner of the blackboard while their professor lectured. The words were not part of the class material. This went on for a number of days. Eventually the students took a survey with a list of words on it and were asked to rate how much they liked each word. Some were the words that had been written on the blackboard, some were not The most liked words were the ones that had been written on the blackboard.

This is just an example of one of many studies that have shown that the more a person was exposed to various stimuli, the more positive they felt about them. Familiarity breeds comfort.

This is not really a new finding. In psychology, this is considered part of the “illusion of truth effect”. This from Wikipedia – “The illusion-of-truth effect states that a person is more likely to believe a familiar statement than an unfamiliar one. In a 1977 experiment participants were asked to read 60 plausible statements every two weeks and to rate them based on their validity. A few of those statements (some of them true, others false) were presented more than once in different sessions. Results showed that participants were more likely to rate as true statements the ones they had previously heard (even if they didn’t consciously remember having heard them), regardless of the actual validity of the statement.”

The bottom line is that absence evidence to the contrary, if we are presented repeatedly with information as if it were true, then we are inclined to absorb that statement into that set of things that we consider “true”. Sounds a bit like brainwashing!

But the fact is, we don’t have the time to go in research the validity of everything we hear. If we are told something over and over and don’t “fact check it”, there is a tendency for us to believe it.

One might consider how our worldviews come into play here. I would suspect that if we are told something repeatedly is true and it fits with our worldview, then we would be more highly disposed to believing it. If it doesn’t fit with our worldview, I would suspect we would be more resistant to its persuasive power.

It’s hard not to hear this and think about many of the political debates that have been playing out in the media in recent years. I sometimes hear politicians making the same false claims over and over and wondering how they can get away with it.

On the one hand, I can see that their repetition of such false statements plays into this illusion of truth effect. They keep telling the lie knowing many will come to see it as truth.

On the other hand, I have to wonder where I have fallen prey to the repetition of false statements simply because they fit my worldview.

It’s certainly something to ponder…

Next time: I want to explore some common “truths” that I wonder if they are “true”.

Mark Gilbert


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!