3.c.11 – Do we interpret the information?

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April 12, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Do we interpret the information?

We said that the starting point of our knowledge is the sensations that we receive from the environment, while the rest is given by our imagination, which anyway does not produce arbitrary fantasies, but rational, or consistent with the experiences that we accumulate. Imagination and reason are instruments with which our mind processes the information it receives, but we also know that our psyche has other needs in addition to consistency: for purposes of survival, we must find solutions to our problems and we must do it quickly, we must also be concerned about maintaining stable our system of beliefs; it may happen then that consistency with the objective facts becomes less important compared to those needs.
We must remember that even having real information, they can be misunderstood or poorly managed for various reasons, for example:
– the right way to connect and interpret the information in our possession may be difficult to guess because of seemingly similar cases that deceive us; if for example we see a person lying on a bench, is easier to infer that it is a beggar or a drunk rather than a person who fainted
– the information is interpreted on the basis of culture already in our possession, including in culture also our usual way of thinking; because the latter is based on the already cited mental pathways that we store listening to the other, if we do not have the right culture, we could not well interpret the facts. This is a very common phenomenon; we all know that superstitions reinforce in the mind of a person because he continues to mechanically interpret the facts wrongly; for example, who relies on a lucky charm tends to associate every positive event to the possession of his amulet and will be increasingly convinced of the powers of the same
– the information can be altered, ignored and associated in an absurd way for psychological needs of various kinds, as assert their superiority extolling or inventing the defects of the others; it is the case of slanders who, in good faith, tend to denigrate other people as much as they are more virtuous, to ease their sense of inferiority.
We are also accustomed to thinking that the veracity of the information is sufficient to ensure their validity, but an element that must never be missing is the completeness of the same compared to the end we are pursuing. If we think of any theorem of geometry studied at school, probably we do not remember the details, but we remind that it was supported by a demonstration that started from the premises and that, after several steps, with an overwhelming logic, ended in a conclusion. Step after step all the assumptions were used and all were necessary; if only one was missing, the demonstration would have been stopped or would have led to an absurd result. To understand the world around us, therefore, it is not enough that the information we have is true, but it must also be complete, i.e. sufficient to give a right opinion; as a confirmation of it, we just have to remember how easy it is to overturn a speech suitably cutting some parts of it: missing some information, the interpretation thereof will be completely undermined or even lead to opposite results.
If we want to avoid, or at least reduce, this kind of problems, we must again calling upon direct experience; if our ideas are wrong, sooner or later they will prove to be in contrast with reality and, at this point, we should be able to doubt of our convictions. In some cases, however, despite our vision of the world is in contrast with the evidence of the facts, our mind unconsciously refuses to be aware of it: in other words we want to make mistakes even if we do not know it.
In these circumstances, we must leave it to others to make us see the above discrepancies and then have the strength and humility to listen to their criticism; in this context, then, humility is a value that we must learn to appreciate; to review our positions, is not an easy thing, often it involves an enormous effort, but it is necessary not to remain closed in a narrow dogmatism.
The fundamental principles of scientific method therefore can be used in other areas and integrate our natural aptitude for knowledge, increasing our ability to move closer to the truth.

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