Why Does Everyone Think They’re Right? Complexes/Complicated

Why Does Everyone Think They Are Right?

The last six months have been…. tense. The US election put a magnifying glass on the extremes of political ideology. With less moderate opinions and more ways to show your thoughts to the world, people are having A LOT of conversations.

Lately I’ve been having trouble working out what it means to be ‘right’.

I feel my beliefs and views are moving towards equality and providing human rights for other people. I tend to agree with left leaning ideologies. When I get in debates with people who have more right leaning beliefs…. no one changes their mind. They feel as strongly as I do that THEY are right, so what is the point of discussing? Well sometimes people’s beliefs impact your life or the lives of others (for example, reproductive health, race equality, gender equality, LGBT rights and equality). So what the hell is going on? I have researched and compiled some of the intrinsic biases we have going into these conversations.

Illusory Superiority
Everyone thinks they are above average, and that their ideas are better developed and more informed than other people. People speak modestly because it’s a social convention, under the surface is a feeling of being slightly better at things than most people. The only major group of people who don’t experience illusory superiority are people with clinical depression, who often can assess themselves more accurately. So Illusory Superiority is important for mental heath, but can make rational discussion really frustrating.
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Selective Exposure Theory
Selective exposure theory simply means people are more frequently exposed to media and people who agree with them than media they disagree with. This is different from propaganda (when only one selected ideology is exclusively shown to a group so they believe that to be a truth) in that when people have lots of different options of things they can read and people they can talk to, they will often pick those that agree with their views. Social media has exxagerated this as it uses algorithms to show you more information and posts that you will agree with, and less information you won’t agree with. This can lead to people assuming that they are correct because all of the things they are reading say that they are.
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False Consensus Effect
We assume other people think and behave the same way we do and that our beliefs, actions and thoughts are normal, and typically assume that people who’s actions and thoughts are different than theirs are wrong or strange. this combined with selective exposure theory can really “other” people who disagree with us. People who live in isolated groups or in cultures where people are expected to conform to specific cultural norms can feel this more intensely than those with experience interacting with lots of different types of people.
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In Groups and Out Groups
When we think of a group as “other” or “different” than us we create in-groups and out-groups. Compassion, empathy and understanding is significantly higher among people we perceive as being in our group. Humans are more likely to oppress and mistreat those they perceive as belonging in a different group than they do (an out-group) and listen to and more readily respect people from their in-group. This is one of the reasons we are defensive when we talk to people who have views that disagree with ours, and also why groups of people tend to not care about political policies that don’t effect them and their families, or go against their own personal beliefs. Often the media uses this bias to control how people feel about certain groups of people. Populations are more likely to believe negative stories about people who belong to out-groups and isolate themselves from unbiased interactions with people from those groups.
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Naive Realism
We assume that we as individuals see the and the world clearly and without bias. Since we think we understand the world and its truths, we then assume that other people will agree with us when they are given the correct information that we understand. Those who still disagree once presented with our facts are then assumed to be ignorant, bias, or unintelligent. This explains every online comments section ever.
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So….. everyone thinks they are intelligent, well informed and understand the “true” nature of the world. They seek out media and literature that supports their belief system and tend to cluster in groups of like minded people. We assume that we think and behave in a typical way, and feel weird about people who don’t think and behave that way. People who are outside of these groups are given less compassion and understanding, so individuals don’t feel as bad about treating them poorly or oppressing them. The people inside of those oppressed groups have the same mechanisms of bias happening, and have their own out-groups that they have less compassion for.

With all of these biases keeping us from listening and understanding each other, sometimes uniting people seems impossible. Being aware of your own bias can help us to be more compassionate and understanding when listening to people who have different beliefs. I’m not saying that i do this perfectly all the time (or even most of the time) but i’m trying to learn about my bias to try to change how i’m communicating with people I disagree with.

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