In the book “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior“, author Leonard Mlodinow explores the balance between the conscious and the sub-conscious – examining how our minds attempt to understand the world around us.
The following quote is an excellent reminder for what we all need to be careful of (from pages 200-201):
“As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt put it, there are two ways to get at the truth: the way of the scientist and the way of the lawyer. Scientists gather evidence, look for regularities, form theories explaining their observations, and test them. Attorneys begin with a conclusion they want to convince others of and then seek evidence that supports it, while also attempting to discredit evidence that doesn’t. The human mind is designed to be both a scientist and an attorney, both a conscious seeker of objective truth and an unconscious, impassioned advocate for what we want to believe. Together these approaches vie to create our worldview.
Believing in what you desire to be true and then seeking evidence to justify it doesn’t seem to be the best approach to everyday decisions. For example, if you’re at the races, it is rational to bet on the horse you believe is fastest, but it doesn’t make sense to believe a horse is fastest because you bet on it. Similarly, it makes sense to choose a job you believe is appealing, but it’s irrational to believe a job is appealing because you’ve accepted the offer. Still, even though in each case the latter approach doesn’t make rational sense, it is the irrational choice that would probably make you happier. And the mind generally seems to opt for happy. In both these instances, the research indicates, it is the latter choice that people are likely to make. The ‘causal arrow’ in human thought processes consistently tends to point from belief to evidence, not vice versa.
As it turns out, the brain is a decent scientist but an absolutely outstanding lawyer. The result is that in the struggle to fashion a coherent, convincing view of ourselves and the rest of the world, it is the impassioned advocate that usually wins over the truth seeker.”