Professor David Dunning of Cornell University published an insightful thesis this week.
In it, he explains the psychological mechanisms that inspire you and I to cling so tenaciously to beliefs that can easily be proven to be wrong. Effectively, he isolates the origins of our “blind spots.”
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Some of our deepest intuitions about the world go all the way back to our cradles. Before their second birthday, babies know that two solid objects cannot co-exist in the same space. They know that objects continue to exist when out of sight, and fall if left unsupported. They know that people can get up and move around as autonomous beings, but that the computer sitting on the desk cannot. But not all of our earliest intuitions are so sound.
Very young children also carry misbeliefs that they will harbor, to some degree, for the rest of their lives. Their thinking, for example, is marked by a strong tendency to falsely ascribe intentions, functions, and purposes to organisms. In a child’s mind, the most important biological aspect of a living thing is the role it plays in the realm of all life. Asked why tigers exist, children will emphasize that they were “made for being in a zoo.” Asked why trees produce oxygen, children say they do so to allow animals to breathe.