Three Tricks to Change Your Mind

I’m going to play a bit of a mind game on you. Don’t worry; it won’t hurt. But the effects may be permanent.

I’m going to tell you something that is contrary to what you believe. I’ll prove that what I’m telling you is 100% right. The evidence will be convincing… but you will still have great doubt.

The effort will highlight a dangerous flaw that lives in all of us.

But there is a solution – a solution that has the potential to greatly improve your life.

Here’s the truth that you won’t believe: Carrots don’t do a thing for your vision.

Stick with me. This isn’t a lesson on healthy eating. Far from it.

You see, I’m a man of habit. I eat several carrots every day on my way to the office. Nearly every time I tell someone of my habit, they comment with something like “Your night vision must be great.”

This thing about carrots and vision is an idea that nearly all of us believe. But the truth is the connection between the vegetable and its ability to boost our eyesight is pure bunk.

In fact – this is where it gets really tough to believe – the idea is pure government propaganda. It’s a lie that was first perpetrated during World War II.

YOU’VE BEEN DUPED

You see, the British government was the first to use onboard radar to detect enemy planes. No matter how dark it was outside, the Royal Air Force pilots were able to spot incoming planes on their display and shoot them down.

To the bad guys, it was magic. They had no idea how the Brits could see their planes sneaking through the nighttime sky.

But to the British, it was war-winning technology. They didn’t want to give up their technology. So they lied.

They created a campaign that linked eating carrots with better vision.

It was pure junk science… but it worked. The Brits believed it. The Germans believed it. And amazingly, we still believe the lie some 75 years later.

But why? Why is it mankind can be so smart and yet so darn dumb?

The truth is a couple of phenomenon are at work.

ARE WE THAT DUMB?

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1993, researchers helped solve a 400-year-old debate about why we believe what we do.

Through a series of tests, the scientists clearly showed that humans nearly instantly believe what they are first told. From there, it’s up to further evidence and contemplation – something our lazy brains are rarely fond of – to change our minds.

It’s great news for politicians and marketers… and very bad news for our pal the truth.

But the problem is compounded by another nasty human trait known as the confirmation bias – the tendency for us to stick to our initial beliefs by believing only evidence in their favor.

This trait is dangerous.

Despite all sorts of evidence and all sorts of campaigns, we believe what we’re first taught.

It’s a phenomenon that affects our everyday lives in many ways.

One deadly way this trait manifests is in the realm of our health.

It’s why it took more than two generations for folks to believe smoking can kill us. It’s why so many folks don’t see the dangers in social media. And it’s why, despite strong evidence to the contrary, many folks are ignorant of the cancer-causing effects of cellphone radiation.

Instead of believing new facts as they emerge… we believe what we’re first told.

But this trait also affects our relationships.

It’s a big reason we hold grudges and don’t trust others. It’s the reason our political stances rarely change. And it’s the reason fake news has managed to infiltrate our lives.

BEATING YOUR BRAIN

Overcoming this nasty trait isn’t all that difficult.

But first – ah, a Catch-22 – you must believe that confirmation bias is affecting your thoughts.

You must believe that what you first understand to be the truth may be wrong. And more important, you need to believe that your lazy survival-focused brain will do everything it can to keep you from changing your mind.

The confirmation bias is strong.

Use these three tricks to beat it:

  • First, train yourself to understand that what you first believe is not necessarily right or wrong. It’s likely somewhere in the middle. Embrace that idea and be eager and excited to discover the truth.
  • Next, as you work to discover the truth, create three distinct hypotheses. Tracking three distinct ideas is important as it forces you to go beyond right or wrong… it forces you to explore the gray areas.
  • Finally, challenge yourself to update your beliefs – and reward yourself when you do. It’s the hallmark of a finely tuned mind.

So here’s the real test. Did our little mind game work?

My guess is you still think carrots will improve your eyesight. That’s okay. After all, I gave the same facts that are listed above to several folks over the last few days and, without exception, they all held on to their original belief.

Like I said, our brain plays powerful tricks on us.

But I urge you to spend time working to convince yourself of the truth. It will be much harder than you think. And if it’s that hard to believe something different about something as diminutive as carrots, imagine how difficult the big issues will be.

But if you pull it off – if you manage to overcome one of mankind’s greatest flaws – you’ll be in better control of your thoughts and beliefs. You’ll lead a much more fulfilled and successful life.

Plus, you’ll know the truth about carrots.

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