Why Some People are Close-minded while Others are Open-minded
Change is stressful. We tend to stick to what we are familiar with, and argue in favour of traditional or long-held beliefs.
Change is essential to the betterment of humanity. Change might be stressful, but the happiness brought about by positive change is very well worth it. Change is the way we refine our knowledge and eliminate mistakes in our thinking and understanding, in order to get closer and closer to the truth.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable. We like to be more certain of things that we shouldn’t be so certain about. In fact, to claim to be completely certain of anything, is to disregard the imperfectness of human knowledge and intellectual ability. We often think that we have to be absolutely certain, before making any decision, but that is not true.
Therefore, most people have the habit of adopting beliefs as 100% true.
In reality, evidence and arguments are never foolproof, and how likely something is true, depends on the balance of evidence. If people were to honestly consider the likelihood of a belief being true, it should be somewhere between 1% to 99%, but never 0% or 100%, considering the imperfection of human minds. It’s revealing that when we listen to a debate, there is a tendency to fully adopt the position of the side that was only very slightly more convincing. This is the tendency to take something that is 51% likely true in reality, and claiming that it is 100% instead. Of course, giving such percentages is highly arbitrary, but it is still useful for demonstrating one’s subjective evaluation of a belief’s likelihood.
Absolute certainty is not required when making decisions. Most of the time, we just need to be fairly certain. Acting on what’s more certain, is simply better than acting on what’s less certain. Often, it is best to act according to the most rational assessment of the distribution of likelihood, between situations. Thus, if a situation that is less likely to be true, actually has about 49% likelihood, it is still extremely prudent to prepare for it, even though it is less likely.
Especially for beliefs outside of the hard sciences (e.g. religion), uncertainty should be more prevalent, because they can’t be easily tested.
Here, it is extremely important to note the difference between TRUST, RELY and BELIEVE. Often, out of pragmatism or emotional satisfaction, people choose to 100% TRUST and 100% RELY on something that should only be 50% BELIEVED to be true. Confusion occurs because of the ambiguity of the word BELIEVE. To rephrase, people often pragmatically and emotionally choose to 100% believe IN something, when it should in reality be only about 50–80% believed LIKELY TO BE TRUE. Religious beliefs tend to be treated this way.
Being wrong is painful. We feel inferior when we are wrong. We feel that we are worth less when we are wrong. We blame ourselves when we are wrong. Worse, if it was a long-held belief.
Honest investigation of flaws in our knowledge, is essential to wisdom. Without it, we would remain inferior, be unable to progress, and be lying to ourselves about our own superiority.
Focus more on forgiving ourselves, instead of blaming. We are all who we are, because of powers/forces/influences that are higher than ourselves. Whatever bad or wrong decisions that we make, is always due to imperfect understanding that can always be attributed to higher causes. Therefore, there is no room for vindictiveness, but only room for an all encompassing love for self and others. (see: Why Free Will is Problematic)
Discover why it makes sense to be content and happy, no matter the situation. Lowering of ego would cease to cause any significant pain.
Discover why pain and suffering should not always be avoided.
For our own beliefs and reasoning, we tend to keep thinking about how they are right. For others’ beliefs and reasoning, we keep thinking about how they are wrong. This way, we often end up rejecting others’ beliefs even though they are often equally valid, if not more valid.
For own beliefs, spend more effort thinking how they are wrong. For others’ beliefs, spend more effort thinking how they are right.
Many of us are activists. We like to find a cause we believe in, and try our best to further that cause. When we become deeply entrenched in a certain cause, it becomes very difficult to be impartial in our thinking.
Do not put any label on ourselves. Always try to adopt and understand perspectives from all sides. Be an activist for impartial thinking, above all else.
Many of us are idealists. We have certain conceptions of how things ought to be. With ideals, we tend to be partial and inconsistent in our thinking, to the extent that WHAT IS, becomes secondary to WHAT OUGHT TO BE. This way, we often trap ourselves in false realities, instead of coming to terms with what is real.
First seek what is real, before seeking to create or perpetuate ideals. Ideals in a false reality can never be attained. Ideals are only really worth anything, when they are within a reality that is properly established. Remember that happiness lies at the end of ideals that are consistent with what is real, while ideals in false realities will forever remain fantasies.
Why is life worth living? Many of us are strongly (if not chiefly) motivated in life by certain beliefs, for example– the belief in Free Will. When certain beliefs are too closely tied to our motivation in life, we would subconsciously be biased towards protecting such beliefs, instead of impartially considering the validity of counter-arguments, because having our chief motivational belief collapse, would be one of the most distressing things we could experience.
Think deeply about how crucial and important a belief is, to our motivational framework.
The more crucial it is, the more we would need to discover alternative motivational frameworks, before we would be ready to question such a belief of ours.
Some of our beliefs are closely tied to our lifestyles (e.g. religious beliefs), or careers (e.g. ethical beliefs). Renouncing such beliefs could result in loss of an entire community of friends, or loss of a stable high-paying career that took half a lifetime to establish, for example.
When renouncing beliefs would have deleterious impacts on our lives, we would almost always (consciously or subconsciously) prefer to be in denial, than to face the falsity of our beliefs. Only when we could be assured of decent lives following the renunciation of such beliefs, would we be ready to even begin to honestly explore the veracity of these beliefs.
To have such beliefs renounced, there has to be a readily and reliably available community that would accept and love us, or decent employment opportunities available, that would accommodate us well.
Beliefs often belong to an interconnected web of interdependent beliefs. This is often the case for the soft sciences in general, and for speculative/inferential aspects of the hard sciences. When a web of interdependent beliefs has been established, having any one of the component beliefs falsified, would necessarily result in the collapse of almost all of the other beliefs, resulting in great psychological distress.
Therefore, we would subconsciously strongly favour “rationalising” away counterarguments, instead of honestly assessing their rational merits. Furthermore, it is very convenient for the brain to refer to the other interconnected beliefs as a form of defence. Hearing ourselves argue in such a format would be a strong indication— “(A) can’t be false, because then (B) wouldn’t make sense, and (C) wouldn’t make sense, and…”
The hardest to accept: Often, the entire web of interdependent beliefs has to be abandoned, in order to accept an alternative collection of beliefs that makes more sense.
Emotional well-being would be critical, when addressing such webs of beliefs. A large amount of time and dedication would also be required, as it often requires a competing web of beliefs to be built up, before we would be willing to abolish the former web. As the brain requires time to consolidate information, it could possibly take years for such an endeavour to bear fruit (or it might not even be achievable in one’s lifetime, if too many obstacles are present). As such, the development of friendship is usually essential when belief webs are to be corrected, and sometimes we might have to conclude that it is probably not within our power to perform the correction.
Discover how to present arguments to people, while managing their emotions at the same time.
Just as a well-calibrated and properly designed CPU is necessary for the correct execution of a computer program, it takes proper thinking processes and thought organisational abilities/skills, for open-minded rationality to prevail.
Therefore, we have to be well acquainted with Logical Fallacies, and all the psychological hindrances to open-minded rationality, such as those that have been mentioned throughout this article. We also need to develop our Intelligence to handle complex thought processes (research has revealed that Intelligence can be continually developed).
Being properly trained to be open-minded from young, is of paramount importance, as it takes so many factors for open-minded rational thinking to be made possible. The older one gets, the more psychological baggage there would be, and the harder it would be to remedy close-mindedness.