If we all have good reasoning skills then shouldn’t we all be coming to the same conclusions based on the information we have? We are all exposed to similar information about things every day yet come to completely different conclusions than our friends. Why is this? One possible explanation is subjective viewpoints. Take this simple picture comparison:
Front view vs Top down view
As you can see we may be looking at the exact same thing but due to our point of view what we see differs significantly. And when it comes to forming opinions on information then our point of view is influenced by our own subjective experiences. What we have read, learned, studied, people we know and all of our past experiences influence our point of view. Although we are exposed to the exact same information as the person next to us, what we decide that information means may be completely different to what they think it means. For example, imagine we have never heard of the calories in/calories out method of weight loss. Someone tells us that the most proven way to lose weight is to make sure that we use more calories than we consume. How we interpret this information and what we do with it will vary immensely. Here are a few possible actions someone might take after hearing this information.
- Person A hears about calories in/out and decides to exercise a lot in order to expend more calories than they consume.
- Person B hears about calories in/out and decides to cut back on their food intake in order to consume fewer calories than they expend.
- Person C hears about calories in/out and decides to cut back on food, increase protein intake because it increases thermogenesis which expends calories by increasing body temperature and non exercise activity i.e. fidgeting, moving and never sitting still, and exercise a lot in order to expend more calories and consume fewer.
- Person D hears about calories in/out and decides to take steroids and supplements/drugs that increase thermogenesis.
- Person E does nothing and stays fat.
There are many different possible outcomes based on the same single fact. And all of these possible outcomes will be influenced by our biases. New information gets filtered through all of our biases, experiences, knowledge and current beliefs about the world.
Someone who has never heard of steroids or thermogenic drugs would not even be able to conceive the possibility of using them to achieve their goal. The same can be said for people who have never exercised in their life; they will be less inclined to use exercise as a tool for changing their calories in/out ratio but might be more inclined to cut back on their food intake.
We have all been in conversations when, after explaining how we are going to do something, the person we are talking to presents us with an alternative, perhaps better way of doing that thing and we say, “Wow I never thought about doing it that way”. How we act on facts is always going to be influenced subconsciously but the more experience we have, the more we learn and the more we expose ourselves to a variety of ideas the more options we will have before making any decision.
The information so far shows us that the best way to do something could be the way we do not know exists yet. And it should also show us that there should be very few reasons for us to be critical of our past decisions that we are inclined to regret. This is because any decision we made in the past was probably made with the best information and knowledge we had at the time. We tend to look back on our past decisions and judge them based on what knowledge we have now and not what we had then. Except for a learning exercise, this is a bad idea because why would you judge yourself for not being able to conceive of any other options?
If all our actions are based on the current information we have and influenced by our biases and beliefs then the best way to do something might be the way we don’t know exists yet, and the way we did things in the past was done the way we thought was the best at the time.