Beliefs: worth challenging

Catherine Hyman, Assistant Editor

It is human nature to seek to maintain beliefs that we currently hold. The Oxford English Dictionary defines belief as a mental conviction, or a proposition or set of propositions held to be true.

Beliefs can be good things; they are part of what defines who we are as individuals. However, at times belief can hold us back.

Because we hold these propositions to be true, we often discount opposing ideas as false without fully investigating them. This is called belief perseverance.

According to Roger A. Drake, professor of psychology, heart rate acceleration causes belief perseverance. This shows that we hold onto our beliefs not just because we want to, but also because our bodies physically react to create this occurrence.

It makes sense that we often cling to our beliefs about things even when faced with contradictory evidence. To an extent, it’s even vital. If we were willing to give up our beliefs at the drop of the hat, they would not actually be beliefs.

Beliefs are a big part of the makeup of our identities. We all have beliefs, and we all use them as lenses through which we interpret the world. However, because we interpret the world with our beliefs, it can be difficult to experience anything outside of this interpretive system.

With the advancement of technology and increasing dependence on the Internet, it has become easier to listen only to people with our own beliefs.

For example, social media has rapidly become a major platform through which we access the news. Users  can “like” pages if they want to view more content from them. When they “like” pages, similar content is recommended to them. This creates a cycle in which users create a “feed” that represents information with which they are likely to agree.

Some types of belief have more impact than others. Current events such as politics, domestic happenings and foreign relations affect not only how we view the world but also how we view other people. This affects others’ lives and the direction of our country.

Beliefs based on bad evidence can have a real, and often negative, impact. Multiple times throughout history, people have used their beliefs to justify horrible crimes. Even milder instances of false beliefs can cause damage.

This potential for issues is one of many reasons that we should always take the time to evaluate our beliefs. We should visit news websites or channels of our own views, of course. However, we should also be aware that news is often portrayed with a bias and make the effort to listen to those who hold perspectives with which we do not necessarily agree.

The website contains information representing all perspectives as well as a list of the perspectives of most news sources. Resources such as these are invaluable; they can help guide us toward a willingness to evaluate our own beliefs and compare ideas.

Hearing many viewpoints helps open our minds to new ideas. We can keep our beliefs and simply decide not to attack those of another because they differ from our own.

We should be aware of the tendency to cling to our beliefs and account for that fact when hearing different perspectives. On all sides, we should become more willing to listen and observe, and even to form a new belief if we find it necessary.

There is no belief worth holding if that belief is not worth challenging.