- Evidence is information that supports a claim or belief.
- Beliefs influence your perceptions, attitudes, emotions, and actions.
- Ensure your beliefs are evidence-based by approaching situations with an open mind and critical thinking.
- Various psychological biases can influence your beliefs.
- To overcome these biases and determine if your belief is true;
- Evaluate the source of the evidence and assess its credibility.
- Look for independent replication.
Are Your Beliefs True or False?
Most people desperately want to believe in something. And many seldom seek evidence to help them come to an informed conclusion.
For example, billions of people today believe Jesus (if he ever existed) was a White man with long flowing brown hair. But, the belief is mostly baseless.
There are prominent features of a black man, a white man, or a Chinese man. In other words, we should be expecting a wide face, hazel eyes, a bushy beard, and short curly hair, as well as a tanned/darker complexion for a Middle Eastern Jew in the Galilee area of northern Israel.
That’s not to say Jesus was black or had bushy hair (but that he should look more like that, rather than the blue-eyed white figure).
This is a serious discussion because our beliefs can greatly impact our lives in various ways – from our perceptions, attitudes, and emotions, down to our health and actions.
Sadly, it takes little information to shape beliefs. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of the potential for bias and misinformation.
The point is, without careful evaluation, we can end up with a distorted understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The solution becomes a careful approach to seeking, verifying, and accepting evidence.
What is Evidence?
Evidence is the facts you use to support or refute a claim. It is so relevant that it’s used to establish truth or validity in various fields like science, law, and history.
For example, a scientist must collect evidence through experiments, and observations, and use it to analyze and interpret his hypothesis (assumptions). This process helps him to understand the relationship between variables and supports or refutes hypotheses.
Whereas in a court of law, lawyers present proof to the judge and jury and use reasoning to interpret and make a case. They use evidence such as witness statements, physical proof, and expert testimony to prove their point, while reasoning is used to interpret the evidence in a way that defends their argument.
In both examples, evidence, and critical thinking are used to determine the truth. Without them, it would be difficult to establish a clear and accurate understanding of a particular issue.
“A true statement is one that accurately describes what exists.”– Aristotle
To navigate reality, it’s important to have the ability to distinguish facts from feelings. So you must play the role of a scientist and a lawyer.
As a scientist; you should seek evidence and use critical thinking to evaluate claims.
As a lawyer; you should be able to analyze arguments and consider different perspectives to determine the validity of a claim.
This can be achieved by approaching situations with an open mind, searching for all available facts, and logically analyzing the options at hand. This way, you can make thoughtful decisions that are based on fact, not just feeling. Your choices will become well-rounded and aligned with the plausible outcomes, allowing you to navigate life’s challenges with confidence and grace.
To ensure that your beliefs are based on truth/facts, it is essential to be aware of the different ways our biases can influence our perception of reality.
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How our beliefs are shaped by bias and misinformation.
We are all prone to biases and below is a list of common biases that could influence your beliefs:
- Confirmation bias: is the tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that suits your preconceived (personal) beliefs.
For example, you may believe that seafood is the best chow, as a result, you only try seafood and ignore or dismiss positive experiences from other types of foods.
This bias leads you to selective thinking and reinforces your existing beliefs, causing you to miss out on new experiences and perspectives.
Therefore, you must be careful of evidence that only applies to certain situations, people, and places because the role of evidence is solely to provide a common ground for understanding and decision-making rather than, providing the ultimate truth.
Indeed, your personal experience can be evidence, yet you must understand that it can be limited and might not be applicable in all situations.
- Hindsight bias is the belief that an event was predictable (foreseen) after it has already occurred.
You may say, “I should have known that the seafood was going to make me sick.” after experiencing food poisoning from eating seafood, even though you did not suspect/believe that beforehand.
This bias often leads you to a false sense of understanding and overconfidence in your ability to predict future events. Therefore, you must recognize your impulse to always be right and overcome this bias by being humble and accepting the fact that events can’t accurately be predictable in advance.
- Availability heuristic: a tendency to judge the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example comes to mind.
For instance, you may say, “I only eat seafood because it’s healthier.” after reading an article about the dangers of non-seafood, even though you do not have a holistic understanding of nutrition
Thus, you should be mindful of appealing thoughts or imaginations in your mind that influence your choices.
- Framing effect: it’s the proclivity to make a certain decision about an idea because of how an opinion is presented to you.
For example, you may have to decide whether to buy seafood or red meat. But would likely opt for seafood because it’s presented as a “lose weight” meal while red meat focuses on avoiding the negative effect of having it in excess.
- Negativity bias: the tendency to pay more attention and give more weight to negative information compared to positive information.
For instance, you may choose to abstain from red meat and shun those who consume it because you only perceive the negative aspects, while disregarding its potential benefits.
- Self-serving bias: the tendency to rationalize your behavior in a way that protects your self-image and beliefs, rather than acknowledging potential negative consequences.
For example; you may say, ” you deserve to treat yourself to a slice of cake.” after making healthy food choices throughout the day, even though one treat can lead to stomach upset.
- The illusion of control: the belief that you have more control over events than they do.
For example, you may hold the belief that eating only organic food alone can ensure good health, despite the influence of factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment on health.
- Dunning-Kruger effect: the tendency for people with limited knowledge or skills to overestimate their abilities.
For example, you may consider yourself a nutrition expert because you’ve read a few online articles, despite lacking proper training and experience. This lack of knowledge may result in spreading inaccuracies about nutrition.
- Bandwagon bias: is the proclivity to conform to the opinions and actions of a group, usually because of the desire to fit in or be accepted.
For example, Everyone at a dinner party starts ordering beef, soon you feel the pressure to abort your choice of seafood to order beef.
Making decisions based on the popularity of an opinion might work out at that very beginning but leaves you devoid of a healthy self-image
in the long run, because proven belief breeds strong character and clear vantage for the right choices.
Now, don’t act like you are immune to these biases, almost everyone is susceptible to one or more, regardless of age and position. So it is important to cultivate a critical eye and the ability to evaluate the truth of each piece of information you encounter by looking for evidence.
With that said, let’s see how you can verify and use evidence.
How would you determine if your belief is true?
Here are two ways to determine if the evidence is valid or not.
Evaluate the source of the evidence and assess its credibility:
Is the source reputable and unbiased? If it’s biased, disregard it immediately, there is no other option. Listening to biased views for too long can prevent you from realizing and learning the truth.
For example; In the case of individuals who have been raised in a cult or religion, they may have been taught not to believe or even listen to anyone who tells them anything different. They may have even labeled scientists, astrologers, and members of other societies or religions as sinners that must not be associate with nor listen to. They may have been told that the truth can only be what they have been taught (and that truth is unchangeable, infallible, and unquestionable).
Also, in a personal relationship, if one person continues to believe their partner’s lies, they may miss out on understanding the truth about the relationship and making decisions that would be in their best interest.
But, since it is usually difficult to tell if you’re being lied to, it becomes important to…
Look for independent replication:
This means multiple studies or experiments should produce similar results. This often increases the likelihood that the findings are true and accurate. But, this is not limited to the scientific field
For example, rather than only listening to the teachings of your religion or school of thought, go out to seek out more or new views. Keep in mind that truth should be universally verifiable and should never be something only a chosen few can dictate (because that’s the template for manipulation and deception)
In the same vein, rather than believing your partner is a good person, ensure you seek the testimony of multiple independent individuals. (Watch how they treat the waiter and their vibe around other ladies)
Keep an open mind and be ready to accept the prevalent evidence even when it may hurt your ego or is uncomfortable.
Note: Be mindful of the group effect or the bandwagon bias. Always look out for potential prejudices in the evidence.
Recommended Content: What Is The Truth
There is a quote in journalism that says, “The news doesn’t sleep” which may also refer to the constant and ongoing nature of the information. There is always something new happening and being reported on the television, radio, and internet, including books, etc. Some of these are true and others lie. Also, today’s truth may as well become a lie tomorrow.
Therefore, It is important to use evidence and reasoning to evaluate the claims and distinguish between the truth and lies before you believe.
When investigating, closely examine every tiny detail and evidence. Think critically and contemplate. And use your knowledge of different domains and powers of observation and deduction. This approach will help you control your beliefs and the consequences that come with them.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer