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BacchusSpiegeloog 410: Rainbows

Bacchus: Open Minds and Opinions

By April 2, 2021No Comments

Time and again, if one pays attention to it, we see how prone we are to confirmation bias and how we try to rationalise the choices we make. I was one of those misguided, narcissistic knobheads who presume they are unaffected by these biases. After some sense knocked on my door though, I have become more conscious of my own tendencies to fall prey to such biases and realised how they were preventing me from gaining a broader perspective. Being exposed to viewpoints that challenged my own or those that I never considered, were fundamental in making my opinions more malleable. My biggest takeaway, thus, was that a strand of Popperian falsification is much needed when forming opinions. 

The whole process of shaping one’s opinion is loosely akin to the formation of a rainbow. Of course, this metaphor has been strung together with several loopholes, but there are some interesting analogies that may be drawn. Imagine you’re a raindrop – light passes through you, which is similar to all sorts of information entering you. The processes of refraction and reflection, where light bends in a different direction from where it came from, take place. While it is very understandable that one may not change their viewpoint in light of every piece of new or differing information, the processes of refraction and reflection are emblematic of the internal debate that takes place. Upon receiving new views, I try bouncing ideas off myself and explore other trains of thought before deciding where I stand. The outcome, the rainbow, is multi-coloured, which is representative of the multiple dimensions of an opinion. People often only see the rainbow as a half-circle, thereby never completely understanding the choice and opinion made by a person. However, from certain angles, it is possible to see the full circle too. This indicates that there will always be some people who may not fully get why you make a certain choice or hold a particular opinion, but there are also a few who understand the nuances involved. 

This process of welcoming new and possibly contrary viewpoints, being open to changing one’s somewhat staunch position and truly keeping an open mind can be applied to almost every sphere of life. When speaking of opinions, political viewpoints quite instantly come to mind. And while I’ve certainly seen myself change in that sphere as well, I’d like to illustrate this process through a simpler example here. In the very first few months of my first year of studying psychology, I ruled out Psychological Methods as a choice of specialisation, without really giving it a chance or understanding what it might actually entail. However, after watching a very memorable debate on Frequentism vs. Bayesianism this year, for which I remain indebted to Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and Denny Borsboom, all my supposedly well-thought-out plans for the near future came crashing down. This debate was comparable to light passing through the raindrop. While the intuitiveness of Bayesian thinking quite certainly seduced me, I also found that there was so much more to methods than just swallowing dry statistical tests and formulae. I then found myself reading up on Bayesianism instead of revising on exam day, spending hours switching through the specialisation course guides, and envisioning myself dissecting rat brains or smashing keys on R all day. I spent a while contemplating whether this was a fleeting infatuation with methodology, or whether this could be the beginning of a long love affair. Thankfully, all of this transpired right before the course registration. This part of the process was analogous to refraction and reflection. I excitedly made the required amends to my course planner and shared the news of my new engagement. Upon talking to people about these turn of events, a few responded with shocked ‘really???’  text messages, not comprehending why I wasn’t doing something else, but some equally motivating messages came my way as well. While we may end up disagreeing with the reasons behind someone’s choices and opinions, it shouldn’t prevent us from seeking to see their full-circle rainbows. 

The importance of keeping an open mind is not only relevant for personal growth and decisions, but it also contributes to discourses in our society. So, get out there, create a devil’s advocate alter ego for yourself, flirt with various views, cheat on your own ones, follow those you disagree with on Twitter, and don’t be afraid to change your decisions and views if you stumble upon something unavoidably enlightening! 

Time and again, if one pays attention to it, we see how prone we are to confirmation bias and how we try to rationalise the choices we make. I was one of those misguided, narcissistic knobheads who presume they are unaffected by these biases. After some sense knocked on my door though, I have become more conscious of my own tendencies to fall prey to such biases and realised how they were preventing me from gaining a broader perspective. Being exposed to viewpoints that challenged my own or those that I never considered, were fundamental in making my opinions more malleable. My biggest takeaway, thus, was that a strand of Popperian falsification is much needed when forming opinions. 

The whole process of shaping one’s opinion is loosely akin to the formation of a rainbow. Of course, this metaphor has been strung together with several loopholes, but there are some interesting analogies that may be drawn. Imagine you’re a raindrop – light passes through you, which is similar to all sorts of information entering you. The processes of refraction and reflection, where light bends in a different direction from where it came from, take place. While it is very understandable that one may not change their viewpoint in light of every piece of new or differing information, the processes of refraction and reflection are emblematic of the internal debate that takes place. Upon receiving new views, I try bouncing ideas off myself and explore other trains of thought before deciding where I stand. The outcome, the rainbow, is multi-coloured, which is representative of the multiple dimensions of an opinion. People often only see the rainbow as a half-circle, thereby never completely understanding the choice and opinion made by a person. However, from certain angles, it is possible to see the full circle too. This indicates that there will always be some people who may not fully get why you make a certain choice or hold a particular opinion, but there are also a few who understand the nuances involved. 

This process of welcoming new and possibly contrary viewpoints, being open to changing one’s somewhat staunch position and truly keeping an open mind can be applied to almost every sphere of life. When speaking of opinions, political viewpoints quite instantly come to mind. And while I’ve certainly seen myself change in that sphere as well, I’d like to illustrate this process through a simpler example here. In the very first few months of my first year of studying psychology, I ruled out Psychological Methods as a choice of specialisation, without really giving it a chance or understanding what it might actually entail. However, after watching a very memorable debate on Frequentism vs. Bayesianism this year, for which I remain indebted to Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and Denny Borsboom, all my supposedly well-thought-out plans for the near future came crashing down. This debate was comparable to light passing through the raindrop. While the intuitiveness of Bayesian thinking quite certainly seduced me, I also found that there was so much more to methods than just swallowing dry statistical tests and formulae. I then found myself reading up on Bayesianism instead of revising on exam day, spending hours switching through the specialisation course guides, and envisioning myself dissecting rat brains or smashing keys on R all day. I spent a while contemplating whether this was a fleeting infatuation with methodology, or whether this could be the beginning of a long love affair. Thankfully, all of this transpired right before the course registration. This part of the process was analogous to refraction and reflection. I excitedly made the required amends to my course planner and shared the news of my new engagement. Upon talking to people about these turn of events, a few responded with shocked ‘really???’  text messages, not comprehending why I wasn’t doing something else, but some equally motivating messages came my way as well. While we may end up disagreeing with the reasons behind someone’s choices and opinions, it shouldn’t prevent us from seeking to see their full-circle rainbows. 

The importance of keeping an open mind is not only relevant for personal growth and decisions, but it also contributes to discourses in our society. So, get out there, create a devil’s advocate alter ego for yourself, flirt with various views, cheat on your own ones, follow those you disagree with on Twitter, and don’t be afraid to change your decisions and views if you stumble upon something unavoidably enlightening! 

Nitya Shah

Author Nitya Shah

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