Monday, March 16, 2009
The curious case of believing
Sometimes we would believe something so firmly even it's just some fabricated rumor or pure imagination. It occurs to me that believing is not always the result of objective reasoning or verification. Quite on the contrary, I think it's most of the time subjective - we believe only what fits into the grids of our own thoughts. The most powerful proof is actually the resonance in mind.
Human beings are curious creatures. We want to know. Unfortunately, uncertainty is inevitable given the fact that information always comes as bits and pieces. Nobody can get the entire big picture all at once. When we try to understand the whole situation, we have to fill in the missing parts. We would keep wondering and wondering, trying to escape from the uneasy state of bewilderment, until finally, we come up with something - bang! - that explains everything. This little something provides us with convenient answers. It might be delusive, but at least it makes sense for us now. Why not just believe it for the moment before anyone can offer a better explanation? It may sound contradictory, but we believe because we don't know.
Human beings are also emotional creatures. We love and hate. When it comes to rumors, we tend to embrace the positive ones about someone we love, and the negative ones about those who we hate. When a rumor comes the other way around, we will question every single detail and finally find a way to dismiss it. ("No no no, he couldn't have done that. He's a good guy!) Our judgment or prejudice acts as a very powerful determinant when we decide whether to believe or not. Another pair of common emotions is desire and fear. Think about this: Why did so many people believe that the iPhone Nano is coming out soon? And why did the rumor about Steve Job's death spread out so quickly? As hearsay spreads in a community, it becomes even more interesting because it's no longer personal. A widespread rumor reflects an underlying collective stance or state of sentiment. All the recent worries ignited by lay-off rumors revealed one thing - we are all scared.