Blindspot bias and the paranormal
Sometimes we won’t take another person’s opinion on board because of their belief system or how they investigate. We think they are biased. At the same time, however, we are failing to recognize that by thinking this way, we too are being biased.
Social media and the paranormal is almost like a he said she said scenario. There is a lot of back and forward of people trying to get their point across because they believe they have the answer. While some people are quite respectful and provide some great information for some educational and thought-provoking discussions, others can be aggressive and it becomes a vocal-slinging match of who can get the last word in to prove they are correct. Sometimes we won’t take another person’s opinion on board simply just because of their belief system. We think they are biased. Hypothetically let’s say we are having a discussion about spirit boxes for example. I might be a person that has spent years devoted to ITC and research in this area. Another person may not believe in ITC and think that spirit boxes are broken radios and therefore it is all just radio chatter and shouldn’t be used. Person A who is the ITC devotee is not going to listen to anything person B has to say because they simply believe they are close-minded or do not know enough about the inner workings and purpose of ITC. I mean person A has spent years dedicated to this craft with results so they know from their own experiences that they are working on something that is getting results. At the other end of things, person B thinks that person A is wasting their time and is listening to static and misinterpreting radio chatter as they have spent years debunking it so they are not going to take anything person A says seriously either. Neither person is going to take on board the other’s opinion because they think they are being a bit biased or close minded. At the same time, however, we are failing to recognize that by thinking this way, we too are being biased.
What is Blindspot bias?
Blindspot bias is basically a failure to notice that you yourself are being biased. It falls under the category of cognitive bias. A cognitive bias is an error in the way that we think. It means we are not necessarily thinking with a ‘clear mind’. Our experiences, our beliefs, and our intentions all influence the way we think, the way we make decisions and the way we interpret our surroundings. Just the fact that we believe in the paranormal makes us biased. It means we are more prone to ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where our brain is likely to interpret certain things to be paranormal when they are not. We go in looking for the paranormal and our ‘brain’ makes us find it even if it is not really there. On the other end, a full skeptic is also biased and will tend to look for a rational explanation discounting any sort of ambiguous event without even looking into the possibility it could be something we don’t quite understand. The decisions that we make on a paranormal investigation, even down to how we interpret phenomena come down to our own bias based on what we believe and the experiences we have had along the way. These experiences in some way are a validation process. So many psychic mediums have said to me in the past “Well I’m not talking to myself” when someone questions their ability. So many people within the paranormal talk about it with a sense of certainty because they have had experiences that feed into or back up their own belief system. While we don’t know anything for sure, some people feel they have a pretty good idea of what is going on. That idea is based on their belief and experiences, not necessarily on fact. This idea is based on their own bias.
Blindspot bias and the paranormal
This is something I think that many of us are guilty of without even knowing it. Sometimes, we don’t even give something or someone a chance. We may not like their style of investigating or think they have too much belief in the paranormal, or maybe they are too skeptical and don’t have enough belief for our liking. We ourselves think for some reason that they are wrong simply because of their beliefs or how they conduct themselves. We are not giving their voice a chance because we think and act differently. We in ourselves, are the ones being biased here without even realizing it.
Image Source: Visual Capitalist
Funnily enough, I saw this above example used on a website explaining different cognitive biases. I cannot tell you how much this image speaks to me (besides the fact it says my name). I am made to feel by a lot of people that I am the ‘fun police’ or the person that just wants to come and burst bubbles. While I am a very rational investigator, if you have investigated with me, you will know that I try to approach things with an open mind and that I do indeed believe that something is happening out there. I am just really difficult to impress. I like to educate myself on all the different things that can make us think something paranormal is happening. Not so I can say “Ha you are wrong!”, it is so I can say “That is so interesting and I cannot explain it!”. Some people have a tendency to not take on board any feedback I give as they automatically know it is going to be rational or that I am going to challenge or question it. They think I am a skeptic. They already have their mind made up that I am biased so my view or opinion on their experience or evidence etc doesn’t count because they know they are right. They also cannot prove to me they are right because it is their own experience. They know deep down what they feel so any suggestion I make is automatically going to be discounted. How many times has someone presented you with a photo for example wanting your opinion? They see something in the photo which is usually connected to an experience or even has an emotional attachment of some sort. If you do not agree with this, automatically they become upset and will not listen. Their mind was already made up. Your view is different from theirs so now they are automatically brushing off your opinion because it doesn’t match what they are thinking. Their own bias (and probably some emotional attachment) is not allowing them to see the bigger picture. It is like when you are driving and you go to merge into the next lane and suddenly a car honks. You didn’t see that car in your rear vision mirror that was in your blind. You were too focused on your own path.
I am guilty here too! I am sure there have been occasions where I have seen content from someone who is very enthusiastically spiritual and I may not have taken their view as seriously as I could have because, in the back of my mind, I feel they are biased for proclaiming something is paranormal when I feel I can clearly see that it isn’t. We will have all been guilty of this in some way shape or form. If not in the paranormal, then certainly in everyday life. When a person thinks differently from how we do, it is natural that we may not take their opinion or view as seriously as we should. Remember, blind-spot bias is a cognitive bias. It affects us on a subconscious level based on our beliefs and experiences, so of course, it is natural that our brain automatically tells us not to listen to something that goes against our own belief systems. People don’t like to be challenged, and they don’t like to be wrong. It is a part of who we are as humans.
When it comes to the paranormal, you tend to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. This is an unconscious form of you being biased. You may think that you are not biased and that you give everything and everyone a chance, but really we are all biased to a certain degree, even if we don’t think we are. In fact, that is what blind spot bias is all about! We think we aren’t biased, but we kind of are! Even though we may understand how bias work and we know how and why we make the decisions that we do, this is an unconscious process. Research has indicated that even when we are aware of these biases and the unconscious decision-making process, we still struggle to change our decision-making process because really our belief systems and our experiences are what make us who we are which in turn affect how we make decisions.
“Some say I do it this way, others say I do it that way, but I say I do it the other way.” – Harry Houdini
So even though there is no surefire way to avoid blind spot bias, I again am going to encourage everyone to work together and at least give someone a chance. Listen to a person and let them express their thoughts. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak, but really listen to what they are saying. Regardless if they have been in the paranormal for 10 years or 10 minutes, their point of view is valuable. You may not agree, but at least think about it and if you don’t agree, perhaps you can both work together to try and get more answers. I do honestly think that our own bias could potentially prevent us from ever being fully convinced that there is ‘proof’ of the paranormal. I know that if I saw a video or a piece of evidence that was 100% proof of the paranormal, my own bias would not allow me to believe it. There is my mistrust in people. There is a rational element. There is a misunderstanding that it could be something of a rational component. There are too many elements for me within my own bias that would never allow me to fully believe it without being there and experiencing it myself. I think until we witness or experience something ourselves, our bias may never allow us to fully believe or submit to an idea. Both people who are skeptical and people who believe are susceptible to this. We need to not be so skeptical or close-minded to these ideas, but at the same time, we also cannot be so open-minded to believe anything and everything. There is a middle ground. Perhaps we can all work together to find out what that really is!
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