Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance

About a year ago I was hanging out with my niece. She's was 4. We were in her backyard playing near the swing set. A spider appeared and she ran away, skipped out. I brought her back over to have a closer look at it. We were able to get pretty close and she wasn't as afraid. She informed me that it was poisonous.

Now, I'm not a spider expert. I do know that the number of poisonous spiders appearing in the North American North East are few and this didn't look like either one of them. I tried to explain to her that the spider we were looking at was a common house spider and that it posed no threat to us (unless we walked into its web, was blinded by it and then wondered on to a busy highway... You know). She told me that her friend at school told her spiders were poisonous.

I could see my appeal wasn't sinking in. I introduced her to the Encyclopedia. She took to that very quickly. We looked up spiders and found a good spread on them which she had me read to her. One of the facts that came out was the low level of poisonous spiders that can harm humans. I found a picture of our spider and a description of it. None of this information sunk in for her.

I don't know if it was because she wasn't paying close attention or just wanted to make-believe spiders were poisonous. My fear is that she couldn't refute information that was given to her by a reliable source (to her). I hate to think that the role I play in her life is so small that she won't believe an adult over another 4 year old.

I give you this little story because I have a feeling this happens even more often once we grow up. I talk to so many people that truly believe things they're told without any second thoughts to it. Frustratingly, they tend to deny the validity of statements made contrary to what they believe. It happens to every one, including me. It is very important for us to come to terms with the idea that we don't know everything, some people know more than we do about certain things and we should never settle for an explanation.

Don't think for a moment the information you have is complete. Never stop questioning. More importantly pay attention when the answer comes.


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