Monday, 26 December 2016


Why do we believe strangers?

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!"  -- Carl Sagan, Astronomer
This is what our brains are simply not wired to understand.

We have commonly seen while travelling unknown places we usually ask strangers for direction to the destined place and believe them whatever they say. Its, not the lack of our knowledge that makes it easy to believe them but our inherent behaviour. The more trustworthy the appearance of that person the easier it is to believe (Topic for next blog). It's not optimism. Another place where we usually see this unusual sense of belief is when a salesman presents you with the product you have never seen before. We instantly think that at least the product deserves a try with the subconscious belief for it to be good. There are a countless number of experiences that prove that it is second to our nature to believe people.

What is it that makes us so goody goody beings? Human brain perceives the real world in terms of information and tries to figure out the responses necessary. Whenever it is presented with the set of facts it first assumes it to be true and then tries to disprove it by retrieving the relevant information from the memory. And when the information required for disproving that fact is absent it ends up believing the fact to be true. This is the flaw or shortcut in the working of our brain that makes us believe in new things no matter how faulty they are.

Let's see once more what had happened earlier. When you ask a stranger about the direction your brain is presented with a choice to either believe or disbelieve. Your brain takes the input and at first, assumes it to be true. After this it tries to search the memory for the related thoughts like have I been fooled by someone similar to him in anyways. It also tries to match everything that is possible to get even a clue of not believing him. Once this task is over and no incidents or relation are found brain registers it to be truth and believes the stranger (kind of similar to giving the benefit of the doubt). Proof by contradiction is the primary method that brain uses whenever it is presented with any new information.

It can result in positive or negative results depending on the situation you are in. If stakes are too high for mistakes it's better to dig up information or take help of others in deciding about it. It can also be used to your advantage if you are a salesman or startup pitcher :P

It's a really subtle thing to note but weighs a lot if you want to be analytical about your judgement. Yes, it cannot be eliminated completely but more you know the better about why you think what you think. And it is not only limited to this but to all scenarios that involve belief.

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