Lamps: The importance of frequently changing your mind


Joseph Lamps, Columnist

Irrational beliefs cause a great deal of harm. Unfortunately, many of us are reluctant to change our minds on important issues. This tendency results in many of humanity’s problems.

Each of us has a set of beliefs: social, political, personal and religious. For many, these beliefs would be different if we belonged to a different race, religion, nationality or economic background. Each person’s life experience is unique, so if people base their beliefs solely on their own circumstances, they will rarely agree.

This dissonance is best alleviated when people go out of their way to hold rational beliefs which stand up to scrutiny in light of other perspectives. Eliminating irrational beliefs by being open to changing our minds would eliminate unbridgeable differences. It would soothe petty disagreement, selfishness, conflicts and oppression.

I find it important to subject my beliefs to harsh scrutiny in order to counteract my own inherent biases. A few weeks ago, I learned my belief that eating large amounts before swimming causes leg cramps was false. About a month ago, my view on TSA racial profiling in airports changed during a 30-minute conversation: My belief that profiling was acceptable to reduce terrorism was demonstrated to rest on faulty thinking and a misunderstanding of facts.

Harmful beliefs, in turn, lead to harmful political and societal consequences; I would have supported harmful policies when I held a harmful belief about profiling.

Many of our current practices as a society are harmful and based on falsehoods. A look into the past uncovers unending amounts of harm which could have been prevented by elimination of harmful beliefs: oppression of minorities and women, unjust wars and more. It is inconceivable that our modern society has transcended irrational thinking. Objective thinking exposes many modern injustices just as abhorrent as those of the past.

One reason we don’t always think objectively is because it is difficult. It takes time and energy to think clearly about hard issues, and doing so can be uncomfortable. Most people are too busy with their lives to be searching for harmful beliefs they hold. However, because irrational thinking is harmful, it is imperative people make an effort to analyze their views.

It is also embarrassing to change one’s mind. Holding firm to one’s beliefs is viewed as strong. This is a snag our society needs to transcend: Social acceptance of frequent changes of mind on large issues would undoubtedly prompt more people to change their minds with evidence, and normalizing changing minds would help ease cognitive dissonance.

I challenge you to think about whether you have changed your mind on any important topics recently. If you have not, I suspect you are doing less than you could to weed out false and harmful beliefs.

Failure to think because of societal norms is not an excuse. We should meet all topics with an open mind and be willing to frequently change our minds based on evidence no matter how cherished a belief is.

Joseph Lamps is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.