The Istanbulite


I felt really drawn to this passage while reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers:

“People see better what looks like them... They think the thoughts they’re already comfortable with. They give themselves the pleasure of their own soft, agreeable confirmations. Confirmation bias. It’s why people learn little from others. They’re dying to be told what they already know. Given a choice between their world and someone else’s, they pick their own. Why would anyone pick a strange world when you could pick a familiar one?”

In this passage, Powers delves deep into the human propensity for choosing the comfortable and familiar over the unknown and different. The passage dissects the tendency to favour information that validates one’s existing beliefs and perceptions, shutting out differing perspectives and ideas. It highlights a fundamental aspect of human nature, the search for affirmation and the avoidance of the unfamiliar, and challenges us to recognise this bias within ourselves, inviting us to venture beyond our comfort zones and embrace the unfamiliar, to learn and grow through the exploration of “strange worlds.”

The message within these lines is a contemplation on openness, learning, and the willingness to see the world through myriad lenses other than one’s own.

This reminds me of a passage by Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World”:

“But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

It conveys a desire for experiences and knowledge that lie beyond our comfort zones and familiar territories, resonating with Powers' observation about our propensity to prefer affirmation over challenging encounters with the unknown.

Both excerpts compel us to contemplate our inherent biases and the comfort of the known, challenging us to venture into the diverse and profound realms of existence and understanding, to break free from the cocoon of our preconceptions and to embrace the richness of the unfamiliar world around us.

I've found myself pondering...

How often do we truly challenge the foundations of our beliefs and step willingly into the disquiet of the unknown?

Do we dare to unravel the threads of our ingrained perceptions and weave them anew, allowing the unexplored and the unfamiliar to reshape our understanding of the world and our place in it?

Can delving into the discomfort of unfamiliar territories enrich our spirits more than the warm embrace of the known ever could?

#CognitiveBias #BeyondComfort #ReflectiveReading