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Think of your own beliefs about almost anything – your political preference in the next election, child vaccinations, religion, cars, diet or exercise programs, or how to celebrate the holidays. Some of your opinions are longstanding and staunch.
Where do your beliefs come from? How can you change someone’s view? Is a change even possible? Or is it just not worth investing the energy it takes to convince others that your choices are justified and that they are right for you?
For example, when it comes to starting a family, and specifically making decisions about family size, you may have noticed that opinions are strong. If, like many families in the developed world today, you’ve made your decision to have a child, you have likely encountered resistance. The idea that you have a child or are planning to have a child can be new, perhaps surprising, or annoying to the people in your life. Many people are quick to address negative aspects when they only have one child, e.g. B. that they are disadvantaged or that siblings are essential. Your parents, in-laws, closest friends, and people you don’t know have opinions. Why do some feel so confident, sometimes adamant, that your decision is wrong?
Journalist Joanna Pocock wrote of her personal journey: “In a playground in London, a mother told me that having an only child was synonymous with child abuse when she saw my daughter staggering alone in the sandpit … When I told my mother that I was likely to have no more children, exclaimed disparagingly that a child is ‘just not a family’. “
Feelings like these rave on the internet, especially from people expressing their opinions and trying to impose them on others. As the parent of an only child and someone who has researched and written about singletons for decades, I know the decision to have just one child is still dismayed and pushed back.
Just belittling children is not new. For the past 100+ years, stereotypes have only grown and stuck for children. They are the result of deeply ingrained collective thinking: Generations have believed that only children are lonely, bossy, spoiled, and more. A 2018 article in Cognition magazine suggests that opinions can be changed by getting others to hear the facts. The authors believe that “those on the fence can sway”. I’m not sure. I’m not sure if evidence of the singleton-related falsehoods and myths, or your political preference, will change the perception or opinion of many people in the next election … or anyone else’s on the matter. Researchers recognize that changing beliefs “regardless of whether the beliefs are scientifically correct or inaccurate” can be difficult.
People’s views on whether or not to vaccinate their children, climate change, their preferred politician, or just children are ingrained. When you try to correct them, you run into what is known as a “confirmatory bias”. In other words, when confronted with new information, people who use confirmation bias usually evaluate this information in a way that confirms or is partial to what they already believe. They will hear and understand what you are saying, for example only children are not necessarily selfish or the latest knowledge about vaccination in children, but their acceptance is based on their pre-existing attitudes or opinions.
An unusual study in Current Biology, “People Show Confirmatory Biases Even About Which Direction Points Are Moving,” showed that “People do the same thing even when the decision they made relates to a decision that is less consistent is: which direction a series of points are moving and whether the average of a series of numbers is greater or less than 50. ”Imagine how they react when you try to find the positives of an only child or scientific evidence of climate change When an opinion is ingrained or based on years of false beliefs, it can be especially difficult to convince someone to understand your point of view.
Asking someone who strongly believes in the myths and stereotypes only assigned to children to change their attitudes can be a pointless exercise. When humiliated or asked whether to choose a child, vaccinate your children, or why you are getting a particular breed of dog, it may be best to ignore what has been said. Confirmatory bias keeps people determined so no matter how high you pile the facts you are unlikely to change their thinking.
How do you deal with critics of your family size or those who try to change your mind about other things you believe in or decisions you make? Are you ignoring them – or are you trying to get them to follow your way of thinking?
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