Ostriches and Egos: How We Create Our Own Realities

 

Information avoidance is a common human tendency. It doesn’t seem to matter that we’re living in a hyper information age. We listen to news that supports our point of view, avoid information we don’t want to hear and convince ourselves we have the facts we need in order to make informed decisions – even when we don’t.

In an article detailing recent research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Shilo Rea explains that people “are remarkably adept at selectively directing their attention to information that affirms what they believe or that reflects favorably upon them, and at forgetting information they wish were not true.”

In other words, we tend to create our own reality – because we like it that way. We choose what we want to believe and ignore what we don’t. Apparently, ignorance is bliss after all. Writer Chris Fleisher notes, in an article for the American Economic Association, “This behavior drives economists nuts. Ideally, we should absorb all the information we can get so that we can make rational decisions. But it doesn’t work that way.”

In Psychology Today, Alain Samson calls it “the ostrich effect.” Referring to the work of the CMU researchers, he writes: “Information avoidance has immediate benefits for people if it prevents the negative (usually psychological) consequences of knowing the information.” And while we all like to think of ourselves as savvy information consumers, we may be more like ostriches than we’d like to admit. Even more embarrassing, we’re probably egoists too. Says Samson: “Information avoidance is particularly pertinent when ego threat is involved.”