Overcoming Bias

Postby questioneverything » Fri Apr 10, 2020 7:44 pm

This question comes out of a conversation I had recently with a person who is very hostile toward psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and therapists in general. I have never understood this anger, as it does not appear to have come from any particular incident, but rather seems to be a broad, unfocused mistrust.

My question is how do practitioners in these fields deal with the biases, fears and misconceptions that they sometimes encounter. And just how common is this?
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Sat Apr 11, 2020 7:08 am

questioneverything wrote: My question is how do practitioners in these fields deal with the biases, fears and misconceptions that they sometimes encounter. And just how common is this?


It is not just common, it is inevitable.

In educational psychology "misconceptions" are fundamental to learning. Take away misconceptions and there is no need to learn...broadly speaking.

Take the simple concept of the shape of the earth. Children have misconceptions about the shape, starting at a young age intuitively thinking the world is flat. Most children live in a relatively flat world. Looking out over the horizon the natural response is the world must be flat.

From a flat earth the child is taught a concept, that the earth is round. What studies have shown is that children shift their concept from flat like paper, to flat and round like a pancake. The misconception shifts, but is still a misconception.

As the child is provided additional concepts they eventually shift to believing the world is round like a globe or a ball. This is still a misconception, but it is a largely functional misconception. The only time a person needs to have a more accurate concept of the actual shape of the earth is if they become involved in engineering satellites, etc.

When a person goes to a therapist it is because they have some persistent issue. As Carl Jung would say a neurosis. An example is insomnia. The reason the issue persists is because the person must hold some misconceptions. If the misconceptions were identified and better understood, the neurosis would no longer exist.

A constant challenge is that therapists, like educators, don't always know how to identify the misconceptions the person holds, let alone their own misconceptions. Imagine an educator that holds the misconception that the earth is shaped like a triangle trying to help a student that believes the earth is shaped like a bagel. This happens all the time in both education and therapy.

What I appreciate about Carl Jung's work is that he acknowledged that we just don't know very much about how the mind works. The fact that you have had insomnia since childhood is a great case in point. Whatever misconceptions you hold they are embedded deep and apparently thus far no one has been able to help you identify them and correct for them. It's not an easy issue to tackle.
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