We all tell ourselves we are smart, observant and aware. We are lying to ourselves. Don’t misunderstand, we are all smart, to varying degrees. We are observant, sometimes. We are aware, sometimes. But we are not all of these things, all the time.
To be smart, observant and aware, we have to actively think. This requires effort. Much of the time we are on autopilot, i.e. not thinking and therefore not being smart. Then again, much of the time we are operating in a realm of familiarity. The home, office and town we live in are all very familiar to us, so effort to process what is around us is not necessary. I already know that in order to get to downtown, I need to make a left on Oak St and a right on Highway 92. But with these blinders on during our daily activities we miss things that we should not miss. The neighbor just painted his house and awful shade of green- that I notice. But why do we miss so much? How does this play a role in repetition deception?
It is in our nature to be afraid of what we are not familiar with. That makes sense. Our ancestors could have no level of comfort with the unknown due to the threats posed by unknowns to their very existence. This evolutionary trait has been carried forward and still remains with us today. When we are first introduced to a lie, we may be skeptical. After that lie has been repeated to us several times, we just accept it the same way we accept our overly familiar environment without scrutiny. For instance, there has never been an ostrich observed burying its head in the sand . But why do we accept the lie after it has been repeated, but we didn’t accept it initially? Familiarity leads to cognitive ease. Cognitive processing takes effort (it even burns calories). Thinking hard about something depletes glucose levels and can leave you feeling tired and cranky. Some people even describe it as painful. This is a big reason why people make decisions to believe based on emotion and then justify that decision with logic.
The more familiar a lie becomes, the easier it is to accept because it has not harmed us (yet) that we know of. We simply begin to accept it because it is easy to do so. Believing is the path of least resistance. This is not to say that we have to scrutinize everything that crosses our paths. My suggestion is to simply take a moment to stop and scrutinize things that cross your path at different intervals. This is the practice of being observant and aware. This makes you smart. Oh, and by the way, there was not a single “witch” burned at the stake during the Salem Witch trials of 1692 in Massachusetts (in Europe it was a different story).