People in general tend to think that there is only one reality and that it is the one they experience. I don’t mean “without protection in the rain I will get wet” reality, I mean “this is exactly what happened in X place at Y time” reality. And they do this not only about situations where they were present, but also about situations related by someone else whom they consider a reliable witness/reporter. Just look at how much credence people give eyewitness accounts, and how unreliable those actually are.

A lot of (many? most?) people seem to hate to admit that this is true. The idea that someone else saw/heard/experienced the same thing differently can be scary, because, in our culture at least, many people–and I think the society in general–are so locked into the idea that there is a single, “objective,” reality. (Again, not talking about “rain” but about “what happened.”) It’s scary to think that one cannot totally rely on one’s senses, and even more on one’s brain’s processing, to deliver up the truth, the facts, the reality.

I think that a lot of “this person said/that person said” cases involve no one lying, but two people who adamantly believe in their reality. I think that some (not all) cases of police brutality involve an officer who truly believed that he/she was in danger from the person, because of the police mindset and worldview. I think it’s possible that even George Zimmerman believed that the account he gave reflected reality.

Add to this “selective validation,” in which people tend to believe things that are significant to them or have some personal meaning for them, and “confirmation bias,” in which people tend to believe information that confirms their existing beliefs and disbelieve information that contradicts their existing beliefs, and it’s a wonder that any two people ever perceive the same “reality” at all.

 

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