A Truth-Loving Test for Amateur Psychologists

In the last post, we saw a tape from NASA that proved UFOs were out in space along with the space shuttle Columbia. Proved, that is, until that interpretation of the tape was easily debunked.

Sue Houston left a comment on that post that is a perfect segue to what I wanted to share today:

…clearly the space guys [from NASA] are not excited by these objects. They know what they are, as they are familiar with the optics of the situation. That should have been reason enough for “true believers” to take pause.

As we will see, one person’s lack of excitement is another person’s stunned silence.

I actually encountered the NASA tape as part of the following video by David Sereda.

At time 57:43 of the video (yes, I watched that far), UFOs are starting to swarm around the tether that the space shuttle has deployed. The NASA commentator says, “This view showing, uh… <long pause>,” and then David Sereda inserts, “He’s stunned.”

The NASA commentator could not have sounded less stunned. He is so slow-paced while describing a scene where almost nothing is happening that I’m surprised he had not fallen asleep.

Unfortunately, David Sereda was not aware of the Truth-Loving Test for Amateur Psychologists:

A truth-lover does not think he knows what’s in other people’s heads.

This is so important that I made it my New Year’s Resolution in 2013. As I said then, often our assessment of people’s motives has more to do with us than with them.

If David Sereda had been silent while viewing the tape, it would have been because he was stunned. but that doesn’t mean the NASA commentator had the same motive for being silent.

I struggle to pass this test all the time, particularly with respect to people I disagree with.

To take a current example: let’s say I meet someone who seems inordinately hostile to immigration. Is he racist? Is he truly afraid that the immigrants will “steal” jobs from Americans? When he says he’s only against illegal immigration, is that true? Is he unthinkingly lapping up whatever his political party or a radio personality feeds him? Or has he read rigorous, academic studies that show immigration is harmful to the country? If so, has he considered rebuttals to those studies and found them wanting?

Without further conversation, I don’t know, and I shouldn’t let myself think I know.

Next time: If there’s anything more risky for a truth-lover than being an amateur psychologist, it’s being an amateur scientist.

5 responses to “A Truth-Loving Test for Amateur Psychologists

  1. “Is he unthinkingly lapping up whatever his political party or a radio personality feeds him? Or has he read rigorous, academic studies that show immigration is harmful to the country?”
    Good point, but it sure is hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea that somehow the masses of people who flock to see and hear politicians spouting what I consider to be hate speech, have all suddenly begun to embrace reasoning.
    When no one challenges the idea that rounding up 12 million illegal immigrants and deporting them is a terrible idea, then I am very concerned we as a nation are operating out of our fear based amygdalas, not from our mammalian frontal lobes. How is this different from the 1930’s? To me it is the same story, just a different target.

    • I agree with you, but even on our reading of the situation we still don’t know what’s in the head of one of the people you’re talking about. Is he operating out of fear, hate, ignorance, or something else? And why does he not challenge the terrible idea of deporting 12 million people? Is it because he simply doesn’t know anything about economics, either here or in Mexico, and has an overly optimistic view of what will happen to the 12 million as well as to the United States; because he has an irrational fear of the “other”; or because he wants to go along to get along with his tribe?

      BTW, I’m guessing there’s a lot more of that last reason going around than we realize, in a broad array of issues. Take abortion, for example. As I’ve written in another post, evangelicals used to be pro-choice. Today, one risks being kicked out of the tribe if one is not pro-life. Why the change? The Bible hasn’t changed; evangelical epistemology hasn’t changed; the facts of the case haven’t changed. What has changed is that evangelical leaders are telling the church the opposite of what they told them 40 years ago, and making conformance on this issue more important than just about any other marker of tribal membership.

  2. Pingback: The Fearless Person’s Truth-Loving Test | Path of the Beagle

  3. Pingback: Nietzche’s Truth-Loving Test | Path of the Beagle

  4. Pingback: A Fact-Checker’s Truth-Loving Test | Path of the Beagle

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