Monday, July 9, 2012
Discussion: Who do you trust?
Which leads me to the question - Who do you trust? Where do you get the information you need to make decisions?
As an aside...where did the idea that data for studies are faked so regularly that we shouldn't trust studies arise? Where did we get the idea that studies are done by large corporations who will fudge their results to match their corporate agenda? And why do we think these things, but trust large organizations like EWG, their studies, and their Skin Deep website not to fudge data or skew findings to match their corporate agenda? And where did we get the idea that science = bad, our common sense or gut instinct = good? Just a few things to ponder for a sunny Monday morning...
There's a great book I recommend frequently called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). They bring up the idea of cognitive dissonance, the idea that we can't hold two opposing ideas in our heads so we work to get rid of one of those thoughts. Let's say I make a mistake. This goes against the idea that I'm a good person, so I strive to make the thought go away. It's easier to make the "I made a mistake" thought go away than the "I'm a good person" thought, so I strive to minimize the mistake instead of owning up to it. We use a lot of techniques to avoid admitting we made a mistake - we blame other people, we blame the information upon which we made the decision, we use distancing language, (mistakes were made versus I made a mistake), and so on. The desire to reduce our responsibility for the mistake is pretty strong.
The more we buy into a concept, the harder it is to change our minds because we can't have two opposing thoughts in our heads. For instance, you think you're a good person making good lotions. You don't use preservatives, so when someone tells you the lotion has gone bad, you blame them for not doing something right because "it's never done this before!" You want to make lotions, but you can't find an emulsifier that fits into your philosophy - for instance, being vegan or all natural - so you find a way to make it fit into your philosophy because you really really want a lotion in your catalogue. This is one of the reasons I say not to argue with zealots: If they have to defend their positions against your arguments, they will solidify them further. Plant a seed and let them come to the conclusions themselves.
One of the reasons I tell parents never ban their children from seeing bad boyfriends/girlfriends because you turn them into Romeo and Juliet, with one partner working really hard to find the good things in the partner to prove their parents wrong! Just plant the seed and let them come to their own conclusions. (If the child is in severe danger from a partner, then all bets are off! Intervene!)
The reason for posing this question? I'm seeing this a lot lately around the idea of making our own sunscreen. I continue to get e-mails from people who want to make their own, and when I advise them against it, they quote the EWG studies, they justify it by saying they won't use it on anyone else, they tell me that they're copying a store bought product which we know works, they say I've been bought by the corporations and my word isn't good any more, and so on. There's no point in arguing with someone who really wants to do this - he isn't looking for information on why they shouldn't do it, he is looking to confirm his reasoning and feel good about making the decision to make something that others have said could be dangerous. (I've given up on this topic, to be honest. If you want to make a sunscreen, make a sunscreen and enjoy it. I don't have the energy to argue any more.)
And yes, I realize this might seem like a weird post for a bath & body products blog, but I am a family counsellor and my husband a now-graduated psych student, and we talk a lot about these topics. Plus, I thought it would be neat if you, my wonderful readers, shared your favourite links so we can have more information!
Edited to add: Here's an interesting article on distrust of science and its association with political beliefs. It's interesting to see a decline in trusting science since the 1970s! I really encourage you to take a look at it - fascinating stuff!