Every day I take my dog for a walk, and I usually find at least one four-leaf clover. Sometimes, I find a five, six or seven-leaf clover. Recently, when a friend saw a four-leaf clover I had found, he confided in me that he had thought that they were a myth – that four leaf clovers didn’t exist. Of course, if you think something doesn’t exist, you’re unlikely to notice it.
We know that human beings are wired to notice patterns, and that this bestowed an evolutionary advantage upon us. For example, if a predator always makes the same noises, or if you notice the noises that other animals make in the presence of a predator, that’s a handy pattern to be aware of. If you notice that plants are greener near a water source, that too can help you to survive. But there’s a drawback to pattern recognition. We tend to filter out things that don’t fit; we don’t see the four-leaf clovers that are all around us.
This is especially problematic in modern political thought. Not only do we only absorb information that fits our political world view, but we have machines that actively filter new information as comes in. We simply turn the channel or unfriend anyone and anything that would contradict our absolutist visions of the world.
Allowing yourself to accept the existence of things that don’t fit your patters is essential for understanding more than one point of view. And, as I talked about in a previous post (click the flower, below to be transported there), stubbornly sticking to perceiving the world in patterns allows prejudice and stereotypes to maintain their power over us.
So, open yourself up to things that don’t fit the mold. Pay attention to the four-leaf clovers. They are there, whether you believe in them or not.
The persistence of stereotypes: