When I’m holding forth on some topic and make an assertion from a statistical level, it is interesting to me how forcefully someone will disagree if their personal experience conflicts with my proposed reality.
Naturally “your reality is reality,” but if facts are presented that contradict your reality, well… then we have… global warming. Both sides. <rant warning>
Ugh. Enough already. When you have something new for the average citizen to do, I’d love to hear it. As long as you’re recycling sidebars from 1985 (yes, I know how much you love to recycle) quit beating us over the head: Real or unreal, give us some candles or stop telling us we suck up all the light.
I was just talking with someone last week about how much charting can help improve the chances of conceiving and the woman standing next to me insisted it didn’t work for her.
“Well, I haven’t interviewed you yet,” I said, trying to sound light about it. But really it made me think of a relative who used the phrase, “Well, when I was growing up…” about four times in 20 minutes.
He was talking about all the dangerous things he’d survived as a kid, using his experience as a measure of what he was comfortable with for kids.
Without thinking (certainly without considering the negitive impact this might have on familial relations) I chirped, “I think it’s great how your sample-size of one trumps all.”
But really, isn’t this how we all are?
In some things (knowing my body is different than anyone else’s) this make sense as a directer of choices.
But in other things (say– turning your pack of 8-year-olds loose at the local swimming hole) personal experience shouldn’t override protective sense.
I’m still working at listening well enough to a broader reality that doesn’t match mine, but mostly, I’m trying to learn the difference between the things I should trump and the things (if this is the right term) that should make me fold.
I think common sense gives warning to the type of thinking that doesn’t account for exceptions but it was great to hear my professor name it the “fallacy of vivid imagination.” She explained that if something happens to YOU or someone you know, it sticks out more vividly and therefore can weigh more than a heap of statistical evidence. But, of course, it shouldn’t. We need to keep that in mind when we think.
I love having a term like that because then I can explain to others why they feel the way they feel and maybe it will help them think twice.
When giving an opinion, I often feel almost guilty if I draw upon personal experience. But when I think about it, I can’t be an expert on everything. I can consult on important issues but for a lot of things, personal experience is all I have to go by for the moment. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong, as long as I keep a mind open to correction!
I agree that It’s nice to have a fallacy label. It is nice to have an hook to hang things on.
I am actually comfortable with using my experience as a measure and example of things, because, hey, it’s what I know.
The “about” page of this blog says something to that effect– that what I write about it substantiated in my experience.
Generally, I consider what I learn to be an assimilated part of my experience too, so when I learn something different that what I know, I find my definition of that expands to meet the new reality, so I’m always speaking from experience.
Really, I should do a post about that– how my assertions have softened as I’ve learned more.
I was telling my husband about two or three of these some while back, but can only remember one now– that there is an actual medical use for birth control pills, something I wouldn’t have known/beleived just over a year ago.
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