Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thoughts on the Tolstoy Syndrome.

In a recent post-( My Personality Type )- Dom gave us the results of a Jung Personality test he came across on the Internet. He is , according to this test, an "INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population."
I took the test. I'm,

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
Free Jung Word Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)
personality tests by

After taking the test, I spent the day doing research as to what, exactly, this is supposed to mean.I've taken quite a few notes on this and it's my intention to write about the INTJ soon, but while doing the research, I got side-tracked.
First, it lead me back to Jung of whom I've read before....though I'm in no way an expert on him or his ideas.This lead me back to synchronicity.....a subject which fascinates me to no end. I discovered that some scientists believe any evidence for synchronicity is due to something called "confirmation bias".
Wikipedia defines confirmation bias as "a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs".
Or, as singer/songwriter, Paul Simon wrote in "The Boxer",
"All lies and jest.
Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

Another name for "confirmation bias " is the "Tolstoy syndrome", so-called because of two quotes from the Russian writer:
"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life".
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

I discovered something about this syndrome.....we can all be guilty of it; none of us appear to be totally immune from seeing only evidence which supports our bias while ignoring contradictory evidence. I've also discovered that people can very easily "see" the Tolstoy syndrome in their opponents yet have a difficult time believing they could be guilty of the same thing. No matter, if the subject is politics, religion or even global warming.
I have to ask, as Jesus did in chapter 7 of Matthew ;
"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye.

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