Over the holidays I read one of the most thought provoking books I have read in years: A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by social psychologist Cordelia Fine. In this very readable book, Cordelia Fine cites social psychology research study after social psychology research study to provide insights into the true nature of people. With chapter titles like The Vain Brain, The Immoral Brain, The Deluded Brain, The Pigheaded Brain, and The Bigoted Brain, you can be sure it is not a pretty picture. As I read, my faith in humanity dwindled chapter by chapter.
Insights from One Study
One of my favorite research studies cited is one in which half of a set of seminary students were innocently called together to discuss the value of their seminary experience for occupations other than religious ministry. The other half was asked to discuss the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Each seminary student was then told it was important that they get to another building. Some were told they had a few extra minutes, others were told they could be right on time, and others that that were already late. As each student set out for their destination building, they encountered a person wretchedly slumped over a wall who coughed and groaned in distress.
The result was a little shocking. The divinity students who were told they had a few extra minutes generally stopped to offer assistance, and the ones that were told they were running late almost all hurried by. Much to the researcher’s horror, some of the students who had discussed the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the coughing, groaning victim.
Are You Ready to Face Yourself?
The movie The Never Ending Story told:
The Mirror of Truth is the most difficult test any shall face;
for in Truth, even the most pure being also sees their imperfection.
Brave men witness the call to which they were coward.
The strong face their weak.
And the best intentions tell of their besiege.
If you have the courage to face yourself in Cordelia Fine’s figurative “mirror of truth”, you can pick up a copy of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives at Amazon.com. Five out of five stars.