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“If I Feel It, It Is True” Fallacy

Brain, mind, head – three terms used to describe one vital organ of the human body; the organ responsible for controlling all of the body’s actions, the workhouse of a person’s actions, and the primary cause of everything this person thinks, does, and speaks of. The brain is simply the central information center, and requires care to maintain its functionality. In fact, damages on the brain can lead to diseases severe enough to destroy a human’s normal living life, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

In science, evolution has made us humans stand out from the rest by enlarging the total brain mass, giving us more knowledge and an edge against other primates. This helped us learned how to create fire, understand nature, build skyscrapers, and communicate with each other in a clear and precise manner. Truly, the brain of humans surpassed any other, and no computer will ever beat the brain in terms of rational thinking. But has evolution made this brain of ours fool-proof?

We all know for a fact that some methods, such as hypnotism, can actually alternate our brain’s normal function, and succumb to the orders of the hypnotist. Alternately, we can control our own brains to speak of things we know are not true, in other words, to lie. These are just simple events suggesting that our minds are weak, and can be affected by external factors. Levy stated one of these factors to be emotions. He mentions of the “If I feel it, it is true” fallacy, which challenges the common belief that what a person feels is actually true.

In his work, he described four kinds of interactions between emotions and events. They are comfortable truths, comfortable falsehoods, uncomfortable truths, and uncomfortable falsehoods (Levy, 1997, pp. 102-106). With these events are possible scenarios on what might be going on inside a human brain. The most striking of these are those found in the comfortable and uncomfortable falsehoods. In the comfortable falsehoods, people tend to veer away from reality, and tries to create a fantasy world where they feel comfortable.

On the other hand, a person affected by uncomfortable falsehoods, or a wrong accusation which makes him feel bad, will usually react against it. This can lead to wrong observations, and can be viewed as a guilty person trying to defend himself. What Levy is trying to relay is that feelings and emotions must not be a gauge of veracity. He tries to make a point that the brain is not so perfect, and one of its flaws is the lack of connection between what is true and what a person feels (Levy, 1997, p. 109). His theory on the “If I feel it, it is true” fallacy can be further seen in research papers by Elizabeth Loftus.

Loftus and her colleagues studied a phenomenon called “false memories”, and how they can be induced or created. These are called as such since they did not exist at any point of time in a patient’s memory – events that never took place, persons they never met, food they never ate, places they never went to. And yes, the falsification of memories can lead to damages to the society. Take for example some psychologist who, probably in good faith, tries to “dig deeper” unto a patient’s brain, uncovers some bitter information, and conveys them as events that actually happened to the patient.

Or, in court, a lawyer pressing for questions that are actually lines stating that a witness saw the suspect and the suspect is that guy, and so on. These, and many others, are very common in our daily lives. In her experiments, they came across the method of “suggesting”, which rose to be the culprit of these false memories. They found out that by suggesting a certain event, humans are likely to remember it, and act as if the event really did happen to them. She also noted that a normal onlooker would not even know the difference of someone who is really telling the truth or not (Loftus, 1997. p. 72).

Loftus has worked with many other researchers and experiments, dealing with a number of participants, and the results are the same. False memories can really be created. But why do these participants feel confident that the memory was true? That’s where Levy’s concept on the fallacy comes in. Going back a few paragraphs, remember that Levy defined four types of interactions of emotions and events. One of these, the one of comfortable falsehoods, can be related to the creation of false memories. “Comfortable falsehoods” happens when a wrong statement tends to make a person feel good, such as untrue compliments.

In other words, it is a kind of denial thing, on which the person veers away from the truth, because it hurts, and tries to create something (which is false and unreal) in which he or she can find comfort. Levy also mentioned the possibility of this creation going too far that that person can lose his touch with reality (Levy, 1997, p. 103). This simply shows that the brain is capable of creating a fantasy world when triggered by an event to do so. In a similar sense, people on whom Loftus have experimented on may have experienced a type of “creation” where they felt comfortable being on.

It can so happen that by suggesting something, the participant’s emotions can say something like “it would be nice if I experienced that”, or “it would be nice if I met that person”. This can be the cause of a creation of the event, making the participant feeling confident of its experiences. Another possible reason is the use of authority on the participant. Loftus described an experiment in which they made it look like the participant’s parents were involved in the uncovering of the memory (Loftus, 2004, p. 146).

This authority might have evoked a stronger emotional feeling, which in term triggered the brain to create the false event. Aside from memories, the “If I feel it, it is true” fallacy can be stretched out thin and be related to other simpler issues, such as that of choosing a career. Again, this fallacy states that if something feels good, it not necessarily right. Logically, we can invert it and conclude that not all things that are right feel good. And the topic on choosing a career, although simpler than these false memories, is something that is greatly affected by our emotions and many other factors.

For Valerie Young, there are four main reasons on why people end up wrongly on their careers (Young, 2007). Each of these four reasons can be strongly tied to Levy’s concept and views. First is the interesting thing on trusting your instincts – your heart, first before your brain. Young stated that the heart usually has an early warning system that the brain. Also, we should now be well aware of the limitations of the human brain. As said earlier, the brain is susceptible to manipulation by a hundred of factors. In job hunting, these factors are not hypnotists, or psychologists, nor lawyers.

They are more simple, but as effective as the others, such as money. Money can be distracting, and sometimes causes people to forget the other benefits provided by other jobs such as comfort, security, and most of all, the pleasure achieved on being hired by a job they really want. The author, having a personal experience on this, suggests that job hunters listen to their instincts, their heart, and not be easily deceived by other factors (Young, 2007). Secondly is the tendency of turning other’s dream to our own. In this, we tend to follow the direction someone, like our parents, chooses for us.

This is very common, especially with parents having strong ties with their children. An accomplished engineer would want their son to be an engineer; a nurse wants her daughter to be a nurse. Sometimes, this can be something that the person wishes he became; it is like passing on the goal to another person (Young, 2007). Levy might view this as a consequence of a comfortable feeling when we see that someone feeling good upon doing their will. This good feeling makes us think that getting the job that person wants for us is the right thing to do.

But again, what feels good is not always right, and this usually leads us in making wrong decisions in choosing a lifetime career. Then there is the concept of pride, where people won’t accept that they made a mistake in choosing that career (Young, 2007). A large number of people are stuck in their lifeless jobs since they can’t accept the truth that that job is not for them. As a matter of fact, this phenomenon of employers staying at jobs they are not really happy with can be described as running away from the truth, denying the reality that they are not for that job.

This pride can be viewed as another factor, such as monetary values, which greatly affects a human being’s capability of discerning the truth about contentment they are not achieving from their current jobs. Also, by not accepting the truth humans get even more frustrated, and by applying Levy’s theory, can create a fantasy world, on which they believe that their job is comfortable for them, when in reality it is not. Finally, the author mentions on the concept of “not wanting to waste the degree”, which is quite similar to pride.

Those who got a high degree on a certain field would certainly think twice of leaving that career for something totally unrelated to it (Young, 2007). This is affected by many issues, such as the time spent in studying, money that went to tuition fees, and the amount of work that one puts in during all these years of staying in school. In other words, these can be a result of emotional triggering, something that says this job is right because of these “suggestions” from the ideas taken during schooling years. Levy’s theory and concepts can be applied to a span of topic and subjects.

What is important here is to understand that our brain has certain weaknesses which can cause devastating damages. They can be seen related to issues as scientific as memory construction, to simple sociological aspects of life such as choosing a career. These cause wrong accusations and false judgments leading to imprisonment of innocent victims. Or wrong decisions caused by emotions resulting to a wrong choice in careers. It is therefore very important to know these consequences and deal with it in a way that would benefit the individual and the society.

References: Levy, D. A. (1997). Tools of critical thinking: Metathoughts for psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Loftus, E. F. (1997). Creating false memories. Scientific American, 277, 70-75. Loftus, E. F. (2004). Memories of things unseen. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 145-147. Young, V. (2007). Why we wind up on the wrong career path and what to do about it. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from http://www. employmentspot. com/employment-articles/wrong-career-path/

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