Do we really need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Posted: June 19, 2015 in Culture, Medical School, Medicine, Social Behavior
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
yes_no_by_thisisgalaxy
What makes you say “Yes”? I have begun my journey into the book Hidden in Plain Sight by Jan Chipchase. So far, Chipchase is interested in how we respond to new things and what leads us to adopt or reject them. He argues that adoption is not a one step process but rather a 5 step sequence: Awareness-getting to know about the existence of new things  Interest-wanting to find out more Evaluation-imagining one’s life with this new thing Testing- giving it a trial run and finally Adoption- a commitment to use. He further argues that we can be early adopters who are typically, but not always, innovators or the young and highly educated; medium stage adopters who are slightly older, perhaps less educated and late adopters or laggards and flat out rejectors.
Why do you adopt some things and reject others? The biggest factor seems to be what everyone else is doing. And why does this matter? For me, it matters because I want be part of the effort to effect widespread change in healthcare delivery and knowing what makes people behave a particular way seems central to that vision. Take a simple example: I was skeptical about joining Twitter for a long time. I wondered what was really worth saying in 140 characters. It seemed superficial and an excuse to spout fluff about bacon for breakfast (although, it should be noted that bacon is indeed delicious). Then, I found out people and organizations I respect were on it, and some of the dynamic ways it was being used and I began to reconsider my opinion. I have since joined Twitter and now integrate it in both personal and professional areas of interest. But did I simply have a limited understanding of Twitter or was my perception altered by those around me, even though the platform stayed the same? What was the “reality” of the usefulness of Twitter?
twitter-evolve
On the subject of reality, can we take a quick detour for a moment? I heard something thought provoking this week from a cognitive scientist who argued that we often do not perceive reality as it really is (optical illusions, misread social cues etc) but that this may not actually be a bad thing in every instance. This scientist ran some evolutionary experiments on his computer and found out that accurate perception of reality did not necessarily translate to increased survival. Is there an evolutionary benefit to believing certain illusions? Are we witnessing the triumph of tact?
Truth matters of course and I don’t think anyone would argue for living in a fantasy world defined by illusion, except perhaps actors, but that’s the job;) Is it in our benefit (or others’ benefit) to know everything accurately and share everything accurately at all times? For the die-hard “tell it like it is” types, this question may seem obvious, but consider the Alzheimer’s patient who keeps forgetting her husband has died. Every time we confirm that he has, she feels fresh grief. The next time she asks “Is my husband still at the store?” Is “Yes” more compassionate than breaking the news of his death once again? What happens when reality and compassion clash?
Or consider this headline from BBC Health this week:
Virtual reality could help stroke patients recover by “tricking” them into thinking their affected limb is more accurate than it really is, researchers find.” In this case, an illusion is central to the therapeutic process . . .
Stroke Arm

The virtual reality arm appears to move faster and more accurately than the real arm. Courtesy of BBC Health

Perhaps the guiding principle is that we should be more interested in meeting people where they are, than where they should be. This does not mean abandoning timeless ideals of truth and justice, but it does ask for a certain nuance and compassion in how we apply these lasting principles.

Comments
  1. Malaika says:

    Great post JB! I was skeptical of Twitter too but have since come across some great organizations that I am in interested in on the subject of baby and maternal health. I think when used appropriately, it can really open your mind to new worlds you didn’t know existed as well as meeting new people with similar interests. It has to be used responsibly like any other form of social media. I liked the questions you posed in this post on the subject of “reality”. Food for thought!

    Like

  2. Thanks Kalu! Niche interests are a great way to use Twitter. What is becoming increasingly clear to me is that social media savvy will soon be as indispensable a skill as knowing how to use Microsoft Word!

    Like

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