We Hear Only What We Want to Hear

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We are all guilty of a behavior our parents have long accused: ignoring the facts we don’t like and “hearing what we want to hear.”  This pattern appears not only in dealing with the facts of everyday life, but sometimes when we are confronted with scientific proof of an unsettling situation.

This tendency has surfaced in the recently reignited debate over the danger of concussions in the NFL.  Even when faced with numerous studies documenting a correlation between football-related concussions and long-term brain damage, some experts like Dr. Ira Casson as well as some members of the general public continue to doubt the validity of the scientific proof.

In an insightful article on the subject, Deborah Blum points out that history challenges this opinion.  Studies dating back to 1928 forcefully claim that athletes who experience blows to the head are in danger of developing more serious brain injury.  This idea is thus not new.

While skepticism is necessary when dealing with scientific proof (after all, you could say that the whole field is built on skepticism), sometimes you can be too skeptical.  In the case of brain damage and the NFL, there is a large body of evidence.  It is hard to find a legitimate reason to deny it, other than to say that we would rather not acknowledge the danger.  We don’t want to hear the proof not because there is not enough of it, but because it will change how we view football.

- blog authored by Alex Gast

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