Apparently we can’t, or at least that’s the conclusion Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons reach in their book The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. Reviewer Paul Bloom, a Yale psychology professor, writes:
If we can’t eliminate our illusions, though, our awareness that they exist can change how we think of ourselves and others. It is tempting to see our tendency to get stories wrong or overestimate our abilities as reflecting arrogance and stupidity. But Chabris and Simons show that this is mistaken, and they end their engaging and humane book with the hope that a better understanding might help us temper these reactions. The invisible gorilla just might teach us to be more humble, understanding and forgiving.
I’m adding this book to my reading list, but I find that I’m a bit hesitant to actually pick it up. Bloom is right, of course. More importantly, any search for goodness has to take into account how our own psychology and/or physiology can trip us up. But the thought of reading about how all human beings mislead themselves sends shivers down my spine. What illusions have I created for myself?