Our brains are geared for survival. Mental energy is preserved as much as possible, meaning we prefer to do familiar things (most of us do the same thing every day, even at the same time) and prefer to hear & read things that ‘fit’ us as this is the least strenuous. The same energy saving mechanism is applied by the brain when it comes to others, we (unconsciously) veer towards people who are like us, be it in age, background, culture, language and/or gender.
Thomas Erikson, in his book ‘Surrounded by Idiots’ says that “communication always happens on the listener’s terms”. Everything you say to your listener will first be filtered by them and only after all this filtering is done, they will get the rest of what you meant to say, but the way your message is received may be not quite what you meant to convey as so much is lost in your listener’s filters. This makes it very difficult to get across a message to someone very different from you. Flipping this around, if the listener is very much like you, much less filtering is needed, and more mental energy is available to receive your message in its more original form without ‘noise’.
So, if ‘noise’ tends to push out the unfamiliar, how does this affect how we read and consume news and listen to others? With news & information (a social media addiction for many of us) we do – consciously or unconsciously - apply a multiple of biases. The most well-known of which is our confirmation bias, meaning we seek the information (and the people with it) confirming what we already believe and what further strengthens that belief. This makes us cherry-pick news and skip over topics that, even if newsworthy, do not fit our own interest or narrative.