Are all arguments just someone's subjective opinion

Objectivity: Recognize prejudices, improve perception

Is Objectivity Possible? As soon as we judge options or people, we live in the dilemma of “objectivity” and “subjectivity”. Sympathies, the power of first impressions, the psychology of body language and choice of words, even our experiences shape us to the tips of our hair. We may act consciously rationally. But subconsciously, subjective feelings, stereotypes and prejudices have long since taken control. We decide anything but objective, but highly individual and emotional. Why is objectivity important anyway? And how can we make more objective decisions in the future? The answers…

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is the difference between subjective and objective?

Both terms form the extreme poles on a scale:

  • One thing subjective to look at means to evaluate them personally - through one's own feelings, experiences, instinct. We like something, find someone likeable, attractive. All of this is in the eye of the beholder. Subjectivity is like a “nonetheless”: factually, the choice may be nonsense, subjectively it seems completely right to us.
  • Something lens to judge, on the other hand, is an attempt at a sober, purely objective consideration. Only rational arguments, data and facts count. The mind decides, not the heart.

What is objectivity?

The term comes primarily from test theory ("test objectivity"). In scientific research, this is intended to ensure the independence of the measurement methods and test results and to exclude falsifying factors. It is about the complete neutrality of a study in the implementation, evaluation and subsequent interpretation. The result should not be influenced by previous knowledge or prejudices and should later be assessed by others (outsiders) as factually comprehensible, logical and as correct as possible.

However, such objectivity as a quality criterion is often an illusion. The results of behavioral economics and cognitive science show us all too clearly that we rarely succeed in making an objective assessment. We try to check our judgments on a regular basis - through critical queries, fact checks or data analyzes. That is also all reasonable. At the same time, however, we have to admit that the selection of sources, ignoring unpopular numbers and hiding other opinions already represents a manipulation of the result.

“Don't trust any statistics that you haven't falsified yourself!” - The amusing saying already reveals our unwillingness to be objective. Wherever something does not fit into our worldview, it is made to fit. Until beloved judgments and prejudices are confirmed. It is the hour of birth of the "alternative facts". It wasn't just Donald Trump who invented it.

Why is objectivity important?

Does the heart decide better? Absolutely. Often even faster and more correctly than the head. Our intuition, the proverbial gut feeling, is a powerful ally. Various studies show: With the subconscious, we can access information, experiences and feelings stored in the brain in fractions of a second and evaluate them. However, only a fraction of this knowledge is consciously available.

The Bremen brain researcher Gerhard Roth has determined, for example, that the subconscious can process a few million pieces of information per second, but the conscious mind can only process 0.1 percent of it. Instinct and intuition - they are close relatives of wisdom. Now comes the but ...

We can be wrong about this. And then, if we only think that we can fall back on this wealth of knowledge. But the knowledge is wrong - or simply cannot be applied to it. Motto: “We have always done it this way. - Yes, but the times are different! ”It's a bit like the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect and its four levels:

  • First we overestimate our own knowledge and ability (level 1).
  • At the same time, we are blind to the extent of our own incompetence (level 2).
  • Why we do not correct our half-knowledge (level 3).
  • And underestimate the truth or the skills of others (level 4).

The pursuit of objectivity is therefore not only noble. It also saves us from misjudgment, prejudice, and ventilates our mind. Please don't make it too comfortable up there. Or as another bon mot puts it in a nutshell: "Don't believe everything you think!"

To “judge objectively” something means attempting to make a choice that is not only true and right for ourselves and at that moment, but could also stand up to general scrutiny. The idea of ​​objectivity was ultimately already summed up by the great enlightener and critic of the power of judgment, Immanuel Kant, in his categorical imperative: "Act so that the maxim of your will could at any time also apply as a principle of general legislation." That is, admittedly, a high standards and anything but subjective. But it is not impossible.

Why is objectivity so difficult for us anyway?

Willing means not being able to. We want and should make decisions that are as rational and objective as possible in everyday life and at work. In fact, we are more often guided by unconscious prejudices and stereotypes. The technical term for this is: cognitive biases - and there are quite a few of them. After all, those who know it and are aware of it are less likely to fall for it. Therefore, here is a selection of the cognitive biases and thought patterns that we encounter and influence particularly frequently in everyday life:

The Rosenthal Effect

This effect was first demonstrated in an experiment by social psychologists Robert Rosenthal and K.L. Fode and is also known under the name "Pygmalion Effect". Behind this is ultimately the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecy. During the experiments, for example, teachers told their students that they were among the best in their year. Their grades and performance have already improved. In the end, they really were among the best. The only catch: the story was a lie. At first the students were at best mediocre.

Expectation and encouragement alone are enough to bring about an increase in performance. This not only works in school, but also at work or in sports. Not only in a positive way, but also in a negative way (see: “Andorra Effect”): No matter what expectations we have towards other people - we will behave accordingly towards them, with the result that at some point they will meet our expectations. Not because YOU are like that, but because WE behave like that.

The primacy effect

This is the technical term for the (mostly completely subjective) first impression. Within a fraction of a second, we decide whether we like the other person or not. This assessment is based solely on the appearance, body language or smell of our counterpart. Once the judgment has been made, we put everything that comes after that into this drawer. Man - he fits into the picture.

The primary effect, as the primacy effect is also known, makes it extremely difficult for us to recognize people for who they really are. Once unsympathetic, always unsympathetic. We hide the other pages, which are also objectively present.

The recency effect

Where the primacy effect prevails, the recency effect is not far away. It forms the counterpart at the end: the power of the last impression. That is because it gets stuck and reverberates. A serious faux pas, a stupid saying at the end - and all that trust and sympathies are gone. Just like the first impression, the last impression also shapes our judgment of a person for a long time.

Let's put it as it is: we cannot really perceive reality. Our perception of reality is exactly that: OUR subjective reality. We are part of it and help to construct reality. Even if we experience it very differently in everyday life.

Gain objectivity: Make less subjective decisions

Back to the initial question: Is objectivity possible? Yes she is. But it is not easy and it does not always work. Prejudices and clichés can massively hinder our decision-making power - without us noticing. But we don't have to accept the fact fatalistically. We can also counteract all of the subjective judgment traps. The following tips can help you to gain more objectivity in everyday life and to jump over your own (mental) shadow more often:

Be aware of your choices.

The first and most important step has already been taken with this reading: You are just realizing that you usually do not make any objective judgments. Perhaps not the best finding of the day, but an important one. In the second step, you should bring to light your unconscious motives for choosing: Which triggers do you regularly react one way or another? What makes the mind disengage? What is it that puts you in a state of intoxication? By dealing with the various biases and psychological effects, you will get on your own track - and get on the glue less often. In short: the honest and self-critical analysis exposes subjective decision traps.

Change your perspective.

Every now and then it helps to take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. To make this easier, you can, for example, slip into a new role: Imagine, for example, that your best friend has to make the decision that you are currently facing. What would you advise him to do? And what almost always helps: Sleeping over it for a night (see video):

Take your time.

Objectivity takes time. It is seldom spontaneous. There is no such thing as ad hoc objectivity. It certainly doesn’t succeed under pressure. On the contrary: Those who put themselves under pressure regularly fall back into well-known thought patterns. The brain then goes on autopilot. A kind of protective reflex. But not a smart one. Before making important decisions, always take the pressure off and take as much time as necessary. No fewer sellers use the so-called artificial shortage (“This offer is only valid for 24 hours”) to seduce us. A nasty trick. But against which you can defend yourself: Really "one-off" opportunities are rare. There is almost always a second chance. It's even better at times.

List advantages and disadvantages.

Writing something down, literally seeing alternatives in black and white, can add significantly more objectivity. By using the classic pros and cons list, the advantages and disadvantages of a choice can be better assessed. On the one hand by the sheer number (“more advantages than disadvantages”). But also through the meaningfulness of the respective arguments (“Is that really an advantage?”). The list shows something else as well: every now and then we do not tend to go for the variant that would be the best from an objective and purely rational point of view. Instead, we have long since made another choice. We find out about this “preliminary judgment” in the literal sense of the word if, for example, we disagree with the winner of the pros and cons list.

As a general rule, just knowing how we make personal decisions and how we arrive at our individual judgments leads to more objectivity. Even if we choose an illogical, subjective variant at first glance, we learn something about our preferences, inclinations, and prey schemes. OK then! Awareness creates (more) objectivity.

What other readers have read about it

[Photo credit: inimalGraphic by]