Let’s start off with the definitions of each o the above.

Willful Ignorance: According to researchers Gigerenzer and Garcia-Retamero, this is a “state o knowledge in which a person does not know the answer to a question” and

Deliberate Ignorance: is the “willful decision not to know, as opposed to the inability to access information or disinterest in a question.”

Even when provided information they choose to remain deliberately ignorant.

Willful Blindness:  is if you could have known, should have known something, that instead you strive not to see to avoid truth. And this is conscious. It is having “blinders” on and a human phenomenon. We choose to let go and leave out crucial information. (Margaret Hefferman, The Dangers of Willful Blindness).

Margaret Hefferman goes on to say that we like people that are similar to us. Those feelings of familiarity and security make us like ourselves more because we surround ourselves with familiarity and similarity which satisfies our needs to like ourselves more. Our minds are like dating site algorithms – we scan lie for matches and when we find one, we relish the feel-good affirmation. So everything outside our “safe circle” is our blind spot.

Robert Burton, neurologist, who studies the biological basis of bias and why our brains tend to reject information, broadens our outlook: “neural networks don’t give you a direct route from, say, a flash of light straight to your consciousness. There are all kinds of committees that vote along the way, whether the flash of light is going to go straight to your consciousness or not. If there are enough “yes” votes then you can see it.  If there aren’t, you could miss it. But here’s the thing, if you get the “yes” vote your brain, it already recognizes and likes what is familiar. So you will see the familiar stuff right away. The other stuff may take longer, or it may never impinge on your consciousness. You won’t see it.”  He goes on to say, “Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. What’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty.  We think we see more – even as truth shrinks….as humans we are highly driven to find and protect ourselves and what is familiar to us and makes us feel safe. This requires “illusion” in order to endure.”

The most harrowing example of this is families damaged by child abuse. Some 700,000 cases of child abuse are reported each year but yet this is the most underreported forms of violence in society. In order for non reports or underreported crimes of child abuse to happen is that many of the family members may be blind to the tragedy within and requires non-perpetrating parents, guardians, family members, to question their own reality to such a degree that many find unconscious escape in their “willul blindness.”

The paradox of blindness: We think it will make us safe as it puts us in danger. We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know.  But when we look and listen, we give ourselves hope because we “insist” on looking and listening to truths around us. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?