Your Brain Filters Out Information That Contradicts Your Beliefs — But You Can Reprogram It

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woman ignoring information
Self

Lisa Loeb once sang, “You say, I only hear what I want to,” and as it turns out, there may be some science behind the claim of whoever it was that said it to her.

To be more specific, a network of neurons in the brain known as the reticular activating system (RAS) essentially personalizes the information you take in via a process known as selective attention.

Transformation and meditation expert Tanya Beauty Coach recently posted a two part series on TikTok explaining how this system in your brain filters out information that doesn’t align with your beliefs, as well as how you can increase your awareness of information being presented to you.

Now everyone, including me, wants to think, “I don’t do that. I’m logical and listen to all the information presented to me.”

Well I hate to break it to you, this phenomenon of selective attention is something that happens to all of us.

What is the reticular activating system?

If you’ve taken a high school or college psychology course, you may be familiar with the term, even if you're not exactly sure of how it works.

The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network of neurons located in your brain stem that mediate your behavior, as well as arousal, consciousness and motivation. As part of its function, this cluster of neural pathways works to determine which of the information you receive you pay attention to.

When you hear information, it is sent to your RAS, where it is filtered in a process known as sensory gating.

But some information, often contradictory information, is not sent to be processed, as your RAS keeps your attention directed toward information you already possess that better aligns with your beliefs, which is easier for you to process and wrap your mind around.

RELATED: 5 Steps To Challenge Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back

In her video, coach Tanya explains that if you hold a belief strongly in your mind, your brain may not remember information that contradicts it.

“For example,” she said. “I believe that my friend is very often angry. If I believe that to my core, what will happen is my reticular activating system will filter out the times that she’s not angry. Meaning my friend may have a lot of days of smiles and laughter, but my brain may not remember them. So, I convince myself that she’s a very angry person.”

She further explained how this can apply to all of our beliefs.

“Whatever you believe is actually your truth, your reality, but it actually doesn’t make it really true!” she said.

How to Train Your RAS to Stop Filtering Out Contradictory Information and Keep an Open Mind

While it may sound impossible, you can retrain your brain to stop filtering out contradictory information.

In Tanya's second video, she explains how you can expand your awareness — and hopefully start catching some of that information that you may have missed — by following these four tips.

1. Meditate.

Tanya's first piece of advice is to meditate. She describes meditation as the “most powerful” way to open your mind and increase your awareness.

“Google what happens to your pineal gland when you meditate,” she says.

As Dr. Judy Tutin explains, "Each time you meditate, you choose to focus your attention on a specific object; you're practicing the ability to refocus your thoughts."

Some believe meditation also activates the pineal gland, the main function of which is to receive information about the light-dark cycle in the environment and convey that information in order to produce melatonin and alter your perception and awareness.

It is also though that activation of the pineal gland “through vibration and intention” is way to open your third eye chakra, a process Tanya refers to as “full blown opening up your awareness.”

2. Sit outside and look at the sky.

This simple visualization technique can help open up and increase your awareness and get your reticular activating system going.

According to Tanya's instructions, simply you go outside and take a look around.

“First start with the trees, then the clouds, then the blue skies and then beyond,” she says. “After that, I need you to use your imagination and imagine the space, the stars, the planets."

"What you’re doing is opening up your awareness,” she explains, helping you realize how small you are in comparison to all of the greatness in our universe.

RELATED: 10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Attention Span

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3. Understand that your core beliefs are only true for you.

Tonya asserts that the hardest part of this process is coming to understand that “your beliefs and your core values are only true for you.”

Arguably, the most effective way to start taking in new information you may otherwise miss is by questioning just how true the beliefs you've been selectively confirming are.

Recognizing that your reality is based on your perceptions rather than on concrete truths can leave you room to consider more possibilities may exist.

4. Set an intention.

While this is not a step mentioned by the beauty coach, setting intentions is a great and effective way to activate your reticular activating system.

The intention you choose can related to any aspect of your life, from career to friendship to love.

According to YourTango Expert, Dr. Ava Cadell, “Increasing your emotional awareness of how you want to feel when setting your intentions can impact how your reticular activating system works to filter out information that doesn't fit in with your preexisting beliefs.”

“If your emotional intention is to give and receive love, then tap into the positive feeling of being loved and reciprocating your love to someone specific,” she adds.

By setting your intentions, you are opening up your mind to what you want to happen, and your brain will begin to help you see the information you may have been missing.

RELATED: 5 Reasons People Believe Conspiracy Theories — And How To Protect Yourself From Misinformation

Livvie Brault is a writer who covers self-love, news and entertainment, and relationships for YourTango.