I remember looking disdainfully across the lunchroom table at my childhood friends - whose plates were covered with crusts from the cheese sandwich that accompanied chicken noodle soup day.
I knew the crusts were the part of bread that would make me strong and healthy and smart. Inside the crusts were magic ingredients that only fools would refuse. I ate my crusts every time I had the chance and looked with pity at my friends who didn't know or believe what I knew and believed about bread crust. My disdain came from the repeat record playing in my head, put there by grandparents and parents and other old relatives luring me into the accomplishment of finishing my food:
"Eat your crusts - they are the best part. That's where all the good stuff is!"
Literally years later, I realized the crust is no more nutritious than the soft and squishy inner loaf. It sounds trivial, I know, but it was kind of a big deal. Of course, I'd seen bread made and even made it myself, but one day I realized that my belief that the crust is better was absolutely false.
I don't hold it against my family (I had two things working against me: my gullible nature and my very real hope that I could eat things that would make me grow taller) because they never actually said that the crust was more nutritious or that it would make me healthy and smart. I had somehow established that on my own, maybe to rationalize my eating it while my friends in the lunchroom made cartoons with theirs on the long brown tables.
What I'm trying to say is... we want to believe something. I want to believe that my actions are motivated by a purpose and that that purpose is true. The trouble is when we start with wrong information or gather wrong information to support what we believe.
I remember (I am embarrassed to say how old I was) looking at a piece of bread, trying to find reasons why nutrition would travel to the outside of the loaf during the baking process.
I know bread crust is a funny place to begin thinking about research, but a child is sometimes very similar to a scientist in the sense that she is curious and motivated to find answers. As I read social science research about child welfare and family structure and inner city crime, I wonder about the motive behind the research.
It's humbling to be wrong and even more humbling to discover you have piled up evidence (or made up evidence) to support something you believe.