“Universal Process of Distortion”
Step one: “leveling”
To make the event/words easier to memorize, details are condensed or left out. Typically this changes the meaning.
We make choices on what details we remember either willfully or unconsciously.
• When we make them deliberately, it may be sin.
• When we make them unconsciously, it may be spiritual warfare (the devil interfering).
• Since we are emotional creatures we hear what we want to hear according to how we feel at the moment. (Selective listening)
• We are also sensitive to context.
• We may not have the skills to listen correctly. (Our background)
It is part of the sinful heritage of this world. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure [desperately wicked]. Who can understand it?”
Jesus was concerned about this! He said, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” [Luke 8:18a]
Step two: “sharpening”
The details that remain are made specific.
We take what we think we remember and begin to interpret.
• This is called “translation.” Since we all filter information, we must take what comes through those filters and translate it into useful information.
• When something does not make sense, we then add filler information. Typically this is judgmental. In other words, we are trying to discover or explain “why” a person would say or do what we think we remember them doing.
• This is called “projection” because the only point of view for judging another’s motives, words, or actions is our own. For instance, when we judge someone’s behavior or words to be dishonest it’s because we would be dishonest if we had done or said what we think we remember.
Jesus put it this way: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Matthew 7:1]
Step three: “assimilation”
The details are changed to make sense. The idea is to interpret significance.
We take information and try to make it mean something.
• Typically this is when we begin to “generalize” what we think we remember. One becomes a representative of all. For instance, someone may have said something wrong in one instance. When we hear it in another instance, probably from a different person, we assume that it is wrong (or intended to hurt).
• These generalizations become part of how we filter information.
• Thus, significance is selective... probably constructed from selective pieces of information that we think we have remembered. In reality we have remembered selectively, shaped things to fit what we (want to) understand, then reinforced them as significant.
God commanded His people, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.” [Deut. 4:9a]
The three steps are from Gordon Allport “The Psychology of a Rumor”