Here’s a discussion prompt that I recently posted on the discussion board of an online course: “A couple of things that I find a little surprising are that (1) one in four teens contracts an STD before leaving high school and (2) four in ten babies are born to single mothers. How do you think the personal fable that occurs during the teen years might relate to this?
While reading the responses, it occurred to me that many of the adults I know must be still operating with the “personal fable” mindset, a view that what happens to them is unique and exceptional AND that they are invulnerable to the risks that affect other people. A teen might feel that he or she can engage in premarital sex because although other might get pregnant, “It won’t happen to me.” Similar thoughts include, “Others might contract an STD, but not me.” Or, “Sure, other people drink, drive, and crash, but not me.”
What about adults? I know adults who persist in smoking, overeating, failing to exercise, drinking, not managing stress, and so forth who continue to believe that nothing will happen to them. Despite information that warns them about cancer and heart disease being leading causes of death, they somehow don’t get the connection between that information and their own lives.
Have you seen evidence of this kind of faulty thinking? Do you think it’s a “grown up” version of the personal fable, or could it be more like cognitive dissonance?