We all have opinions. Opinions are formed consciously, with reason and information gathered from our own and others' experiences. In fact, opinions may be the only thing separating our species from the hoi mammoi, the rest of the animal world over whom we are supposed to have dominion. Scratch a human and you get an opinion - or three. These are our theories about what we see happening in the world around us.
At a deeper psychological level, our opinions mate to produce beliefs. Beliefs are systems that satisfy our need to understand not only what is happening around us, but our participation in it. HOW do we get on in our world and why? Beliefs are explanations we construct from the bricks of our opinions, and it is only a shame that critical thinking is no longer a cultural forté in the US.
While beliefs can and do respond to reason and enquiry, they are also susceptible to experience, so that they can be altered by new exposures, particularly one-on-one personal encounters that "prove" an opinion to be wrong. There is nothing like a good liberal education. This is how most cognitive dissonance starts clamoring; beliefs morph with information, enquiry, and experience to create the specific kind armour we wear in our lives.
Beneath both of these conscious psychological levels lie our unconscious primary assumptions, our “takes” on living. Unaffected by reason or logic, this is the realm of Conversion, the emotional space that drives our beliefs. No amount of argument can "change their mind." No logic can bend the stupefyingly adamant assumption that people are basically good, or that they are instead randomly to be feared; Are we entitled to whatever we can get? or is it better to share what we have with others? Are people who look like us "better" than other tribes? Is the glass half empty or half full?
These basics of our personalities, in my own opinion, are the Captains our Fates. Instilled from early childhood – nurture - or part of your personality when you were born – nature, they shape our expectations of the world and point to paths with which our primary assumptions mostly resonate; new exposures that grow the twig as the tree is bent, in fact, directing those encounters and calling to themselves their own proofs, so each of us sees different things in the same phenomenon, those details that support our primary assumptions. In Roshoman fashion, every tale is unique and often contradicts the next: How can you think that proves there are alien space travelers, against How can you deny there is no other explanation but aliens? Close the doors to immigrants! What climate change?
Unavailable to reason, they are. But they ARE available to the odd experience that does NOT support the Weltanschauung, that clashes completely with assumptive expectation. Having more experiences invites Conversion, opportunities for change, in perhaps the only way to get it through our thick skulls. By seeing for ourselves, first hand, that what we expect cannot be true. Like a Bernie Sanders nomination.