- Simon Tam
- Portland, OR
- United States
Director of Marketing & Business Development, The Slants LLC
Why are we so afraid of being wrong, even when faced with facts?
The Kathryn Schulz talk, "On being wrong," recently reminded me a University of Michigan study on cognitive dissonance.
The Boston globe wrote: "Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts..."
Talk of the Nation on NPR stated: "We'd like to believe that most of what we know is accurate and that if presented with facts to prove we're wrong, we would sheepishly accept the truth and change our views accordingly...that's not what happens, that we base our opinions on beliefs and when presented with contradictory facts, we adhere to our original belief even more strongly."
After being involved with political activism for over a decade, I've seen this behavior over and over again (often times in myself). It seems even more persistent online (just look at many of the TED debates here), perhaps because of the level of separation or anonymity that the internet provides.
Why do you think we're so afraid of being wrong, even if we're presented with data that challenges our notions? Why do as people lose our ability to reason when threatened with the possibility that a belief might be wrong (whether it is in politics, religion, science, or even opinions on pop culture)? How can we avoid this behavior?