The Art of Being Wrong

Being wrong is an art-form that most of us are yet to master.

I don’t think I am exceptionally great at it though admission is the first step, right?  It’s not that I necessarily hate being wrong.  It’s just that I truly believe I’m right a lot of the time.  Even when there is a high chance, I’m not.  Let’s me introduce you to our ol’ friend, Motivated Reasoning.

Motivated reasoning is an emotion-biased decision making phenomenon where people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence stating the contrary.  In other words, rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.

Julia Galef gives a great TED talk on this topic.  She explains how motivated reasoning finds it’s way into most of our lives through the decisions we make about our health, our relationships, what we think is fair and ethical, the sports teams we follow and the political parties we support.  The most troublesome part of this biased way of thinking is that we do it unconsciously, even when we think we are being objective.

This reminds me of the documentary, ‘Making A Murder’, which took the world by storm last year.  I wonder how much motivated reasoning played into the trials of the suspects in question.  What about the huge religious, political and race issues we are seeing around the world?  Is this believing your own bullshit on a mass scale?  It’s definitely got to be a factor.

Still, there is hope for change.  Julia describes an alternate way of decision making known as “Scout Mindset” as the key to this evolution.  This way of thinking is not about winning or losing but about getting the most accurate picture of what’s really happening, even when it’s unpleasant or inconvenient.  Watch her talk for the full picture.

So, do you have a Soldier or a Scout Mindset?  As Julia described, Soldiers tend to prefer defensiveness and tribalism, and can be devaluing of people who change their opinions.  Scouts are curious and open, they are intrigued with things that test their own beliefs and I think most importantly, are grounded; their self worth is not tied to being right or wrong.

I think it’s nice to imagine that we are all Scouts just going about our lives but realistically, if we crucially examine our interactions and belief systems, we may find ourselves more aligned to the Soldier mindset than we realise.  To shift this way of thinking, we must practice being proud to be wrong and continue to open our minds to information that may contradict our current belief and value systems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning
Begley, Sharon. “Lies of Mass Destruction,” Newsweek (US). August 25, 2009.
Redlawsk, D. P.; Civettini, A. J. W.; Emmerson, K. M. (2010). “The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever “Get It”?”. Political Psychology 31 (4): 563. 

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