In this article you will know Why We Are Unchanged by Facts. When given the option of proving there is no need to change one’s mind, practically everyone chooses to focus on the proof, according to a quote by economist J.K. Galbraith.
Even more audaciously, Leo Tolstoy said, “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the slowest man if he has not formed any idea of them; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the wisest man if he is firmly convinced that he knows already, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”
What is happening here? Why don’t facts persuade us otherwise? And why, in any case, would someone continue to hold onto a misleading or incorrect notion? How do these actions benefit us?
False Beliefs’ Logical Fallacies
In order to exist, humans require a fairly accurate perception of the outside environment. You find it difficult to operate effectively every day if your model of reality differs greatly from the real world.
However, the human mind is concerned with other things in addition to truth and accuracy. People appear to have a strong desire to fit in.
I stated that “humans are herd animals” in Atomic Habits. We want to blend in, form relationships, and get the admiration and respect of our peers. These tendencies are necessary for our survival. Our ancestors spent the majority of their evolutionary history in tribes. Separation from the tribe, or worse, being cast out, meant certain death.
Knowing the reality of a situation is crucial, but so is sticking with your tribe. While these two desires frequently mesh well, they occasionally clash.
In many cases, making new friends is more beneficial to your daily life than learning the reality of a certain thought or fact. “People are embraced or condemned according to their ideas, so one role of the mind may be to hold views that bring the believer the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true,” wrote Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker.
We don’t always accept things as true just because they are true. Sometimes, we hold onto beliefs simply because they help us appear respectable to the people we care about.
When he said, “If a brain anticipates that it will be rewarded for adopting a particular belief, it’s perfectly happy to do so, and doesn’t much care where the reward comes from — whether it’s pragmatic (better outcomes as a result of better decisions), social (better treatment from one’s peers), or some mix of the two,” I thought Kevin Simler captured the situation well.
Even if they are not useful in a factual sense, false ideas might be valuable in a social sense. Without a better term, we could describe this strategy as “factually wrong, but socially accurate.” People frequently chose their friends and relatives above facts when given the option to choose between the two.
This realisation not only explains why we might keep our mouths shut at a dinner party or turn a blind eye when our parents say something inappropriate, but it also illuminates a more effective strategy for influencing other people.
Facts Do not alter our opinions Friendliness Works
In reality, persuading someone to change their tribe is the same as persuading them to change their thinking. They run the risk of severing social ties if they give up their ideas. If you take away someone’s community as well, you can’t expect them to change their viewpoint. You must provide them with a somewhere to go. Nobody wants their worldview broken apart, especially if it leads to loneliness.
Making friends with them, including them into your tribe, and bringing them into your circle are all effective ways to influence people’s opinions. They can now alter their opinions without fear of societal rejection.
Alain de Botton, a British philosopher, advises that we simply eat with those who don’t agree with us:
“The incomparable and peculiar benefit of sitting down at a table with a group of strangers is that it makes it a little harder to despise them with impunity. Racist tension and prejudice are fueled by abstraction. However, the closeness required by a meal disrupts our ability to cling to the notion that strangers who dress strangely and have unusual accents should be sent home or physically attacked. Something about passing the dishes, unfolding napkins at the same time, and even asking a stranger to pass the salt. There are few more successful ways to foster tolerance between wary neighbours than to make them eat supper together, despite all the widespread political remedies that have been put up to ease ethnic violence.
Perhaps distance rather than difference is what fosters hatred and tribalism. Understanding grows along with proximity. I’m reminded of the saying “I don’t like that man” by Abraham Lincoln. I must learn more about him.
We are not convinced by facts. It is friendship.
The Wide Range of Beliefs
The notion that Ben Casnocha shared with me years ago has stuck with me ever since: The persons most likely to influence our opinions are those with whom we agree on 98 percent of issues.
You are more likely to give credence to, weigh, or contemplate a radical concept if you know, like, and trust the person who holds it. You already concur with them on the majority of life’s issues. People ought to reconsider their position on this issue as well. However, it’s simple to write someone off as a crazy if they make the same extreme suggestion but are vastly different from you.
By plotting beliefs on a spectrum, one may see this distinction. There is no point in trying to persuade someone at Position 1 if you divide this spectrum into 10 parts and find yourself at Position 7. It is too big of a gap. The best use of your time at Position 7 is to make connections with those in Positions 6 and 8, gradually luring them in your direction.
The most passionate debates frequently take place between people who are at opposing ends of the spectrum, but learning happens most frequently from people who are close by. The more closely you are related to someone, the more probable it is that you will internalise their one or two differing opinions and let them influence how you think. You are more inclined to reject a concept outright the further it is from your current viewpoint.
It is incredibly challenging to switch sides when it comes to influencing people’s opinions. The spectrum cannot be jumped down. You must descend it by sliding.
Any concept that substantially deviates from your preconceived notions will appear to be dangerous. And a non-threatening setting is the ideal place to think about a dangerous concept. As a result, books frequently serve as a more effective means of shifting beliefs than discussions or disagreements.
People must carefully consider their status and appearance when conversing. They want to avoid looking foolish and saving face. The temptation is frequently to maintain one’s current stance in the face of unfavourable evidence rather than publicly retracting it.
This strain is eased by books. When reading a book, one can have a conversation without worrying about how others will react. When you don’t feel defensive, it’s simpler to be receptive.
Arguments are similar to an all-out assault on the person’s identity. Reading a book is similar to planting an idea in someone’s mind and allowing it to develop naturally. When someone is overcoming a pre-existing belief, there is enough mental conflict going on. They don’t have to fight with you as well.
Why Untrue Ideas Survive
The fact that people still talk about poor ideas is another factor in their persistence.
Any notion that is not spoken is dead. An idea that is never expressed verbally or in writing perishes with the creator. Only when an idea is repeated can it be remembered. They can only be taken seriously after being repeated.
People repeat ideas to show they belong to the same social group, as I’ve already mentioned. But here’s an important issue that most people overlook:
When people criticise poor ideas, they also perpetuate them. An notion must first be cited before it may be criticised. You wind up saying the same things over and over in the hopes that others would forget them, but of course they can’t since you keep bringing them up. A terrible concept is more likely to be believed by individuals if it is repeated frequently.
Let’s call this phenomena Clear’s Law of Recurrence: Even if a concept is untrue, the likelihood that someone will believe it is closely correlated with how often it has been repeated during the previous year.
You feed the very monster you are attempting to slay every time you attack a faulty concept. Every time you retweet or quote tweet someone you’re unhappy with, it benefits them, as one Twitter staffer put it. It spreads their nonsense. Silence is the punishment for the ideas you abhor. possess the self-control to deliver it to them.
Instead of discrediting terrible ideas, you would be better off promoting good ones. Don’t waste time arguing the merits of terrible ideas. You are only stoking the fire of foolishness and ignorance.
A terrible idea’s best case scenario is for it to be forgotten. A good concept is best served when it is shared with others. Spend as little time as possible discussing how other people are incorrect, as Tyler Cowen once said.
Feed the good ideas and let the bad ones starve to death.
The Knowledgeable Soldier
I am aware of your possible thoughts. “James, are you sure this time? Just let these idiots get away with it, am I to understand?
Just to be clear I’m not suggesting it’s never helpful to call attention to a mistake or a bad idea. But you must consider this question: “What is the goal?”
Why do you even want to criticise bad concepts? You probably desire to discredit terrible ideas because you believe that the world would be a better place if fewer people accepted them. In other words, you believe that if individuals had different perspectives on a few crucial issues, the world would be a better place.
I don’t think that attacking the opposing viewpoint is the best course of action if the objective is to genuinely alter people’s thoughts.
Most individuals debate to win, not to gain new knowledge. People frequently behave more like warriors than scouts, as Julia Galef so eloquently puts it. Soldiers are waging an intellectual offensive in an effort to subdue those who think differently than they do. Victory is the main feeling. In contrast, scouts are more like cerebral explorers who are slowly trying to survey the landscape while working with others. The motivator is a sense of curiosity.
You should behave less like a soldier and more like a scout if you want others to accept your ideals. The core idea of this strategy is brilliantly articulated by Tiago Forte’s question, “Are you willing to not win in order to continue the conversation?”
Be kind first, then do what’s right.
“Always remember that to debate, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are fighting against,” the brilliant Japanese author Haruki Murakami famously penned. Be kind even if you are right because losing your reality hurts.
When we are in the heat of the moment, it is easy to forget that our ultimate objective is to collaborate, befriend, and integrate the other side into our tribe. We lose sight of connecting because we are so focused on winning. It’s simple to put more effort on categorising people than engaging with them.
From the word “kin” comes the word “kind.” Kindness is a sign that you are treating someone like family. This, in my opinion, is a successful strategy for influencing someone’s decision. Make new pals. Share a meal. Donate a book.
Be kind first, then do what is right.