Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison
greensh

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Why Do We Believe Contrary Truths?

Question: Why do people persist in believing things that aren’t true?

A friend shared a very interesting “The New Yorker” article, posted Maria Konnikova, called “I Don’t Want to be Right”. My friend asked the question, “Why do people persist in believing things that aren't true?”. Ah! Food for thought!  I came up with a handful of reasons

1) It would be embarrassing to admit that they are wrong. This is all about saving face. People would rather cling to misinformation than be humiliated. A hallmark of this is that a person will tell you in private that they are believing an untrue thing.

2) It is inconvenient to believe something different. A change of belief would demand action that is not possible or desired. A person would like to believe something different, but they don’t have the time, means or energy to do so.

3) Changing the belief would go against a person’s ideology. The referenced article seems to come to the conclusion that ideology is the predominate reason why people hold on to beliefs in the face of contrary information. The article used the term “misinformation” and did not say “contrary information”. I think the distinction is important. An ideological person cannot conceive that they are misinformed. They would agree that the information is contrary, and then they would turn around and state that the differing belief is misinformed.

4) The person has always believed something and doesn’t want to change. This is a mild mixture of inconvenience and ideology. In essence, the person is just being contrary themselves. The person wouldn’t have to expend much energy to change, and there is no deep seeded ideology at state, but darn, they just don’t want to change for change’s sake.

Can these be worked with? Is education the answer to addressing contrary (misinformed) beliefs? Perhaps. The contrary person, #4, can be nudged if properly motivated. The humiliated person, #1, can be nudged if a face saving avenue is given them.

#2 and #3, inconvenience and ideology, are much more difficult. Inconvenience is a powerful motivator. Ideology is the strongest motivation of all. I don’t believe that just education can overcome the belief blocks of inconvenience and ideology. IMO it takes a paradigm shift outside of mere education. The world has to change, and in doing so, either it becomes easy to believe something new or there is no reason to ardently defend contrary beliefs. Does this happen? Sometimes, yes, but until then we are perpetrators and victims of misinformation and contrary beliefs.

Some parting thoughts… My comments above assume there is such a thing as a true truth, but that is a whole other line of thought t hat that can fill books. For now consider that I am speaking to beliefs that are contrary to majority beliefs. The classic example is that the world is round, and the earth goes around the sun. Truths? Yes now, but not in the past. Is the majority always right? No, but again, that could fill another set of books. Good stuff!
Tags: belief, eduation, ideology, truth
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