Saturday, October 19, 2019

Why Evidence still doesn't Change your Mind

I've often stated that we don't engage in political discourse here on The Walkabout. But truth be said, unless we have successfully transitioned into sovereign individuals and managed to go seasteading in international waters, politics will continue to adversely affect our lives.

In Kenya, we voted for the current leadership in August 2017. The process itself took much longer, thanks to a repeat Presidential election on October 2017. You'd then assume that Kenyans would have made better choices after witnessing the institutionalized corruption, impunity in wastage of public resources, shameless embezzlement and wanton plunder from public coffers. The years between 2013 and 2017 should have served as a lesson that neccessitated changes but not much changed. Kenyans went again and voted for different monkeys from the same forest.

This failure to correctly judge situations, to repeat the same mistakes is often driven by a number of factors. Some of the causes have publicly been shared by scholars in the past, let's have a dig at some of the reasons we so hopelessly fail at making value decisions.

Odds and Value Estimation

As outlined on the Farnam Street blog, Dan Gilbert says that humans are works in progress who mistakenly think they're finished. In other words, we wrongly imagine the same person we are today is the same person we shall be till death.

In his 2005 TED Talk, Dan Gilbert explored why we make bad decisions.
For starters, the expected value of any action is a product of the odds that one will gain something from the act, and the gain in value i.e.

Expected Value = Odds of Gain x Value of Gain.

But it turns out that we usually attach value to things based on their past value, instead of the current value on the basis of context. In other words, based on what is possible.

It is quite an interesting and insightful talk, which ends with this thought-provoking statement:

We underestimate the odds of our future pains, and overestimate the value of our present pleasures.

Confirmation Bias

This refers to the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs and theories.

Writing in The New Yorker, Elizabeth Colbert points to limitations of reason, with the desire to win arguments taking precedence over straight thinking.
It so happens that when we form impressions, they persist and stay with us.

But there's a reason why once we form beliefs and the evidence for such beliefs has been totally refuted, we don't make appropriate revisions in such beliefs.
One explanation of this, is how evolution has fashioned us into social beings who collaborate and live in groups.

Accordingly, it is all about cooperation. And as James Clear writes:
We don't always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we belief things because they make us look good to the people we care about. 

This is why we continue to hold on to beliefs that are factually false, but socially accurate.

* * *

We have in the past talked about trying to wash our hands in dirty water, or just being blind with one's eyes wide open. Humans seem to be irresistibly lured by things that actually harm them, things that may seem good, but aren't beneficial. Toxic things.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...