Even when I know I’m wrong (and I’m not saying that’s something that happens with any sort of frequency, you understand) I have to fight against the urge to dig in, double down and create my own reality distortion field that will enable me to be right and her to be wrong.
I’m not the only dude who does this. No. It seems as if this is something everyone does.
It goes something like this: In my head, that is, my self image is that of a reasonably intelligent person who is cynical enough to not be taken in by most cons and is able to fairly evaluate evidence and remember results. That’s the story I tell me about me. And, who knows, it might even be true.
However, when telling myself that story, it necessarily precludes my being wrong. I mean, that sort of person couldn’t be wrong. I am that sort of person. Therefore, I can’t be wrong. I don’t care what the evidence says. Sound at all familiar?
No, I’m not really talking to you dudes specifically, but I’m actually thinking about every single discussion I’ve had with my three young dudes from the time just before they sprouted their first pubic hair on. Despite any evidence to the contrary, these young dudes tell themselves some really great stories about their own competence and breadth of knowledge. And we know that any person like that couldn’t be wrong. Therefore, I am an idiot and should be told so.
Yeah, now that’s starting to sound quite familiar, isn’t it?
I got started thinking of this while I was reading a blog post by Christine Aschwanden, an award-winning freelance science journalist, on a cooperative groupblog called Last Word On Nothing. She gave a talk on what she’s learned from getting mail for her science news articles. Basically it boils down to, people don’t like to be told their closely held beliefs are wrong.
Tell readers that they’re wrong about something they know in their heart to be true, and they will send you hate mail.
Narrative trumps evidence, in other words.
Instead of thinking, hmmmm, maybe I need to reassess here, what most of us do is go back and think about why we’d come to those beliefs in the first place. And in the process of doing that, we remember how great those reasons were and we end up reinforcing our original beliefs. Instead of re-evaluating, you become more sure of yourself.
Something to remember the next time you’re, just as a for instance, out at a shoe store and your 12-year-old declares that the size 11 shoes fit him just perfectly and he should get them, not the size 8 your stupid mind says he should. Facts just don’t cut it. You need to find the story that will help him realize the truth.
Of course, that probably won’t happen until after the very loud, very public temper tantrum. Sorry.
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