The high cost of hanging onto erroneous opinions

August 9, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

How often are you wrong? Once a day? Once a week? Once a month?

And, more importantly, how often do you admit it — first to yourself and then to others?

We are wrong far more often than we think we are, and we are willing to admit our errors far less often than we should. In not admitting that we are wrong — clinging to the opinions we hold in the face of opposition and evidence — prevents us from achieving the happiness and peace of mind that we seek.

That’s the argument of Arthur Brooks in a recent article in The Atlantic:

. . . being closed off to being proved wrong or to having our beliefs challenged has huge costs. Leaders who surround themselves with yes-men have been shown to make costly—and sometimes catastrophic—mistakes. One classic example is the Bay of Pigs debacle, in which President John F. Kennedy’s insular cabinet failed to challenge his misguided instincts. Or consider the political punditocracy that assumed Donald Trump couldn’t possibly be a serious threat to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and never revised those assumptions. If your goal is to find the truth, admitting you are wrong and changing your beliefs based on new facts makes you better off in the end. This is a primary feature of what philosophers call “epistemic humility.” Source: How to Get Better at Admitting You’re Wrong – The Atlantic

So, how can we avoid the high costs of defending erroneous beliefs?

Brooks has five practical suggestions that can help you achieve the humility that will increase your psychological well being.


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