First of all, I just want to say that whenever you see text that is bold and underlined like this, you should mouse-hover. Those are some extra thoughts, additional details, or just any extra information that I felt didn’t fit with the flow of the sentence. Just like the title text in all original images on this blog.
The human mind is a pretty huge mystery. We see patterns, we successfully predict what it is going to do sometimes, and we are slowly but surely mapping it from observations only with psychology, while trying very hard to reverse engineer it. The thing is, it’s harder and harder to believe we are rational. Just look at Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases. There are 174 today, and there is no reason to think the list will stop growing now. That’s a lot of different ways to be irrational.
One of the most interesting biases, according to me, is the Backfire Effect. Basically, the more you believe in something, the more likely you are to, upon hearing evidence against your belief, actually believe it even more.
I’ve been thinking about it. Being a smart guy, I figured that I was at least rational enough to avoid the least logical biases. I’m probably able to accept new information and change my mind, right? If someone offers actual evidence that I was wrong about something, then I can stop being wrong by changing my position. Can I? The more I think about it, the more scary it is. Was there ever a time I actually changed my mind on a topic in which I had strong beliefs? Every single time I can recall, the topic was really not very important to me. I was either neutral and didn’t take a side yet, or I didn’t care. Obviously, it’s also possible that I am part of the 0.000001% smartest human beings who are never wrong on topics that they actually care enough about to do a minimum of research on. But that’s pretty damn unlikely. I’m probably just like every other average person out there who just won’t change his mind.
I can’t count the number of times I got frustrated because someone wouldn’t listen to actual evidence and admit they were wrong. I’ve argued a lot in my life, probably more than average. How many times was I the one who refused to see the truth?
Scott Adams claims that he successfully persuaded an angry Trump-hater into a Trump supporter in 10 minutes. According to what he usually says on that subject, he probably didn’t use any fact or proof, or very little of it as “Because effect” ammo. Analogy and Emotion are probably his favorite weapons. I still have trouble believing that without seeing it. Anyone who is actually an “angry Trump-hater” probably made up his mind with emotion and analogy in the first place, otherwise he might hate Trump but he won’t be angry about it.
The backfire effect isn’t supposed to work every single time. Maybe I forgot those times I actually changed my mind because of Selective Memory. Maybe Cognitive Dissonance makes me think I didn’t actually have an opinion before the change even if I had one. Maybe I’m just incredibly stubborn.
Did you ever change your mind on a topic where you had strong beliefs and cared a lot about? Did you ever witness anyone else doing so? You should answer this in the comments, because I asked you to.
Am I a trained hypnotist yet?