I sat there dumbfounded. I wasn’t sure what to say. I had laid out the facts. There was no room for interpretation. Yet he refused to accept it.
I’m sure a lot of us can relate to that experience. It seems there are some people who simply refuse to accept any level of evidence, which makes the surprising twists in Dan Ariely’s books a little less surprising. These books are so interesting and exciting that I love to devour each one I get my hands on, giving me a stronger peek at the whole of human nature.
Dan Ariely is a Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Quite simply, his job is to help people understand how people tick. He’s written several books on the subject including Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. Oddly enough the books typically show us how, as rational as we think we are, we can be quite the opposite.
For instance, he’s set out experiments where he had Hershey’s Kisses available for 1 cent and Lindt Truffles available for 26 cents. Students could make a choice on which they would have and the decision was evenly split. However, when he dropped the price of both chocolates making the Kiss free and the truffle 25 cents, 90 percent chose the truffle! The price difference was the same, but the the notion of “free” made a huge impact on the sale.
This same principle explained a disparity in increased sales when Amazon offered free shipping for the first time everywhere. Well, everywhere except France where it was a penny. Sales at Amazon shot up because of the free shipping. Well, they shot up everywhere but France, where it stayed the same. One single penny and there was no change in sales.
It’s in books like these and many others where our eyes are opened. We think higher bonuses will help us perform better, but the data and the experiments show a different story. We think financial deterrents will improve the behavior of others, but it seems to make the behavior worse.
In short, how we think we are wired, and how we are actually wired are often two different things. We like to think we operate one way, but we often operate another. Pick up any of Dan Ariely’s books, and you will see what I mean.
What We Really Want
Which leads us to being right. Most of us don’t want to be right. Most of us have very little concern for being right. Most of us, when faced with truth that contradicts our belief about ourselves or our world do one simple thing: we dismiss it.
The funny thing is many of you are probably doing that right now. Some are saying that I’m wrong, and I don’t know what I’m talking about. You’re saying, “sure, some may do that, but not me. I don’t do that.” This is called “The Ostrich Effect” where we ignore information we don’t like. And this highlights what we really want.
If you looked at the information I presented, without looking at the sources or mulling over the possibilities and dismissed it, than you are showing what you really want. Like most people, you don’t want to be right. It’s just not high on most people’s lists. Instead, you want to feel right.
Most people don’t care about aligning their understanding of the world with the facts; most people care about cherry-picking the information they absorb to match their understanding of the world, also known as “Confirmation Bias”.
So they go about their lives, feeling right about everything they know, having no desire to be right.
Who Are You?
So who are you? Are you someone who wants the truth and holds it sacred, searching not for information to back up your personal view of the world, but searching instead to understand the world as it exists? Are you someone who accepts the facts, evaluates the evidence, and believes the truth, no matter how difficult or painful it may be to your ego?
Are you someone who wants to feel right, or are you someone who wants to be right?
Who are you?