Your Beliefs Are Bad and You Should Feel Bad

It’s odd how prone we are as humans to believe some things not because of the evidence we see in front of us, but in spite of it.  

I once tried to explain to a lottery player that it didn’t matter how many winners or losers had just been sold out of the pack, the odds for winning on the next ticket remained exactly the same.  It’s called the gambler’s fallacy.  It’s a misunderstanding of the way odds work.  I pointed out that, if there were a system which would allow a person to determine when the next ticket was a winner, there wouldn’t be anyone working at stores who sold lottery tickets because all of those employees would have spotted the pattern and used it to become wealthy already.

And yet, despite the fact that these “lucky” systems have not worked to make these players as rich as they want to be and that it is highly likely they cannot even name one person they know who has succeeded at getting rich off the lottery, the belief that their system “works” persists.  Trying to convince an avid lottery player otherwise is not generally a productive endeavor.

So is there even a point to trying to convince someone that the world doesn’t work the way they believe it does?  Those who believe that they have a “lucky system” for winning the lottery will always perceive the world in a distorted manner which favors their belief.  Likewise, those who believe that they can convince others of the error of their views are similarly delusional.  Overwhelming evidence tells us that telling others they are wrong does very little to change their minds.

Back to the lottery player, then.  Why did I even try to tell him he was wrong?  Well, it’s because I wanted him to stop playing just then.  I was annoyed.  It didn’t really matter to me in the long run if my explanation actually made him rethink his gambling strategies.  I had no real investment in changing his belief in luck or chance or whether the first ticket on the roll was lucky or not.  I just wanted, in that particular moment, for him to go away so I could get on with what I was doing.  

Is that why we do this, then?  Is that why we confront others and dispute their worldviews?  Is it more an act intended to push them away and put comfortable distance between us than it is to change their minds?  

Is it an effort to get them to shut up and go away?

If so, I think we should be prompted to take a moment to think about what we’re doing when others challenge our views and beliefs.  Are they trying to convert our thinking, or have we imposed on them to the point where they just want to make us go away?  

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