Desires to be Right

Weekly I/O#48

The desire to be right and the desire to have been right are two desires. The sooner we separate them, the better off we are.

Book: The Web of Belief

Warren Buffett once said:

“What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

We tend to cherry-pick the information that confirms our existing beliefs. This tendency is called confirmation bias, which explains why if there's something we feel like doing, we can always find enough evidence to support doing it.

Confirmation bias highlights the difference between the desire to be right and the desire to have been right. The desire to be right is the thirst for truth. It drives us to be humble and explore more. On the other hand, the desire to have been right is the pride that makes us stick to our beliefs. It stands in the way of our seeing we were wrong and thus blocks the progress of our knowledge.

This difference also demonstrates why two people with different perspectives can see the same evidence but come up with different conclusions and argue with each other. The desire to be right should drive us to understand the other side. Nonetheless, the desire to have been right clouds our judgment. We stop being curious and stick to our guns to keep our existing perspective intact.

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