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Thread: The Psychology of Admitting that You're Wrong

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    Board philosopher or bored philosopher? jason_m's Avatar
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    Default The Psychology of Admitting that You're Wrong

    I think that all things being equal, more rational and intelligent people are more likely to admit that they're wrong - because there is usually nothing to lose from being wrong and often something to gain. Purely in terms of strategy, admitting you are wrong is often like giving up a pawn or a rook to come closer to capturing a king/queen. For instance, if your business is not working, you might sell it to pursue another venture. In the process of selling it, you might easily have to admit that you were wrong for starting it - even with other people - but intellectually, that should be okay -if you have something to gain from it. It's the same even with purely intellectual ideas: admitting that you're wrong could bring you one step closer to a better research paper, a sounder theory, a better invention, etc., as long as there is nothing significant to lose. However, because there is sometimes something to lose, I find that that is when people will usually not admit that they are wrong. In the case of the chess analogy, being wrong in those situations is like being forced into checkmate - and is that something that anyone likes? I also think that cognitive flexibility has something to do with this: most people who aren't flexible don't even see that in the process of being unwilling to sacrifice their 'pawns' that they are essentially forfeiting the game... And let's not forget: issues of honesty and personal integrity often come into play as well. For all of these reasons, I believe that more rational people are more likely to admit that they're wrong...

    However, I think that there is more to it: in game theory, you still have the notion of 'cooperative games' (situations where you don't compete against others - e.g., how a charitable organization operates) and 'non-cooperative games' (situations where you compete against others - e.g., chess). I would suspect that some people do not give in, because they are innately competitive and view things like they are a non-cooperative game; for these people, admitting that they are wrong in (for example) an argument would (once again) be like losing at chess. Therefore, these people do not like admitting it! In my case, I don't like competing at all. Because of this, some people would wrongly assume that I belong in something like a charitable organization! (Which I admit should still have an important place in society...). However, for me, cooperating is not a game of charity or even chess or checkers. If it were a game, it would be solitaire! I am always trying to do outdo myself. Perhaps, some people see this the same way, and if they are not competitive, they will readily admit that they are wrong... What do you think?
    Last edited by jason_m; 03-16-2016 at 01:18 AM.
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