The value of being wrong

By Oskar Flygare in evergreen

August 22, 2023

Admitting to being wrong is rarely, if ever, rewarded in the public sphere. It can also be painful on a personal level, and changing some beliefs should indeed require a lot of evidence. I still believe, though, that on the whole we should embrace being wrong more often.

Being disproven is a sign of good, not bad, thinking. If you strive to be ruthless towards your beliefs and opinions about the world, you will get into the habit of expressing your ideas in a specific enough way for them to be disproven or corrected. This will sharpen your ideas over time, improving what’s of high quality and discarding what turns out to be less useful.

Scientists are expected to produce specific and falsifiable hypotheses, and design studies that can readily disprove them. But too often we cling to our beliefs despite evidence against them, rather than updating our worldview and moving on to greener pastures. It’s more important to understand than to be right.

From a lecture by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman:

However, it turns out that I only changed my mind about the evidence. My view of how the mind works didn’t change at all. The evidence is gone, but the beliefs are still standing. Indeed, I cannot think of a single important opinion that I have changed as a result of losing my faith in the studies of behavioral priming, although they seemed quite important to me at the time.

Posted on:
August 22, 2023
2 minute read, 242 words
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