The easiest way to be right

Everybody loves love to be right. One of the easiest ways to be right is to admit when you’re wrong.

We often make an assertion that we later find out to be a mistake. The most natural course of action here is to deny or deflect any contradictory evidence to our prior belief. People unconsciously seek out information that reinforces their prior beliefs – even if they are wrong. We watch news, hang out with people and seek out information that is in line with our existing beliefs. Behaviour scientists call this the confirmation bias.

An alternative is make assertions, but to keep one’s mind open for contradictory information. As soon as we see that prior belief was wrong, we admit this mistake. By doing so, we get to be right.

The counter-intuitive truth here is that holding on firmly to what we thought was right ends up making us wrong several times. Admitting to being wrong instantly gives us the opportunity to be right.

A driver who takes a wrong turn but refuses to admit it, goes around in circles for an hour before arriving at her destination. Another driver who admits that he is wrong, cross-checks his route, arrives sooner and gets to be “right”.

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