‘Three men make a tiger’ is an ancient Chinese proverb. It’s based on the premise that if one person tells you that a tiger is prowling in your neighbourhood, you won’t believe them. If a second person tells you the same thing, you begin to wonder. If three people tell you about the tiger, you believe them and panic.
The broader lesson here is that we are prone to believing in something absurd as long as enough people around us repeat it. A related cognitive bias is ‘social consensus reality’ – our tendency to treat beliefs with high societal consensus like facts.
Growing up, I was led to believe that if I got a good university degree, I could breeze past the rest of my life. I was also told that to take a gap year at the age of 18 to figure out what I wanted to do was wasteful. I now know that these were falsehoods that I ended up believing because enough people repeated them to me.
As an antidote to this fallacy, you must turn into a critical thinker. Further, it also helps to be mindful of the three persons you are tuned into.