Will Storr proposes you try this thought experiment. First, answer this question: Are you right about everything you believe? Now, if you are like most people, the answer is no. Of course not. As he says, that would mean you are a godlike and perfect human being. You’ve been wrong enough times to know it can’t be true. You are wrong about some things, maybe many things. That leads to a second question - what are you are wrong about? Storr says when he asked himself this second question, he started listing all the things he believed and checked them off one at a time as being true, he couldn’t think of anything he was wrong about.
Storr says once you realize how difficult it is to identify your own incorrect beliefs you can better empathize with people on the fringe, because they are stuck in the same predicament. They are just as trapped in their own war rooms, most of the time unaware that the map they use is, as psychologist Daniel Gilbert once said, a representation and not a replica. They are judging the evidence presented to them based on a model of reality, a map that they’ve used their entire lives, and you can’t just tell someone that his or her map is a fantasy realm that doesn’t exist and expect them to respond positively. You can’t just ask a person like that to throw away that map and start over, especially if they’ve yet to realize it is just a map, and their beliefs are only models.
- McRaney, D. (2011). You are not so smart: Why you have too many friends on Facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways you're deluding yourself. New York: Gotham Books/Penguin Group. (library)
- McRaney, D. (2013). You are now less dumb: How to conquer mob mentality, how to buy happiness, and all the other ways to outsmart yourself. New York: Gotham Books (library)
- Storr, W. (2014). The unpersuadables: Adventures with the enemies of science. New York: The Overlook Press. (library)