Opinion: Infallibility trap


Nobody likes to be proven wrong. Well, few of us do, anyway. We take it as a personal defeat. How could we have made the error? We must have had incomplete information. Is it possible that we are not smart? No, certainly not. Our moms told us that we were geniuses. There is no chance that she’d have lied to us. Is it possible that we lack perspective on the matter? We doubt it. Our perspective, from our perspective, is pretty darn good. Maybe they are mistaken in claiming that we were mistaken.

Like a turtle flipped upon its back, it takes some real effort for us to get our attitude right when we are shown to have a deeply held, longtime erroneous position. It matters to we good humans that others believe like we do, that they reinforce what we hold true. We like to be reminded that we are intelligent, that we are right! It all adds to our stock of confidence. If we were correct so many times before, we are likely to make the accurate choice the next time we act. Cogent and thoughtful arguments that oppose our views can make us look bad, certainly make us feel bad.

But don’t we learn more from our failures than from our successes? Isn’t there a nobility in taking a defeat with grace only to return and become victorious? Are we all caught in some infallibility trap, one that requires that we run from our errors only to never learn from them? The younger a child, the less they seem to care about being corrected. As they age, they begin to find discomfort in their own inaccuracy. Correspondingly, the speed of their learning tends to slow as they age. Is our biggest failure refusing to accept our imperfection?