We don't retract easily, we don't recognise our mistakes even when they’re crystal clear in front of us, and we’re terrible at apologising.
We’re designed that way; our brain comes up with all sorts of tricks and shortcuts to make us believe that whatever we’ve done, whatever decision we’ve made, it’s correct.
So why take back, unsay or retract something we did if we thought it was right, or if it was somebody else's fault, or external circumstances pushed us to do it?
Every time our brain smells the slightest sign of an impulse to retract, it fights back as if its life depends on it.
Lee Ross, the social psychologist who studied bias, decision-making and conflict, said that we all suffer from a personal objectivity illusion that makes us believe that our perceptions are realistic and objective, that we can persuade those who disagree with us, who are irrational and unreasonable.
Can you relate to this?
Ross also coined the term "naive realism", meaning that we’re wired to believe that we see people objectively as they are, whereas others are biased. So when people don't share our views we think they need to hear the truth, the facts, the evidence.
And as if this isn’t enough, we might conclude that they’re just stupid, biased or selfish.
That might explain why at some point or another we can all get caught up in a wave of disagreement that can quickly become a devastating tsunami of conflict, especially when we insist on explaining the “truth” to others.
So if we all suffer from cognitive bias, how do some individuals avoid getting trapped in unproductive conflicts and can apologise and move on graciously?
What do these people know that we don't? Are they generally better individuals, more generous and kinder, with higher moral standards and principles? Or are they just lucky enough not come across the most annoying and challenging people on this planet?
It's a difficult question to answer, but it all boils down to cultivating the kind of attitude that can protect us when our brain starts creating personal objective illusions and naive realism scenarios.
In such situations, a good start is to not trust your brain or that you can objectively assess the situation – because we can't.
Trust the evidence, the data, and what you hear from others who are knowledgeable in the subject matter – especially those who disagree with you.
And ultimately, you can always follow Kahneman's advice on finding the ideal advisor, "a person who likes you and doesn't care about your feelings."
For him, that person is fellow Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler.
Don’t let your brain trick you; what we think we see is not necessarily what it is.
We don’t have the monopoly on reality.