Your beliefs, assumptions and values form your worldview, and your worldview determines how you interpret events.
Ideally, you’d want to make your worldview as accurate as possible so that your interpretation of events would be as accurate as possible. You’d seek out new knowledge, ideas and information to evaluate your worldview against. This information would help you discard wrong beliefs, correct inaccuracies in your assumptions and improve your values.
In your search, you’d place a high premium on information that contradicts your worldview. You’d do this because, if the contradicting information were correct, it would save you from acting on the wrong parts of your worldview. This would save money, time and potentially your life.
Why You Want to be Right – The Semmelweis Reflex
In reality, you’re hardwired to reject new evidence and findings that prove your existing beliefs wrong. This tendency is known as the Semmelweis Reflex. The Semmelweis Reflex describes situations in which new evidence fails to change pre-existing beliefs or behaviors.
One reason why you fall for the Semmelweis Reflex is that you want to be right.
Why you Shouldn’t Want to Be Right
If you want to be right, you want to win. When you value winning higher than learning and understanding, you will rarely update your worldview. You will also actively avoid information and dismiss evidence that contradicts your worldview because you’d have to admit that you were wrong. As a result, you’ll fail to learn vital information and base your decisions on an incomplete and incorrect worldview. Then, you’ll fail.
Why You Should Try to Be Less Wrong
Instead of trying to win and protect your worldview, you might not want to try to be right. Instead, you might want to try to be less wrong.
When you try to be less wrong rather than more right, you approach information, ideas and suggestions as opportunities rather than threats.
They are helpful information that might improve the lens through which you interpret the world. Further, by trying to be less wrong, you implicitly admit that you might be wrong, which makes you more receptive to information that proves you wrong – in some sense, you already knew that you were wrong. Additionally, you are more likely to try to understand new information even if it contradicts your worldview because, on some level, you know that it is incomplete.
In this way, trying to be less wrong rather than more right provides the basis for constantly improving the accuracy of your worldview. In addition, this effort makes you more acceptant of ideas that contradict your beliefs and more likely to listen with the intent to understand rather than to win.
That’s why, in the long-term, trying to be less wrong will also make you more right.