We are stubborn. Sometimes we like to contradict others just for the fun of it. And while we like to think we're consistent, the truth is that we often fall into the clutches of "Cognitive distortions"
. A recent study from the University of Lund showed that most people would reject their opinions 60% of the time if they were presented by someone else.
Selective laziness in action
The study in question refers to a phenomenon known in the field of psychology as "Selective laziness".
This definition means that we tend to thoroughly evaluate arguments only when they come from other people, especially when we have already disagreed with them in the past.To demonstrate this phenomenon, the researchers asked volunteers to solve some logic problems, in form of syllogisms. They then had to write arguments to support their answers, and then the volunteers were asked to read a series of answers to the same problems, along with arguments supporting them. They were told that other people had given those answers before them, and that their job was to decide whether these arguments were valid or not.The trick was that some of the arguments they were shown were actually answers that they themselves they wrote earlier in the experiment. But they were led to believe that such arguments belonged to another participant. Interestingly, 60% of the time people rejected their own arguments, pointing to them as wrong. This phenomenon increased even more when the wrong arguments were previously identified in the questionnaire that the previous alleged "volunteer" had filled in. In this way it was possible to observe that we are particularly critical of our own opinions when they are presented by another person and, if we have already disagreed with this person in the past, we will be even more likely to reject his ideas, even if they match our own. This means that our ability to accept an argument largely depends on where it comes from.
What is behind selective laziness?
The fact is that when we look for arguments to support our ideas we get carried away by selective laziness and we do not evaluate the pros and cons of the idea, but rather resort to intuitive answers. In short, we do not judge our own reasoning, but we are strict judges when it comes to the reasons of the other.In practice, we are very good at spotting the speck in our neighbor's eye, but we often overlook the beam in ours. And this phenomenon is even more evident when this person has already done wrong in the past or when we know in advance that they do not share our ideas; however, selective laziness is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when we are in a group it can stimulate discussion and enrich conversation. But it is important to be careful not to be overly critical of others, because we could become too rigid people who, instead of learning, hide behind little weighted arguments.