I recently watched a talk by self-styled “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz, 'On Being Wrong' from March 2011.
Now the talk itself is disappointing as she doesn't really explain the bio-psycho-social basis for opinion forming. She merely assumes that people do so and they are not always aware that they are doing so. Apparently most people don't wish to accept that they might be wrong as it might upset their ego. But they should accept the fact that they are often likely to be wrong and not consider it to be a personal failing. But I thought this would be a good time to start a thread about opinion.
Now an opinion is defined by the Collins Dictionary as 1. judgment or belief not founded on certainty or proof.
However, philosophers have repeatedly shown that there is no firm demarcation, or even a definite link between 'certainty' 'proof' and likelihood. Hence all strongly held views are either tautologically true, or opinions.
But why is it that people are compelled to form strongly held views based on mere speculation?
One of the reasons for following the news provided by an interviewee in 'Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News' was that they'd have something to talk about at work. This leads to the question, are we socially obliged to form opinions?
But that still doesn't explain why is it that people often feel that their (current) point of view is the only point of view worth considering. But they have forgotten how their opinion has evolved over time?
It can be fun and or constructive to speculate and hypothesise and debate, but this is a far cry from committing to these speculation as some sort of concrete view.
Why is there stigma about changing your mind or lacking commitment to your speculations? It is true that lacking commitment leads to less trust by others of those speculations. But the whole concept of an opinion or speculation is that others should not base their decisions based on them.
I suggest one of the reasons why 'being wrong' hurts is not so much about the importance of having 'correct opinions', but rather the fact that 'being wrong' leads to bad decision making. This has detrimental consequences and of course that can be fatal if you happen to be someone in a position of power. The result is valuing 'being right' but without necessarily testing our views empirically. Neverthless, many of our decisions are regularly tested and hence the consequences of being wrong is a regular aspect of the human condition.
But there can be other issues, perhaps societal expectations about competence and acceptance of mistakes can lead to depression in those who are not comfortable with the apparent contradiction?
There are also political implications. How responsible are the leaders of organisations for their mistakes? Mistakes that have real consequences for thousands of people.