Occam’s Failure

I saw a meme today that suggested that since only Republicans in DC are getting Coronavirus, perhaps it is a plot by Democrats to spread Covid among the Republicans.

Of course the more likely explanation is that since the Republicans at these events weren’t wearing masks and didn’t practice social distancing, there was a lot of virus in the air. And that’s why they got sick at Republican gatherings where there were no Democrats in attendance.

Though it is kind of funny for that meme to say, “No Dems got it, therefore they must be behind it,” there’s a danger that some people will actually believe it, and that’s how a conspiracy theory starts.

The people who believe such things don’t accept the simple explanation because they don’t like that explanation. It disagrees with their views, which might make them look foolish because they publicly touted the views that are now in question.

So, they look for another explanation that is more to their liking. And when they find one, no matter how off the beaten track it is, they’ll believe it because it doesn’t contradict their existing beliefs, and they won’t look foolish in their own eyes (or the eyes of others).

It is called Confirmation Bias – rejecting information that doesn’t fit a person’s pre-existing view.

But if you reject the obvious explanation, there’s a big hole – a gap – something that requires an explanation, and these kind of folks have rejected the simple and obvious one.

People want the world to make sense. And they want to be right. Even more, they don’t want to be wrong.

So if you put that all together with Confirmation Bias rejection of the simple truth, folks will go to all kinds of lengths to spin tall tales, no matter how absurd and convoluted to fill that gap with an explanation -just like this meme.

Unfortunately, anyone who sees the meme who has rejected the obvious truth because it flies in the face of what they believe (and want to believe), and if they haven’t come up with their own satisfactory explanation yet, they might well latch onto the meme because it fills that hole and, from their perspective, the world makes sense once again, and they were right all along.

Confirmation Bias complete.

We train our minds every day to either let the facts drive our beliefs, or let our beliefs filter the facts.

Our minds are only truly free when we let them follow all the information and choose that which makes the most sense, regardless of whether or not it matches our pre-existing believes.