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‘There’s No Good Way To Kill a Bad Idea’

The world is filled with bad, baseless, factually inaccurate ideas that refuse to die. From an article: Philosopher Russell Blackford, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, tweeted about this phenomenon earlier this month: “The momentum behind bad ideas can be enormous — they can plunge on, gathering force, long after receiving devastating criticism.” If you’ve ever found yourself unable to halt someone else’s idiotic plans once they were already in motion, you’re not alone. Whether you’re a politician trying to make congress see sense or simply a manager trying to halt an atrocious team-building plan, there’s simply no foolproof way to kill a terrible idea. Blackford blames the momentum behind bad ideas on cascade effects. Yes, individuals are prone to making poor decisions for emotional or biased reasons (known as “cognitive heuristics”) and this irrationality is part of the problem. But there’s also a broader sociological issue, in that others’ opinions carry a huge amount of weight in influencing our views. A cultural consensus — even without proper evidence — can form pretty quickly. If one person convinces a second, says Blackford, then a third person will be far more likely to agree with the majority view. This effect exponentially increases with each person who agrees with the others. “We soon have a sociological effect whereby everyone knows that, say, a certain movie is very good or very bad, even though everyone might have ‘known’ the exact opposite if only a few early voices had been different,” says Blackford.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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