Are You In A Cult?

Read this article on PandoDaily. People get into habits, and sometimes habits become cults.  People tend to want to validate their own decisions, so they validate them by seeking out people with the same views as them.  Joe Scarbourough wrote about the Conservative echo chamber today in Politico.  There is a liberal echo chamber too, so if you are liberal don’t be your usual highbrow self!

Dangerous Cult?
Dangerous Cult? (Photo credit: DavidDMuir)

Traders sometimes get into mini-cults too.  They are all long a stock and can’t see how the stock can go down.  Believe me, I have been there.  I know.  Happens in futures markets too!  Somehow if you say something negative, you aren’t with the “team”. You are breaking karma.

This validation seeking mechanism in human behavior is not anything new.  The Catholic Church appointed a “devil’s advocate” who’s role was to be able to oppose the Pope.

Chicago Booth’s Ron Burt teaches a class on this topic as it relates to business.  Sometimes it pays to structure your business like a cult.  It’s good strategy.  Apple ($AAPL) is a company that is strategically set up like a cult.   The cult permeates into their users as well.

One way to avoid confirmation bias is to seek out different opinions and listen to their logic.  Additionally, instead of going to a source that relates the original information, go to the original source.  See if it changes things for you.  You might have missed something. Try and create a market to vet your opinion.  If you can quantify it, even better.

This very human phenomena exists in everything. Investing in stocks, startups, political movements, scientific movements, predictions on future events and ad infinitum.

I find many things that are presented these days become cultish. Global warming for example.  If you don’t believe it somehow you are anti-science.  When a person that doesn’t believe in global warming brings up all the inconsistencies in the data, the perversion with confirmation bias in the data, the fact the scientists were able to get more government money by churning out data the government wanted etc-somehow the non-believers are the pariah’s.

TED talks can be like that.

The difference between wanting to learn and wanting to believe is not trivial. Learning includes a large component of critical thinking, of questioning and, if possible, testing hypotheses. In contrast, there is no critical thinking component in wanting to believe. Wanting to believe is essentially an emotional push for faith in whatever you’re being told.

Some TED talks are truly great.  There are a few that I watch over and over just to make sure I get it-or for inspiration.  However, the best talks are broad in scope.  They give you clues as to how to use the concepts presented.

Great ones don’t outline an exact path to success.  It’s up to you to critically think about the idea an apply it in the best manner to maximize the outcome you desire.

The other thing to remember, an idea is just an idea.  It’s not anything yet.  It’s not worth anything until someone builds structure around the idea and implements it.  Ideas by themselves are just like books on a shelf.  Until a person monetizes the idea in some way, you don’t know if its valuable or not.

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