Reality Beats Story in the Long Run

January 13, 2021

Humans exist in the real world, but our cognitions are composed of stories. Those stories may or may not align with reality, so which is more important for shaping our interactions with the world, the physics or the story?

At first glance, the natural deduction is that only facts and reality matter. Science is true regardless of whether or not you believe in it, so why should stories have any bearing on the matter? Well, it turns out humans aren't great at separating fact from fiction.

As Daniel Kahneman says, repetition is indistinguishable from truth. Additionally, confirmation bias predisposes us to reaffirm our prior beliefs.

If people both willingly and unintentionally believe falsehoods, how important are facts really?

Second order thinking suggests that narratives are the utmost influencer of human behavior and facts don't matter at all. If facts actually influenced our cognitions, there would be no debates over the existence of global warming or evolution.

When you realize that facts don't persuade or that facts might not exist at all, it's hard to escape the conclusion that narratives and stories are the only things that matter.

But Truth does matter!

Narratives are more powerful than facts at shaping human behavior, but reality will ultimately determine your success. Those whose narratives most closely align with reality will be the most successful in the long run.

The only question left is how long is the long run?


© 2020 Connor Daly