Dan Ariely

In sports, […] arguments are not particularly damaging—in fact, they can be fun. The problem is that these same biased processes can influence how we experience other aspects of our world. These biased processes are in fact a major source of escalation in almost every conflict, whether Israeli-Palestinian, American-Iraqi, Serbian-Croatian, or Indian-Pakistani.

In all these conflicts, individuals from both sides can read similar history books and even have the same facts taught to them, yet it is very unusual to find individuals who would agree about who started the conflict, who is to blame, who should make the next concession, etc. In such matters, our investment in our beliefs is much stronger than any affiliation to sport teams, and so we hold on to these beliefs tenaciously. Thus the likelihood of agreement about “the facts” becomes smaller and smaller as personal investment in the problem grows. This is clearly disturbing. We like to think that sitting at the same table together will help us hammer out our differences and that concessions will soon follow. But history has shown us that this is an unlikely outcome; and now we know the reason for this catastrophic failure.

But there’s reason for hope. In our experiments, tasting beer without knowing about the vinegar, or learning about the vinegar after the beer was tasted, allowed the true flavor to come out. The same approach should be used to settle arguments: The perspective of each side is presented without the affiliation—the facts are revealed, but not which party took which actions. This type of “blind” condition might help us better recognize the truth.

Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, New York, 2008, pp. 171-172