“So you’re saying it’s OK to lie!” is a joke you’ll get if you’ve read Scott Adams’ latest masterpiece, Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. (Hint: It’s in the section on cognitive dissonance.) It’s also a great starting point for the central thesis of Adams’ book – The Two Movies Hypothesis.
According to Adams (and in fact all of the Nobel-winning cognitive science available), humans do not reason from facts to conclusions. We instead hold biased conclusions about the world, and force the facts we observe from the world to conform to this conclusion, or story, or narrative, or movie as Adams calls it. Americans are watching two movies.
Thus if Trump wants to hold a military parade, he’s just like Hitler, or the dictator of North Korea. Or he’s a patriotic American honoring the troops. (A third interpretation, which is too advanced for a country where half of the population is losing its mind on any given day, is that Trump is an amoral actor who knows that Democrats will make the tactical blunder of opposing a military parade, and thus the parade isn’t about Hitler or honor, it’s about winning.)
Half of the country is watching one movie on Trump, based on how they subjectively alter the facts to conform to their conclusion about Trump. The other half of the country is watching a movie where the economy is entering a Golden Age, as the stock market rises, companies invest heavily in America, and our military has tremendous success against ISIS.
In a rational world, people would update their priors about the world. If, for example, you said you opposed Trump because you feared a stock market crash, you’d say, “Huh? Looks like I was wrong. I no longer oppose Trump.” Yet that’s not how humans work. You’ll find a new reason to oppose Trump.
As Benjamin Franklin quipped, “So convenient a thing to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.”
Adams, as any skilled comedian, is able to distill truths into smaller, understandable insights. If you read David Hume (A Treatise of Human Nature), Simon Blackwell (Ruling Passions) and Kahneman and Tversky (Choices, Values, and Frames), his book will be an excellent practical application of timeless wisdom and cognitive science.
If you’re new to the idea that you aren’t rational, Win Bigly will trigger cognitive dissonance within yourself, as you declare that everyone else might be lying to themselves, but you can’t be tricked by your own mind.
With Win Bigly, Adams has cemented himself as a national treasure.
P.S. Don’t miss this interview I did with Scott Adams on Trump and how to Win Bigly at life.