Escaping narrative fallacies

We can be a sucker for our own stories. We practice bad science and adopt unfounded beliefs. We misconstrue the complexity and assign causality mistakenly. We become trapped in an web of illusions that leave us exposed to the devastation of wild fluctuations in the phenomena we had "scientifically explained and predicted to not expose us to risk".

Let's take an example: Andrew tells a story about "how people learn". His story claims that people learn from authoritative knowledge delivered as formal instruction. When people fail to learn the right answers, methods and explanations, his story asserts that they have learned informally, freely ranging among unqualified sources. Any unqualified source of information provides self confirming evidence that his story holds up. Any indications that people are failing to "get it right" confirm the problems with learner directed, generated and motivated educations.

There appears to be no escape when we have fallen for our self-protective story. We are inclined to be right at all cost. We think we are being objective while our perceptions are filtered by our narrative fallacy.

Nassim Taleb hopes we can escape these fallacies by becoming skeptical of our knowledge. If we consider the possibility of our using flawed reasoning, distorted perceptions and mistaken convictions, perhaps we can escape our self perpetuating stories. In The Black Swan, he offers many different self-delusions to call into question before we assume we are right about what to expect.

I've not had much success with the strategy Taleb proposes. I encounter narrative fallacies every week as I mentor entrepreneurs. Rather than catch the narrative in use, I have more success with "choose your story" interventions. The taxonomies I've shared in this blog are choices between stories. My email address uses the moniker: "storychanging" for this reason.

When we are choosing between stories, we can get down the level of "where did that come from?" or "what's that about?". We deal at the level of story, below the levels of what happened?, what's wrong with that?, who's at fault? or how could they be so stupid? We see the situation as a reflection of how it's perceived and given meaning. The same setback can be seen from the perspective of four different stories. Change the meaning and the situation gets resolved. Escape the narrative fallacy and a different story accesses an unforeseen creative alternative.

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