Sunday, June 17, 2007

Our political views are like hard magnets!

Another title: Physics of opinions.

Tom Slee, author of No one makes you shop at Wal-Mart, discusses this analogy using the example of how economists view the effect of globalization.

I think it's like magnetism, which exhibits hysteresis. [...]

A lot of things behave like this, and opinions are one of them. We all have pre-formed opinions - imagine the bottom of the graph is "free trade is good". If we accumulate evidence that leads us to change our mind we move to the top "free trade is not so good" line. Now suppose we hear some more evidence that pushes us the other way - do we switch back right away? No, we hang on to our existing beliefs until the weight of evidence becomes unavoidable. Switching basic views is a big thing, and we can't be forever changing back and forth.