Wednesday, January 8, 2020

If you think you are smart, you won't listen to others

Victor Ottati of Loyola University of Chicago has done some innovative research on social priming called the Earned Dogmatism Hypothesis. This hypothesis states that social norms dictate that experts will often adapt a dogmatic closed-minded orientation. When experts feel like experts, they are less likely to admit they are wrong or say they do not know something. Experts will act like experts even if they are wrong because they feel expected to have dogmatic opinions. 

He shows that priming people to feel knowledgeable means that they will less likely seek or listen to views of those who disagree with them. Put someone on Bloomberg, give them positive feedback in news articles and trade magazines, and they will start believing their own press. If you are told you are smart, you will start to believe it and act accordingly. Experts may believe they have earned the right to have strong dogmatic opinions. 

How many times have you heard an expert say that he got something wrong? By definition, if the expert becomes self-effacing and admits weakness, he is no longer an expert. 

Why will you listen to others, if you are the smartest person in the room? Why will you admit you are wrong when others have been telling you are good? The ego will not be checked at the door if people are telling you that you are smart. 

Don't follow the talking heads who are likely to be closed-minded. Asking for advice from those perceived to be experts can be perilous without doing your own homework. Your antennae should be raised for portfolio managers who have been lauded by the press and come with glowing press. They can be smart, but are they open to new ideas and will they be willing to adjust their views? 

If you don't listen to experts who should you listen to? The answer is simple, follow the data. Let data speak for itself. That will mean more work, but data are not primed for the Earned Dogmatism Hypothesis.   

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