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Introducing misverity: your #1 nemesis

Ignorance is great

Ignorance is essential. It is a crucial component of learning, growth, discovery, and joy, and it is indispensable for our everyday lives. However, a particular type of ignorance, especially when it remains unrecognized and not vigilantly guarded against, can become a blight on our existence...more on this shortly.

First, let's do a quick preview of the types of beneficial and necessary ignorance.

  • To the extent that we are all learning new things that we didn't know before, from the child who doesn't know how to talk to the adult who is learning how to operate a new computer, each of us is moving from being ignorant about something to knowing about it. This is a beneficial and necessary ignorance.

  • To the extent that we are all forgetting things we used to know, from not remembering what you had for lunch on this day 839 days ago to the address of your best friend in high school, this is a beneficial and necessary ignorance.

  • To the extent that we either consciously, unconsciously, or by default don't focus on learning things or being aware of things that most probably are not helpful to or needed for fulfilling our current desires and needs, this is a beneficial and necessary ignorance. 

Misverity: the blight of humanity

Don't check for the meaning of that word in your dictionary just yet. Coining a new word to indicate this distinction, however, is important since this special type of ignorance goes largely unrecognized and unacknowledged as the unnecessary source of our large part of our suffering and our bumbling through life.

Will Rogers was talking about this type of ignorance when he said,

"The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so."

I doubt that he knew the half of it. Misverity plagues our life daily, creating unnecessary upsets and avoidable mistakes, affecting everyone almost equally from the homeless to the heads of corporations and countries.

Before I make my case, let me give you a more formal definition of misverity (with a bow to Aiko).

Misverity: (n.) A belief held with excessive certainty that lacks sufficient supporting evidence by the person holding that belief. It often arises from unidentified assumptions and can mask themselves as undeniable truth.

Key elements:

  • Belief: Misverities are propositions accepted as true or accurate.

  • Excessive certainty: The individual holds the belief with a stronger conviction than the evidence available to the person who holds the belief justifies.

  • Lack of evidence: There is insufficient or inconclusive data available to the person with the belief to substantiate the belief's truth.

  • Unidentified assumptions: The belief may be rooted in unexamined presuppositions that are mistaken for established facts.

  • Masking as truth: Misverities can present themselves as undeniable truths, hindering critical evaluation and potential revision.

  • A misverity isn't necessarily a complete untruth. It could only be untrue to the extent of its certainty. As a simple example, if think I know for sure that the next flip of a coin will be heads, that is only untrue because of its certainty. If instead I believed that there's a 50% chance of the next flip of the coin being heads, I'd no longer be indulging in a misverity. Undoing misverities is often about uncovering the limited extent of our knowledge.

Note: the concept of misverity overlaps with other terms like cognitive bias, confirmation biases, and overconfidence. However, it specifically emphasizes the excessive certainty associated with beliefs lacking strong evidence by the person having those beliefs.

Beginning to uncover your own misverities

We may think we are able to easily identify the misverities of others, while remaining largely unaware of our own and not even questioning that our own misverities may be contributing to our belief in the misverities of others. 

This becomes especially true when we have an element of righteousness associated with our beliefs and we have identified ourselves or others who share our possible misverities as the victims and the good guys.

Righteousness (viewing things from the HOGAB) as a key component contributing to misverities


Consider these as misverities in your relationship with others: 

  • You had an upset with a friend, colleague, lover, wife, husband, parent, or child. How did you view the beliefs you think they had about you (and vice versa for them)?

  • You consider yourself to be spiritual or religious. How you view the beliefs of those who don't share your beliefs (and vice versa for them)?

  • You are Progressive or Democrat. How do you view the beliefs of the conservatives or Republicans (and vice versa for them)?

  • You believe that people should be kind, generous, fair, loyal, or responsible. Any belief that hinges on a "should" or "should not" often indicates one or misverities present.

  • Believing that they could have chosen otherwise, when in fact, they could not have.

Consider these as misverities regarding your relationship with yourself:

  • The last time you felt bad about yourself because you knew you should not be lazy or should not procrastinate, or should have tried harder.

  • The last time you forced yourself to do something you had to do and you're just waiting to get through it.

  • The last time you felt guilty because you acted selfishly or impulsively and hurt someone else.

  • The last time you did something for someone else and ended up resenting them for it.

  • Believing that you could have chosen otherwise, when in fact, you could not have.

Daily damages from our hidden misverities

Misverities mostly fall into two different types, each a kind of self-induced blindness, a blindness which is often motivated by a different flavor of the same short-term benefit: feeling safer (while incurring the risk of more danger).

Optimistic misverities (the downsides of optimism)

  • Over promising to others

    • This has the projected short-term benefit (whether it's true or not) of looking good to another and avoiding the fear of upsetting them, not disappointing them, or looking bad to them.

  • Over promising to ourselves

    • This has the short-term benefit of looking good to ourselves and avoiding looking bad to ourselves (because we have the belief that we should be able to do more).

    • It could also have the short-term benefit of avoiding the fear of having to face now the consequences we might or would be incurring if we're not able to get what we promised done by a certain time or date.

    • We also get the short-term benefit of getting to count our chickens before they hatch.

  • Over believing that others will keep their promises (or obligations) to you

    • This has the short-term benefit of avoiding the fear or sense of risk we would feel if we accepted and acknowledged the chances that a specific promise or obligation by another may not be kept, especially in light of the track record that person has with keeping similar types of promises to you in the past.

    • This over believing is the source of all experiences of being betrayed or being upset with or disappointed in others.

  • Over believing that you will keep your promises to ourself

    • This has the same short-term benefits as over promising to ourselves.

  • Indulging in expectations that things will go the way we want them to go.

    • So many short-term benefits and so many long-term costs.​

Pessimistic misverities (the downsides of pessimism)

While the optimist denies or hides from the risks that things won't turn out as desired, planned, or projected, the pessimist denies or hides from the risks that things could turn out as desired, planned, or projected. Both are cashing in on the short-term benefits of avoiding the sense of risk or disappointment. Both at at war with the fundamental fact that risk is a fundamental and necessary part of living. Consequently, they both put at greater risk the chances of living an exciting, fulfilling life, chocked full of play, adventure, connection, and accomplishment.

The misverities that the pessimist indulges in are the mirror images of those that the optimist indulges in. 

  • Under promising to others to avoid the risk of disappointing others or ourselves.

  • Under promising to ourselves to avoid the risk of disappointing ourselves.

  • Under believing that others could keep their promises or obligations to avoid the risk getting disappointed.

  • Under believing that we may keep a promise to ourself to avoid the risk of disappointment.

  • Indulging in the expectation that things will not go the way we would like them to in order to avoid possible disappointment.

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