“How does it feel to be wrong?”
Kathryn Shulz asks her audience this exact question during her 2011 TED Talk On Being Wrong.
Surveying the audience, she gets a few responses, including “dreadful,” “thumbs down,” and “embarrassing.” You and I would probably respond similarly.
“These are great answers,” she continues, “but they’re answers to a different question.”
Pausing for a moment, she delivers the punchline. “You guys are answering the question: ‘how does it feel to realize you’re wrong?’... Just being wrong doesn’t feel like anything.”
Schulz goes on, drawing an analogy to Loony Tunes. In the cartoon, there’s a roadrunner who is often chased by a breathless coyote. At some point, the roadrunner runs right off the cliff and begins to fly. The coyote chases—right off the cliff—but isn’t so fortunate.
If you’ve ever seen a Loony Tunes episode, you know what I’m talking about. The coyote runs off the cliff, only to keep running, not realizing he’s in midair. Only when the coyote looks down does he begin to fall.
When we’re wrong, we are that coyote. We’ve already run off the cliff. It’s only a matter of time until we look down.
As the audience nods, Schulz finishes her extended joke, “So I should actually correct something I said a moment ago. It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right.”