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Issue 44

Gogu and the sophisms

Simona Bonghez
Speaker, trainer and consultant
OTHERS

"Gogu, are you coming to the gym tonight?" Misu's Transylvanian face suddenly appeared from behind the display. 

"No, I'm going to the barrelhouse. Er… to the bar, if you want it to sound better," Gogu rectified rapidly. 

"Well, but we've agreed on working out; we've decided to strengthen our muscles and become… how did the guy with the pass put it?!..." Misu scratched his head, then it hit him: "Fit! That's what he said. So, what do you say? Shall we get fit tonight?"

"I'll get fit in the bar…"

Misu's eyes expressed a question, so Gogu grumbled out an answer. 

"I've read about some research that said that one glass of red wine is even better than a session of exercising in the gym. It strengthens your heart, muscles, and it improves your performances just as if you had been working out." 

"I see… Some might have said again on facebook about the British researchers and you go quickly to get drunk, 'cause it's good for your health." 

"Canadian."

The remark puzzled Misu, who no longer knew what to say. Gogu explained:

"The researchers. They are Canadian, not British. From the Alberta University in Canada. And I won't get drunk." 

"No, you'll just get woozy… The goddamn Canadians, they couldn't have found anything better to research in their Universities. But God forbid you read anything about sports, exercising and their beneficial influence! We only find the information that pleases us. Do you know what this is called, Gogu? A sophism! That's what they call it." 

Now, it was Gogu's turn to be silent. Misu enjoyed his victory for a few moments, then, with a broad smile on his face, he swung a little bit to see if there were any other witnesses to his success of having reduced Gogu to silence. But no one else seemed to have noticed their discussion, so he gave up blowing his trumpet and came back to Gogu:

"You mean you don't know what a sophism is?!"

"An argument apparently correct, but actually false," Gogu, who had come back to his senses, said all at once. "Look, who knows catchy words. So, do explain, why my argument is false, since it is clearly based on a university research. Or, do you mean they're stupid?!" 

"Well, I didn't say they're stupid," Misu prolonged his words so as to gain extra time for thinking.  

"Then, I am stupid?!"

Misu turned red, embarrassed by the unexpected turn of the discussion, but Gogu burst into laughter. 

"Come on, Gogu… Here's what I wanted to say: we tend to choose, from the information available, only that which suits us most, that which supports our initial opinions or which, sometimes, explains the decisions we have already made. We don't do it consciously, we don't falsify anything, we simply tend to certify what we already know or assume. Or that which serves our purpose, just like in your case now. Why search for more information, when they might convince you to make some effort in the gym and gasp for the breath like you did last time?! It's better to stop at that study of the British researchers…"

"Canadian."

"May they live healthily! As I was saying, it's better to stop at those who let you go undisturbed to have a drink."

Gogu took a deep long breath, then let all the air out of his lungs, as if in a long sigh and looked Misu in the eyes, smiling as an accomplice: 

"Do you feel like joining me tonight to debate on these sophisms over a glass of wine? It's good for our health and we also get to exercise our brain muscles."

After two hours of debating on sophisms and their impact on decisions regarding projects, plus two bottles of wine - which, according to Gogu's estimation equaled about 20 km of jogging - the two decided to go home. A certain influence on their decision to leave belonged also to Gogu's wife. Well, not an influence on Gogu, no. But on Misu: "Really, Misu, I trusted you. Is it possible for you to leave to work out and instead ending up in a barrelhouse to drink?! How can I ever trust you again?!"

There was still a little bit of wine left in the bottle, so, Gogu asked Misu:

"Do you want some more?" As Misu turned him down, he poured into his glass:

"I really don't feel like drinking any more, but we shouldn't waste any of this good wine…"

An idea came to Misu and his eyes lit up:

"Look, Gogu, this is another example of sophism: we paid for the wine, didn't we?"

"Yes, we did. I did. 'Cause you weaseled out…"

"And we both drank as much as we liked." Gogu nodded. 

"And we don't need what's left," continued Misu. Gogu approved silently. 

"Well, then, why do we still drink what's left?" concluded Misu, gloriously. "I'll tell you why: it is about irredeemable costs, or how the English put it, "sunk cost". The error of judgment is the following: our decision to continue a project or initiative is affected by the already spent money, by the effort we have already made and, sometimes, by the level of emotional involvement. If we stop, the investment we have already made seems to be lost and, therefore, we keep going most of the times, even if this obviously leads us to further loss. Do you get it? We don't have the strength to stop, because this would mean accepting our loss." 

"Do you mean they will ask for more money here?"

"Come on, Gogu, one cannot have a logical discussion with you! Besides the money you paid for that wine, which represents your initial investment, you are now also investing your well-being, 'cause you are going to be sick from that wine left. Until now, you have invested based on some correct decisions, but now, your decision is affected by the investment you have already made. You said: it's a pity to waste…". 

"All right, all right, you walking psychology, let's go home, 'cause you've confused me. Let's hope my wife thinks she has invested enough in our marriage and doesn't come up with some crazy idea…" 

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