The Sunk Cost Conspiracy Game

People often ask, “where do you get inspirations for your stories?”  The truth is that fiction ideas are a dime a dozen.  Our world is full of crazy stories that hordes of folks are willing to believe without question.  The crazier the better.  If you need proof, look no further than cable news and radio talk shows.

One reason for this is the sunk cost fallacy, a term borrowed from basic economics.  As any freshman business student can tell you, money you’ve already spent should not factor into future decisions.  No matter what choice you make, you’ll never get that money back.  The assumption here is that, by learning this simple principle, we’ll make more rational decisions.  Sadly, even the smartest people often make irrational decisions and grasp at silly ideas, especially when faced with the possibility that they may be WRONG about something.

So, how does this apply to our beliefs?  We live in an increasingly polarized world with ever-rising stakes in the game of “I’m right; you’re wrong!”  For example, if you voted in the last election, then you have a sunk cost, regardless of which candidate you chose.  You’re now the target of insults from those who voted for the other candidate.  The last thing you want to admit is that you made a mistake, so you double down.  Your candidate is the victim of character assassination.

To make your argument you might use the following template (If you aren’t interested in politics, this works just as well with sports figures, celebrities, or anyone in the news).  Just fill in the blanks as you go.  Then, just for fun, go back and change your options.

I believe that [my favorite politician, NFL player, whatever] is being persecuted in [“the mainstream media,” “alt media,” tabloids], because of [something wonderful he or she has done or stands for – the more preposterous the better].  This is all the work of a [“leftist,” “vast right wing,” “New Age”] conspiracy involving [the CIA, Wall Street, space aliens…].

Try this with your friends.  If you find yourself stumped for material, just tune into a talk show or start following a political blogster.  Once you get a convincing or hilarious story together, expand on it.

Who knows?  There may be a book deal in your future.