Brexit: Does uncertainty make us irrational?

It’s part of human nature to prefer certainty, so all the Brexit confusion is bound to make us edgy. In or out? Deal or no deal? But does uncertainly have an impact on our ability to make rational choices? Researchers Travis Proulx and Daniel Randles wanted to find out. They started by asking participants how they felt about their nation and nationality. After recording the responses, they then deliberately created a sense of uncertainly. Participants were asked to use playing cards that had the colours reversed – spades red, and diamonds black. They were shown strings of random letters and asked to identify any patterns. They even gave them some Kafka to read! Finally, these now somewhat uncertain participants were asked to write about their beliefs. The writing topics explored things like what their country of birth meant to them and whether their nationality was important to their cultural identity. Those who initially expressed a strong allegiance to their country became more nationalistic now that they felt uncertain. On the flip side, those who had previously expressed an internationalist stance had become even more wedded to those beliefs. The results showed that no matter what you believe, you’re likely to become more dogmatic when you’re feeling uncertain.

News on European Election results

The European Election results seem to illustrate this effect on a countrywide scale. The UK parties that are split over Brexit or seem ambivalent – Labour and the Conservatives – saw a dramatic loss of support. It was those parties that offer some certainty – whether unambiguously pro or anti-Brexit – that took the votes.

Perhaps your offended by the implication that your voting behaviour might not have been entirely rational. Maybe you think you’re unaffected by Brexit uncertainly: But are you sure about that?

More about how uncertainly impacts our thinking:

  • The Weatherman
  • Jamie Holmes, “Nonsense: The Power Of Not Knowing”
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