The two-kind illusion

2014-02-25-two-sides-of-the-coinThis short essay is an attempt to highlight one of the simplest ideas which a common man fails to appreciate yet sees throughout his life.

As the title suggests, ‘The two-kind illusion’ seems very similar to a Morton’s fork. (A Morton’s fork is a specious piece of reasoning in which contradictory arguments lead to the same unpleasant conclusion). But, as you will realise after reading this essay completely, it is the other side of the same coin. It is different in some sense about which I will try to explain later.

Consider two persons A and B. Person A’s character will be described through a short story. ‘A’ goes to a store to buy clothes. His intention is to buy a t-shirt which costs lower than Rs.600. This pre-decided price limit is a strict one and he wouldn’t pay a penny more whatsoever. As he enters the store, he looks around for a person who would help him out with the purchase. ‘A’ asks the person to introduce him to the variety of clothes available in the store. He then limits his choice to maybe two or three t-shirts. Now comes the crucial moment. ‘A’ asks the prices of those t-shirts. The store-keeper decides to start the bargain with Rs.800 per piece. ‘A’ keeps his cool and kindly tells the shopkeeper that he wouldn’t pay more than Rs.550 for a t-shirt. The bargaining officially starts and after a minute or so, the shopkeeper gives his final price of Rs.650 per t-shirt. ‘A’ says bluntly that he wouldn’t pay more than Rs.600. And since the shopkeeper doesn’t agree for anything less, ‘A’ decides to leave the shop knowing that the shopkeeper would stop him and offer a lower price. It happens.

Now, let’s see what happens in case of person ‘B’. There are two major differences in B’s approach to that of his counterpart. ‘B’ doesn’t have a fixed price in mind which would limit his purchase. Instead he has a range in his mind. He would decide the cloth’s worth on the spot and is ready to a pay an extra Rs.50 if it’s really good. The same procedure repeats as was in A’s case. After a considerable bargaining period, ‘B’ says bluntly to the shopkeeper that the t-shirt isn’t worth more than Rs.600 and he wouldn’t pay more. The shopkeeper refuses as usual expecting a similar response as was with ‘A’. But here’s the major difference between A and B. If ‘B’ once decides that the t-shirt isn’t worth more than Rs.600 and the shopkeeper still refuses to accept it, he leaves the shop without turning back. As he sees ‘B’ leaving, the shopkeeper tries  the same card but fails this time. ‘B’ considers his judgement to be accurate and returning to the shop would mean he values Rs.50 more than self-belief.( the right word would be ‘swabhimana’ – sanskrit )

One thing we have to realise from the later incident is that the shopkeeper cannot use the same card and win every time. The other and the most important thing is that  ‘A’ and ‘B’ play a somewhat mutual role in gaining what they want. Suppose every person was like A, then it would mean that the shopkeeper could always sell his product without any hindrances. And it would also mean that every person would get the product at a price he desired for. This is, as it sounds, very untrue. Suppose every person was like B, then it would mean that the shopkeeper could never use that card. He would have to agree a lower price and would be devoid of the profit he used to make. This too, as it seems, is never going to happen. Thus, it can be clearly seen that the existence of A and existence of B together is helping each of them.

The society on the other hand, tends to be biased in the opinion it has on these two types of people. ‘A’ is considered to be a smart-ass because he was able to get the product at a price he wanted. ‘B’ on the other hand, is considered to be unwise because he did not purchase the product in that first shop although he was offered a price he wanted. What we, in general, fail to appreciate is that ‘A’ can only be a smart-ass  if there is a ‘B’ out there!

PS: Both these incidents are real-life incidents which I have witnessed.


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