Perhaps the biggest problem is not what people think, but what they do. Behavioural science is complex, messy and fuzzy. Human behaviour is subject to multiple influences, which combine in elaborate ways and often work against each other. The effect of an intervention cannot easily be predicted without proper consideration and indeed experimentation. The context in which a phenomenon is observed can play a huge role, but is not always taken into account.
It’s ironic because significant changes in art, technology, science, and all culture starts by building on what has come before, not by throwing it away. In jazz, for instance, Bird, Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock all spent years understanding the tradition — thousands of hours of listening and practice — before making their own musical breakthroughs. The best and deepest thinking always involves a dialectic between us and those who came before us, feeling our way forward together, forever imperfectly, towards truth. This is also why great teaching is always both a subversive and a conservative act, and why one of the foundational liberal arts is called love of wisdom.