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"Three men make a tiger" (Chinese : 三人成虎 ; pinyin :sān rén chéng hǔ) is a Chinese proverb or chengyu (four-character idiom). "Three men make a tiger" refers to an individual's tendency to accept absurd information as long as it is repeated by enough people. It refers to the idea that if an unfounded premise or urban legend is mentioned and repeated by many individuals, the premise will be erroneously accepted as the truth. This concept is related to communal reinforcement or the fallacy of argumentum ad populum and argumentum ad nauseam .
The proverb came from the story of an alleged speech by Pang Cong (龐蔥), an official of the state of Wei in the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BC) in Chinese History. According to the Warring States Records , or Zhan Guo Ce, before he left on a trip to the state of Zhao, Pang Cong asked the King of Wei whether he would hypothetically believe in one civilian's report that a tiger was roaming the markets in the capital city, to which the King replied no. Pang Cong asked what the King thought if two people reported the same thing, and the King said he would begin to wonder. Pang Cong then asked, "what if three people all claimed to have seen a tiger?" The King replied that he would believe in it. Pang Cong reminded the King that the notion of a live tiger in a crowded market was absurd, yet when repeated by numerous people, it seemed real. Since Pang Cong, as a high-ranking official, had more than three opponents and critics, he was in fact urging the King to pay no attention to those who would spread rumors about him (Pang Cong) while he was away. "I understand," the King replied, and Pang Cong left for Zhao. Yet, slanderous talk took place. When Pang Cong returned to Wei, the King indeed stopped seeing him.
The tendency to accept absurd information is rooted in certain cognitive biases. The first of which is the motivated reasoning concept, which is an emotion-biased decision-making phenomenon. It is the idea that humans are motivated to believe whatever confirms their opinions. Motivated reasoning can lead to a false social consensus over time. The second concept is social consensus reality, which explains that beliefs with high societal consensus are treated like facts, whereas beliefs with relatively low consensus are more susceptible to persuasion and attitude change. The latter is most likely a product of the social consensus of the specific community one lives in.
One application of the cognitive biases highlighted through the anecdote is that markets are efficient. Often investors jump on a wagon that is either directed in buying or shorting a certain stock or index with the main motivation that many other investors are behaving in a unilateral way. In the short-term when many investors buy a certain stock the market experiences a self-fulfilling prophecy and the stock actually gains value although the company might be underperforming and just benefiting from current market trends. Investors who take such decisions are not basing their justification on fundamental analysis or certain limited information but mainly follow an investment trend that is demonstrated by a high number of other investors.
A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.
The Northern Wei, also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change", the Northern Wei Dynasty is particularly noted for unifying northern China in 439: this was also a period of introduced foreign ideas, such as Buddhism, which became firmly established.
Behavioral economics studies the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural and social factors on the decisions of individuals and institutions and how those decisions vary from those implied by classical economic theory.
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The Han Zhao, or Former Zhao, was a dynasty of Southern Xiongnu origin during Sixteen Kingdoms period of Chinese history coeval with the Sima clan's Jin dynasty. In Chinese historiography, it was given two conditional state titles, the Northern Han for the state proclaimed in 304 by Liu Yuan, and the Former Zhao for the state proclaimed in 319 by Liu Yao. The reference to them as separate states should be considered misleading, given that when Liu Yao changed the name of the state from "Han" to "Zhao" in 319, he treated the state as having been continuous from the time that Liu Yuan founded it in 304; instead, he de-established royal lineage from the Han dynasty and claimed ancestry directly from Yu the Great of the Xia dynasty.
Qin was an ancient Chinese state during the Zhou dynasty. Traditionally dated to 897 BC, it took its origin in a reconquest of western lands previously lost to the Rong; its position at the western edge of Chinese civilization permitted expansion and development that was unavailable to its rivals in the North China Plain. Following extensive "Legalist" reform in the 3rd century BC, Qin emerged as one of the dominant powers of the Seven Warring States and unified the seven states of China in 221 BC under Qin Shi Huang. The Qin dynasty it established was short-lived but greatly influenced later Chinese history.
Liu Shan (207–271), courtesy name Gongsi, was the second and last emperor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. As he ascended the throne at the age of 16, Liu Shan was entrusted to the care of the Chancellor Zhuge Liang and Imperial Secretariat Li Yan. His reign of 40 years was the longest of all in the Three Kingdoms era. During Liu Shan's reign, many campaigns were led against the rival state of Cao Wei, primarily by Zhuge Liang and his successor Jiang Wei, but to little avail. Liu Shan eventually surrendered to Wei in 263 after Deng Ai led a surprise attack on the Shu capital Chengdu. He was quickly relocated to Luoyang, capital of Wei, and enfeoffed as "Duke Anle". There he enjoyed his last years peacefully before dying, most probably of natural causes, in 271.
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Sun Bin was a Chinese general, military strategist, and writer who lived during the Warring States period of Chinese history. A supposed descendant of Sun Tzu, Sun was tutored in military strategy by the hermit Guiguzi. He was accused of treason while serving in the Wei state and was sentenced to face-tattooing and had his kneecaps removed, permanently crippling him. Sun escaped from Wei later and rose to prominence in the Qi state, by serving as a military strategist and commander. He led Qi to victory against the Wei state at the Battle of Guiling and Battle of Maling. Sun authored the military treatise Sun Bin's Art of War, which was rediscovered in a 1972 archaeological excavation after being lost for almost 2000 years.
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Marquess Wen of Wei was the first Marquess to rule the State of Wei during the Warring States period of Chinese history. Born Wei Si (魏斯), he belonged to the House of Wei, one of the noble houses that dominated Jin politics in the 5th and 6th centuries BC.
In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: "If many believe so, it is so".
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