In his late teens, behavioral scientist Dan Ariely was badly burned by a magnesium flare and spent a long time in the hospital. Changing his bandages caused excruciating pain, and he had many debates with nurses who insisted that it hurt less to rip them off quickly.

When Ariely got out of the hospital, his first experiment was about pain. He discovered that a longer, slower, gentler process of removing bandages would actually be much less agonizing. When he introduced his findings to the nurses, some would not agree that slow removal made enough of a difference to warrant changing their longstanding practice. Others candidly admitted that quickly ripping off a bandage spared them (the nurses, that is) the agony of longer, slower removal. As a result of these two barriers, the status quo remained.

This story is a reminder that when we have a theory of the way things are, it’s difficult to be open to another view of reality. Once a particular view becomes institutionalized, change may seem virtually impossible.