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Study shows we hold our beliefs DESPITE facts

Groucho

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This is kind of depressing, although anyone who reads these boards knows its true: We often hold our political views despite the facts, and when confronted with facts that contradict those views, more often than not we believe our views even stronger.

How facts backfire - The Boston Globe

Excerpts:

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

...

“Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be,” read a recent Onion headline. Like the best satire, this nasty little gem elicits a laugh, which is then promptly muffled by the queasy feeling of recognition. The last five decades of political science have definitively established that most modern-day Americans lack even a basic understanding of how their country works. In 1996, Princeton University’s Larry M. Bartels argued, “the political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best documented data in political science.”

...

A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)

...

Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

...

In 2005, amid the strident calls for better media fact-checking in the wake of the Iraq war, Michigan’s Nyhan and a colleague devised an experiment in which participants were given mock news stories, each of which contained a provably false, though nonetheless widespread, claim made by a political figure: that there were WMDs found in Iraq (there weren’t), that the Bush tax cuts increased government revenues (revenues actually fell), and that the Bush administration imposed a total ban on stem cell research (only certain federal funding was restricted). Nyhan inserted a clear, direct correction after each piece of misinformation, and then measured the study participants to see if the correction took.

For the most part, it didn’t. The participants who self-identified as conservative believed the misinformation on WMD and taxes even more strongly after being given the correction. With those two issues, the more strongly the participant cared about the topic — a factor known as salience — the stronger the backfire. The effect was slightly different on self-identified liberals: When they read corrected stories about stem cells, the corrections didn’t backfire, but the readers did still ignore the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration’s restrictions weren’t total.

...
 

Gabriel

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It was years ago I realised that. I grew up in a extremely conservative family and political environment where my father was a Wesleyan minister/conservative politician. What broke me was my insistence on the idea that someone out there understands by science what is going on and conservative policies were based on absolute science .. not religion. I found myself in a debate with a moral relativist some 10 years ago and after looking for serious scientific backing for absolutism.. anything there was none. It hit me like a ton of bricks.. no one knows what the hell is going on for real. It was a real shock. I spent time after I learned it apologizing to all the people I basically harassed with my right wing political ideology. (Libertarianism mainly)

I had spent a few years after my time in a liberal arts university attempting to prove the left wrong about so many subjects.(for personal reasons to get back at someone I knew) I was pretty hardcore right wing and I had learned a few things I was not aware of before. I studied extreme right wing books where the writer admitted to being as such. Basically I spent my time believing that this was all some sort of game and it was only a matter of brow beating people with whatever you could dig up or make accusations of. So I was a pretty rank person to debate with stonewalling and ignoring facts in a debate etc. But that was a long time ago after my real life endeavours to realise the right wing dream of success via hard work. Now I am better able to differentiate the truth and fallacy of it all for myself.

EDIT: I do credit it as the most learnful experence of my life to date.
 
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MKULTRABOY

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I find that most people do tend to have their personal convictions first when discussing something, then proceed to have confirmation bias as they discuss it. It makes it hard to participate sometimes. (I am sure I am also guilty of this).
 

Geo Patric

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This is kind of depressing, although anyone who reads these boards knows its true: We often hold our political views despite the facts, and when confronted with facts that contradict those views, more often than not we believe our views even stronger.
yep. minimal progress can be made, but it is largely a matter of pounding your head against a fence post to dislodge a beetle.

still, we keep trying. MOST folks not only do not care about the facts, they resent being shown them. and they will resent you for demonstrating them. Some places are worse than others, this country, among the western nations, is among the worst - fervently religious and anti-intellectual.

Tell folks what they want to believe (and put a few dollars in their pockets) and they will listen. Appeal to their 'feelings', especially fear and anger, and you might get somewhere. Appeal to their 'faith', tell em how much YOU love god and how much GOD wants them to do what you want them to do and you have a chance at success.

or get used to quixotic adventuring.
geo.
 

Gabriel

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I find that most people do tend to have their personal convictions first when discussing something, then proceed to have confirmation bias as they discuss it. It makes it hard to participate sometimes. (I am sure I am also guilty of this).
99.99% of the time debate is a pretty cold cut. It certainly seems like a waste of time .. very often. It is only personal convictions thought that keep the debate going which is very important.
 

MKULTRABOY

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I disagree I feel that a discussion in which people are willing to challenge their preconceived notions or are quite practiced at being objective the discussion gets much further and friends are even made.
 

tacomancer

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I guess the only question I have about this study is whether there is an assumption by the researcher that people place the same weight on all information they receive. For instance, in the study it was noted that certain information was corrected in an errata, but will the patient put the same weight on the original piece and errata?

I know, personally, I weight sources of information all the time, partially based on my own preconceived notions and on the reputation of the information source.
 

Gabriel

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I disagree I feel that a discussion in which people are willing to challenge their preconceived notions or are quite practiced at being objective the discussion gets much further and friends are even made.
Friends are made but when do you see someone who is dogmatically insistent on a particular ideology actually change what they say or believe in?.. Meaning they change their entire perspective. The truth is it rarely happens. Which is what I was saying.
 

BCR

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I'll believe it, I have numerous friends who are "young earth creationist". No matter how much of the overwhelming evidence I throw at them about the Earth being 4.5 billion years old they just stand their ground. It's as if it goes in one ear and out the other. That's probably exactly what happens.
 

Frozengale

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I'll believe it, I have numerous friends who are "young earth creationist". No matter how much of the overwhelming evidence I throw at them about the Earth being 4.5 billion years old they just stand their ground. It's as if it goes in one ear and out the other. That's probably exactly what happens.
Bah I hate Creationists. Believing in God doesn't mean you get to stonewall Science. And since when did go God against Science anyways? As far as I'm concerned he either helped create it (by creating the world we live in now) or it was something that he had to use.

As for the whole "More committed to believes in the face of facts" I really wouldn't doubt it. I live in a religious/very conservative State, and far to often people dismiss things because it doesn't fit into their world view. But then again it also goes the same way. The few Liberals that we have around here are so far convinced that they have "The Truth" on all matters political or otherwise because obviously if they are against the norm it means they are right, and anything to disprove them can't be right because it comes from the alleged "unwashed masses"! (I've found it's common for Liberals to view themselves as the Underdog with all the Right Information... despite the fact that there are probably just as many Liberals as Conservatives)

I like to think that I try to go with the facts and try to change my beliefs based around them, but there really is no way to know. I'd have to get an unbiased third party that's viewed my entire life for that one.... so yeah not gonna happen :p
 
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SingleCellOrganism

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I learned that lesson as well .... nobody KNOWS what is going on. I have my personal opinion (the bible is more/less the "truth"), but beyond that ... irrelevant.

Any scientific fact, shy of an outright denial of Jesus/God, I consider and adopt into my "view" as long as it is logical.

Example of "scientific fact" I would ignore: eggs are good for you - > 10 yrs later "eggs are bad for you"

I would also note, in that same vein, that a lot of people (myself included) don't trust scientific "fact" because the goal post seems to be constantly moving.

Well established fact, like the age of the earth, is undeniable. Nebulous concepts like "frog became monkey, but we don't know exactly how" are something I take with a grain of salt and withhold forming a strong opinion on.
 
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rivrrat

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I'll believe it, I have numerous friends who are "young earth creationist". No matter how much of the overwhelming evidence I throw at them about the Earth being 4.5 billion years old they just stand their ground. It's as if it goes in one ear and out the other. That's probably exactly what happens.
LOL I took a group of "young earth creationists" down the river once (whitewater rafting). Not only were they YEC, they believed that the earth is now exactly as it was when their 'god' created it. Nothing has changed, nothing ever will. I indicated the 1000 ft deep river gorge we were in and inquired about the fact that the river had cut said gorge. They said it didn't happen. The river is now exactly as it's always been. I told them that was odd since last summer we had big flood and it changed a couple rapids... was I imagining that? But, I pretty much just had to bite my tongue since what they were saying was so stupid, so ignorant beyond belief, so absolutely defiant of anything logical that it was pointless to try and reason with them.
 

SingleCellOrganism

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LOL I took a group of "young earth creationists" down the river once (whitewater rafting). Not only were they YEC, they believed that the earth is now exactly as it was when their 'god' created it. Nothing has changed, nothing ever will. I indicated the 1000 ft deep river gorge we were in and inquired about the fact that the river had cut said gorge. They said it didn't happen. The river is now exactly as it's always been. I told them that was odd since last summer we had big flood and it changed a couple rapids... was I imagining that? But, I pretty much just had to bite my tongue since what they were saying was so stupid, so ignorant beyond belief, so absolutely defiant of anything logical that it was pointless to try and reason with them.
I am involved in Christian circles, I have never once ran into this belief. Where do you live? I live in the north, so maybe its a southern thing?
 

rivrrat

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I am involved in Christian circles, I have never once ran into this belief. Where do you live? I live in the north, so maybe its a southern thing?
They are the only ones I've ever run into too. Thank god. I just shook my head, bit my tongue, and continued taking them down the river while trying to keep the conversation off anything having to do with religion or the damn planet or universe. I actually laughed when they first said it because I thought they MUST be joking. But no, they weren't. They actually believed that dinosaur bones were planted by "the devil" to lead us astray. You'd be amazed at the different beliefs and personalities I've met over the years of taking thousands of people on trips.
 

SingleCellOrganism

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They are the only ones I've ever run into too. Thank god. I just shook my head, bit my tongue, and continued taking them down the river while trying to keep the conversation off anything having to do with religion or the damn planet or universe. I actually laughed when they first said it because I thought they MUST be joking. But no, they weren't. They actually believed that dinosaur bones were planted by "the devil" to lead us astray. You'd be amazed at the different beliefs and personalities I've met over the years of taking thousands of people on trips.
I can imagine. Honestly, nothing bothers me really, in a universe of unprovens, random beings holding onto a meaningless thought is irrelevant.

To each their own I suppose. God must get a kick out of our myopic thinking. (and cry about it in the same breath)
 

Binary_Digit

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I'll believe it, I have numerous friends who are "young earth creationist". No matter how much of the overwhelming evidence I throw at them about the Earth being 4.5 billion years old they just stand their ground. It's as if it goes in one ear and out the other. That's probably exactly what happens.
My mom was a die-hard YEC. They get the 6000 y/o idea from the begets in the Bible. Finally I introduced her to the Greenland ice cores, which prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the Earth is at least 750k years old. After that, slowly, she turned loose of the whole "Bible is infallible" BS.
 

BCR

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My mom was a die-hard YEC. They get the 6000 y/o idea from the begets in the Bible. Finally I introduced her to the Greenland ice cores, which prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the Earth is at least 750k years old. After that, slowly, she turned loose of the whole "Bible is infallible" BS.
Nice job, I know most YEC really are just that because they are force fed it their whole lives by their parents. I was lucky to have smart and logical parents, they are Atheist but they never spoke to me about religious beliefs. They let me find out for myself which I think is the best way to go when raising a child.
 

rockshock28

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These young earth people are nuts. They don't seem to get the fact that science has proven time and time again the earth can not be 6000 years old.
 

winston53660

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These young earth people are nuts. They don't seem to get the fact that science has proven time and time again the earth can not be 6000 years old.
Science was place d here by the devil.:mrgreen:
 

Deuce

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I learned that lesson as well .... nobody KNOWS what is going on. I have my personal opinion (the bible is more/less the "truth"), but beyond that ... irrelevant.

Any scientific fact, shy of an outright denial of Jesus/God, I consider and adopt into my "view" as long as it is logical.

Example of "scientific fact" I would ignore: eggs are good for you - > 10 yrs later "eggs are bad for you"

I would also note, in that same vein, that a lot of people (myself included) don't trust scientific "fact" because the goal post seems to be constantly moving.

Well established fact, like the age of the earth, is undeniable. Nebulous concepts like "frog became monkey, but we don't know exactly how" are something I take with a grain of salt and withhold forming a strong opinion on.
Interesting combination of username and post.
Also, your description of evolution is pretty absurdly inaccurate as well as being overly simplistic.
 

MKULTRABOY

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Friends are made but when do you see someone who is dogmatically insistent on a particular ideology actually change what they say or believe in?.. Meaning they change their entire perspective. The truth is it rarely happens. Which is what I was saying.
I agree, we can only hope they just enlighten themselves with more information, them eventually and softening their stances. I used to be a rightie then I became hardcore lefty. Now I dont really subscribe to either left or right but inenculturating plain politics I'm associated with the liberal.
 
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