Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Backfire Effect

By way of "icebrc" on Google Reader, by way of Larry Moran; nice write-up in Mother Jones, by Kevin Drum [ ]
When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler
Larry Moran:
Can factual information change people's minds? Most people assume the answer is "yes." After all, if people believe something that isn't true then exposing them to the truth should cause them to abandon their beliefs, right?

Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet...Image via Wikipedia

Wrong. There's plenty of evidence that life is much more complicated. An interesting posting on entitled The Backfire Effect, alerts us to a study suggesting that knowledge may even have the opposite effect to what you expect. ... The authors review the literature and conclude that substantial numbers of people are quite resistant to facts when they hold strong opinions. Surprisingly, some people actually become more convinced they are right after hearing facts that contradict their belief. This phenomenon [is] called "The Backlash Effect"...
This suggests to me that rationality, free will, choice, consciousness, self-knowledge, etc. demand that people use techniques to counter-act bias and failure-modes of human thought.
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