This conclusion is really not new and I have repeated this truth a number of times in the based on other studies.
I have also mentioned cognitive dissonance, an emotional uncomfortable reaction to holding conflicting facts so the more tightly held fact prevails and the other is forgotten.
Religion is another area of useless fighting with facts. The head of the NIH who managed the successful genome project believes in evolution, but also goes to church every week and believes in God.
Other intelligent persons like him like the Six Catholics on the Supreme Court vote their ideology rather than using the logic of precedence. Unfortunately a majority of five are staunch conservatives who reject the facts and consequences of their emotionally based decisions.
The college educated class likes to think they always think logically, but every logical decisions we come to is usually based on emotion laden memory. The Prefrontal cortex has attached to it an emotion based brain part that is required for us to make decisions. If it is surgically removed as has been done in the past, the individuals can no longer make decisions.
To change how we think, we need to accept information by taking the time to evaluate their truths, and accumulate them to alter how we think and make decisions. Emotion is tied to memory by a chemical reaction so if we are not interested in acquiring information on a topic, we tend to think in our old ways.
This may explain how those people who are religious in their youth become more agnostic as they acquire more information. That is the role of a good education. So choose a good teaching college for you children and grandchildren, and not the most prestigious colleges. I hope we bring back gender separated colleges again. It really helps not to be constantly distracted.
If students are good and get a strong recommendation and do well on the graduate tests, it is possible to get into the best schools even though about half of the openings are already taken to accommodate dumber kids from rich donors and alumni.
In the end, our beliefs are determined by our genes and expressed or not epigenetically, our parents, our neighborhood, our life, our schools, our friends, and hopefully some facts.
Jim Kawakami, Dec 21, 2010, http://jimboguy.blogspot.com
Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? The Logic Behind Self-delusion Stephen Dufrechou, www.Alternet.org Dec 19, 2010
Excerpt: The conclusion made here is this: facts often do not determine our beliefs, but rather our beliefs (usually non-rational beliefs) determine the facts that we accept. As the Boston Globe article notes:
In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote. ...
A recent cognitive study, as reported by the Boston Globe, concluded that: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite.
(Lies work quite well if repeated often enough as done during campaigns for election by the moneyed interests. I don’t spend much time trying to convert staunch liberals or conservatives. I just tell them what I believe and why. China is run mostly by engineers as is Germany. Engineers and chemists tend to be conservative and church goers. Physicists tend to be liberal and agnostic. We can only guess why. Jim)
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.
In light of these findings, researchers concluded that a defense mechanism, which they labeled “backfire”, was preventing individuals from producing pure rational thought. The result is a self-delusion that appears so regularly in normal thinking that we fail to detect it in ourselves, and often in others: When faced with facts that do not fit seamlessly into our individual belief systems, our minds automatically reject (or backfire) the presented facts. The result of backfire is that we become even more entrenched in our beliefs, even if those beliefs are totally or partially false.
“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” said Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher of the Michigan study. The occurrence of backfire, he noted, is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”
The conclusion made here is this: facts often do not determine our beliefs, but rather our beliefs (usually non-rational beliefs) determine the facts that we accept. As the Boston Globe article notes:
In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.
Despite this finding, Nyhan claims that the underlying cause of backfire is unclear. “It’s very much up in the air,” he says. And on how our society is going to counter this phenomena, Nyhan is even less certain.
These latter unanswered questions are expected in any field of research, since every field has its own limitations. Yet here the field of psychoanalysis can offer a completion of the picture.
Disavowal and Backfire: One and the Same
In an article by psychoanalyst Rex Butler, Butler independently comes to the same conclusion as the Michigan Study researchers. In regards to facts and their relationship to belief systems (or ideologies), Butler says that:
there is no necessary relationship between reality and its symbolization … Our descriptions do not naturally and immutably refer to things, but … things in retrospect begin to resemble their description. Thus, in the analysis of ideology, it is not simply a matter of seeing which account of reality best matches the ‘facts’, with the one that is closest being the least biased and therefore the best. As soon as the facts are determined, we have already – whether we know it or not – made our choice; we are already within one ideological system or another. The real dispute has already taken place over what is to count as the facts, which facts are relevant, and so on.
This places the field of psychoanalysis on the same footing as that of cognitive science, in regards to this matter. But where cognitive studies end, with Nyhan’s question about the cause of backfire, psychoanalysis picks up and provides a possible answer. In fact, psychoanalysts have been publishing work on backfire for decades; only psychoanalysis refers to backfire by another name: “disavowal”. Indeed, these two terms refer to one and the same phenomena.
The basic explanation for the underlying cause of disavowal/backfire goes as follows.
“Liberals” and “conservatives” espouse antithetical belief systems, both of which are based on different non-rational “moral values.” This is a fact that cognitive linguist George Lakoff has often discussed, which incidentally brings in yet another field of study that supports the existence of the disavowal/backfire mechanism.
In accordance with these different non-rational belief systems, any individual’s ideology tends to function also as a ‘filtering system’, accepting facts that seamlessly fit into the framework of that ideology, while dismissing facts that do not fit.
When an individual—whether a “liberal”, “conservative”, or any other potential ideology—is challenged with facts that conflict with his/her ideology, the tendency is for that individual to experience feelings of anxiety, dread, and frustration. This is because our ideologies function, like a lynch pin, to hold our psychologies together, in order to avoid, as Nyhan puts it, “cognitive dissonance”. In other words, when our lynch pins are disturbed, our psychologies are shaken. ... http://www.alternet.org/story/149262/are_we_too_dumb_for_democracy_the_logic_behind_self-delusion?page=entire (Total of seven pages)