Some people form and cling to false beliefs about health-care reform (or Obama’s citizenship) despite overwhelming evidence thanks to a mental phenomenon called motivated reasoning, says sociologist Steven Hoffman, visiting assistant professor at the University at Buffalo.
"Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief," he says, "people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe."
"For the most part," says Hoffman, "people completely ignore contrary information" and are able to "develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information."
The article’s author, Sharon Begley, is responding to angry emails sent to her after she analyzed popular myths about Obamacare by analogizing her detractors’ delusions to those who fell for the Saddam – 9/11 link nonsense. The basic point, of course, is that folks interpret information in a way that already fits their world view.
Said another way, in the context of his series on simple rules for jury selection, by Houston defense lawyer Mark Bennett:
Jurors decide cases based on their guts, then look for intellectual reasons to support their emotional decisions. As a result of confirmation bias (h/t Dennis Elias of Litigation Strategies for the link), they might not see, might disregard, or might discount all facts that don’t support their (gut) preconceptions.
If you want a really hard job, try to win your case beginning with the presentation of evidence. It’s not always impossible, but it’s not nearly as easy as using the evidence to confirm what they already believe.
Finally a gratuitous side note – which allows me to complete the superfecta in my title – my sister, who writes the eponymously anagrammed (or is that anagrammically eponymous?) Arsenic Julep blog, recently commented on a Roger Ebert piece responding to angry moviegovers upset that he had panned Transformers 2.
The review itself garnered over 750 comments, and his article “I’m A Proud Brainiac” about the reaction to the original is over 1000 and counting. But Ebert took the time to respond personally to her comment.
So, exactly what topic did the ultimate movie buff (she still reacts in actual, not mock, horror every time I answer “Uh, not yet” to her “Have you seen Fill-In-The-Blank-Last-Years-Oscar-Nominee?” questions) and the world’s only Pulitzer Prize winning movie reviewer discuss in this online tête-à-tête? Here’s his part of the conversation:
Pornography makes the fatal error of rushing toward and dwelling upon the least visually interesting elements of sex: The rumpy-pumpy and the "money shot."
These are the exterior manifestations of events that have their importance in what takes place in the mind. If there were seduction and foreplay…but the actors don’t even kiss.
I find it unutterably depressing that people who are flailing at each other’s genitals don’t even like each other enough to kiss.