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The science behind political behavior
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At Ease Offline
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The science behind political behavior
Quote:Humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview

Something is rotten in the state of American political life. The U.S. (among other nations) is increasingly characterized by highly polarized, informationally insulated ideological communities occupying their own factual universes.

....

The reality of human-caused global warming is settled science. The alleged link between vaccines and autism has been debunked as conclusively as anything in the history of epidemiology. It’s easy to find authoritative refutations of Donald Trump’s self-exculpatory claims regarding Ukraine and many other issues.

Yet many well-educated people sincerely deny evidence-based conclusions on these matters.

...

“Motivated reasoning” is what social scientists call the process of deciding what evidence to accept based on the conclusion one prefers.

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Denial doesn’t stem from ignorance

The interdisciplinary study of this phenomenon has exploded over just the last six or seven years. One thing has become clear: The failure of various groups to acknowledge the truth about, say, climate change, is not explained by a lack of information about the scientific consensus on the subject.

Instead, what strongly predicts denial of expertise on many controversial topics is simply one’s political persuasion.

A 2015 metastudy showed that ideological polarization over the reality of climate change actually increases with respondents’ knowledge of politics, science, and/or energy policy. The chances that a conservative is a climate-change denier is significantly higher if he or she is college-educated. Conservatives scoring highest on tests for cognitive sophistication or quantitative reasoning skills are most susceptible to motivated reasoning about climate science.

This is not just a problem for conservatives. As researcher Dan Kahan has demonstrated, liberals are less likely to accept expert consensus on the possibility of safe storage of nuclear waste, or on the effects of concealed-carry gun laws.

Denial is natural

Our ancestors evolved in small groups, where cooperation and persuasion had at least as much to do with reproductive success as holding accurate factual beliefs about the world. Assimilation into one’s tribe required assimilation into the group’s ideological belief system. An instinctive bias in favor of one’s in-group” and its worldview is deeply ingrained in human psychology.

A human being’s very sense of self is intimately tied up with his or her identity group’s status and beliefs. Unsurprisingly, then, people respond automatically and defensively to information that threatens their ideological worldview. We respond with rationalization and selective assessment of evidence—that is, we engage in “confirmation bias,” giving credit to expert testimony we like and finding reasons to reject the rest.

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Denial is everywhere

This kind of affect-laden, motivated thinking explains a wide range of examples of an extreme, evidence-resistant rejection of historical fact and scientific consensus.

Have tax cuts been shown to pay for themselves in terms of economic growth? Do communities with high numbers of immigrants have higher rates of violent crime? Did Russia interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election? Predictably, expert opinion regarding such matters is treated by partisan media as though evidence is itself inherently partisan.

Denialist phenomena are many and varied, but the story behind them is, ultimately, quite simple. Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it. Under the right conditions, universal human traits such as in-group favoritism, existential anxiety, and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics.

When group interests, creeds, or dogmas are threatened by unwelcome factual information, biased thinking becomes denial. And unfortunately these facts about human nature can be manipulated for political ends.

This picture is a bit grim, because it suggests that facts alone have limited power to resolve politicized issues such as climate change or immigration policy. But properly understanding the phenomenon of denial is surely a crucial first step to addressing it.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90458795/hum...-worldview
(This post was last modified: 06-04-2020 05:10 PM by At Ease.)
02-03-2020 10:47 PM
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