There should be a common body of facts that everybody can agree on and yet have a difference of opinion……It’s important to make a distinction between beliefs that people hold and the facts.” ~ Dana Milbank National Political Columnist, Washington Post.

We don’t like to admit we’re wrong, our ego flinches automatically.  Admitting we’re wrong after holding a view for a long time can be excruciating.  

A study out of Michigan finds that people rarely change their minds when presented with facts and will often become even more attached to their beliefs in the face of corrective information. 

Obama isn’t an US citizen.

*Vaccines cause autism.

George W Bush is the Antichrist

Hillary Clinton’s brain blood clot hospitalization was timed  around when she was supposed to testify about Benghazi 

September 11th was a US-created attack.

You’ll have better luck convincing people the earth is oblong than changing their mind about statements they’re convinced are true because they want to believe they’re true.

“The lack of humility makes it hard to take an honest look at one’s own views and opinions, causing people to stick with talking lines they know to be contrary to the facts,” says NPR correspondent Neal Conan in his report, “In Politics, Sometimes The Facts Don’t Matter.

Our tendency to hold tight to our beliefs doesn’t bide well for public health officials or politicians trying to shift opinion. What’s worse is the backfire effect. If you try to change someone’s mind by showing them irrefutable facts, while the person might agree with you on the surface, more than likely after you walk away, she’ll stick to her guns even more.

This phenomenon isn’t just because our ego is bruised; it’s because we don’t like what being wrong does to our identity and self-esteem, finds research out of University of Michigan published by Brendan Nyhan, public health researcher.

“The phenomenon is called backfire,” reports NPR’s Conan. “It plays an especially important role in how we shape and solidify our beliefs on immigration, the president’s place of birth, welfare and other highly partisan issues.”

Faced with our beliefs not jibing with the facts a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance, we dig for more information to validate our view.

“As human beings we want to believe, you know, the things that we already believe. And so when you hear some information that contradicts your pre-existing views, unfortunately, what we tend to do is think of why we believed those things in the first place,” explains Nyhan.

So how can we stop people from being fact-blind and hard-headed?

What’s interesting is when researchers in the Michigan study boosted subject’s self-esteem  before they were presented with corrective facts, subjects were more likely to accept the new information and change their beliefs. 

So besides vetting issues with numerous credible fact-checking sources which most of us don’t have the time or wherewithal to do, we need to be humble by default.  We need to accept that we might be wrong and that if we are, this doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us.

“This isn’t a question of education, necessarily, or sophistication. It’s really about preserving that belief that we initially held,” explains Nyhan.

“It’s important to make a distinction between beliefs that people hold and the facts,” says Dana Milbank National Political Columnist, Washington Post.  “So a lot of your emailers and callers have spoken about, you know, evolution or nuclear energy or guns and the death penalty, obviously, people can have very different opinions, and there should be a debate on all of these things. But there should be a common body of facts that everybody can agree on and yet have a difference of opinion.”

“‘So I’ve changed my point of view just really through I think, self-education and actually really great programs like this that are offered to us through NPR.” – NPR caller named Chrissie who changed her views on gun ownership (now pro) and the death penalty (now pro).

*P.s. Vaccines. I used to worry about too many vaccines too soon although when my daughter was young she got all of them on the standard schedule.  For now I’ve opted out of the HPV vaccine until I see more research, her 2nd chicken pox and Hepatitis A.  I discussed this with my nearly 16-year-old so she can decide how she feels about it.

Years ago I researched the autism epidemic and wrote an article.  Autism is a spectrum disorder caused by a number of complex genetic and environmental triggers. To pinpoint one overriding cause is to hold fast to a chosen view rather than to consider evolving ones.

Vaccines per se don’t cause autism, but the mercury preservative thimerosal can have a devastating effect in the first month of life, and on some children in later months.  (See Vaccine Do’s and Don’ts).  “This analysis suggests that high exposure to ethyl mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines in the first month of life increases the risk of subsequent development of neurologic development impairment, but not of neurologic degenerative  or renal impairment. Further confirmatory studies are needed.”  (“Increased risk of developmental neurologic impairment after high exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccine in first.”) 

 

In my view the qualifier “some” children is reason enough to pay attention to what role thimerosal might play in autism incidence which now stands at 1 in 88 children.

We have more to lose with partisan deadlock that leads to public mistrust, missed opportunities and health crises when we stick to our views despite evidence to the contrary.

It’s the most humble people who are open to facts, despite facts erasing all they thought they knew of the issue and therefore themselves, who break through to the other side.

Footnote:

NPR: “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions.”  

Politifact

Snopes

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Site last updated April 29, 2019 @ 2:44 pm; This content last updated March 4, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: