The Boston Globe just reported today on a study at the University of Michigan that examined how people, especially those who are wrong about what they believe to be true, respond to being presented with the facts:
Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. 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.
Now, I don’t think this comes as any great surprise to anyone who has a Republican for a relative, it is nice to confirm clinically what we’ve learned from our Thanksgiving Day experiences. At first, others may discount it as partisan to assert that those on the right are far more frequently and substantially guilty of such willful ignorance. Considering there’s a popular news channel devoted to fortifying and implanting ignorance, that alone would be a strong argument but here is another telling section of the article:
On its own, this might not be a problem: People ignorant of the facts could simply choose not to vote. But instead, it appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout.
More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)
So, like a mobius strip of idiocy, the more ignorant one is, the more convicted they are of the things that make them ignorant. The more combatively partisan people are, the more their existing untrue views are supported by “news” sources and the ramblings of politicians, the less likely it is that the ignorant will accept truths that don’t confirm their existing beliefs, in fact, they’ll just dig their heels into their ignorance deeper.
The insecurity that accompanies ignorance is powerful, I think that such people have an inkling they may not be as well informed on things but for the sake of their ego (over their self-interest and what’s best for their family), they don’t want to feel like they’re stupid so they will clutch onto the falsehoods they believe more desperately when challenged. This is very childish behavior but there are many emotionally immature Americans out there who NEED to be right more than they need to know the truth.
So, it becomes a conundrum, the more you try to correct an untruth someone believes, the harder that person embraces the untruth. I’ve tried an approach that has only worked marginally but better than just presenting facts to such folks. When there is a legit opportunity for me to say, “maybe I’m wrong” or “I was wrong about that”, the example is set that one can be confident and unashamed of seeking truth over “being right”. One can then say, “Come on, I admitted when I was mistaken and I didn’t have a heart attack, you can do the same if the truth matters to you more than feeling right.”
I do think that humor also emerges as a better tool for trying to get the truth across to people who are so vested in untruths.
It is a bit troubling that the insecurity of Americans keeps them ignorant by choice and that ignorance is giving aid and comfort to those who are the biggest enemies of our democracy and wreaking havoc on the lives of these very same ignorant people, namely the wealthy and corporations. I have no doubt their market research studies have taught them the same thing. Reducing education, increasing the dissemination of propaganda and distracting people into having fun instead of learning and reading would all be beneficial policies for corporations to press forward.
The dumbing down of America is also the undemocratizing of it.
The mind of a voter is a terrible thing to waste.
Man if this doesn’t fit into your article ,AdLb, I don’t know a better example.
I think the inability to face facts is a simple defense mechanism. People are worth less than dust in this universe. So, rather than go insane, some people hang on to their reality like it’s a life raft.
I don’t really care if someone is delusional. I only care when they get the notion that it’s OK to force their delusion down my throat. The U.S. is FULL of those kinds of people.
Well said and I couldn’t agree more. As for the study, I’ve suspected this for some time. It’s why arguing with bloggers of opposite opinions, especially at HP, is so futile. Mindsets are just that, set, in some instances, in stone.
It’s really hard to have any kind of rational discourse on HP. I notice the same people parroting the exact same thing over and over. It’s like watching reruns. It gets old fast.
Franken, you put your finger on something important. And, yes, the U.S. has huge numbers of those kinds of people.
I saw this at work yesterday. We had a patient who was unexpectedly diagnosed with acute leukemia. She’s in her early 50s and, of course, it was quite a shock. She and her husband were quietly struggling to take it all in. But their children (late 20s to mid 30s) went ballistic. They were sure that the lab that processed her blood work was wrong, the doctor was incompetent, the bone marrow biopsy results were a mistake. They blocked the hallways and made loud, repeated phone calls to a lot of people trying to gather info on the MD, the hospital, etc. They were angry with the staff and insisted that the patient be transferred instantly to a major university hospital 65 miles away. (This was at 5 p.m. when such complex arrangements are not easy to make.)
I think this might have been the first time that these people had ever come up against a situation in which the reality they wanted to believe in was in such direct contradiction to the real situation. Their immediate reaction was to force their own reality onto reality itself!
As you say, people tend to choose their self-created reality over the real thing “rather than go insane.” The irony is, they still end up — inevitably — in a place of insanity. These folks will transfer their family member to another hospital (which, indeed, they have every right to do), but it won’t change the lab values, the bone marrow biopsy results or the diagnosis. Sadly. That’s when Tea Party type fury will need to be exchanged for real-life coping skills.
Please understand, I would never fault anyone for getting angry over a bad diagnosis or any bad situation. Been there myself. But after the initial reaction, you have to buckle down and get through things realistically.
The Tea Party mentality does not encourage that.
Probably most of us who comment and post here can remember a few times in our youth when we began to seriously question the dogmatic teachings that were being presented to us. It might have been from a priest or a nun in a parochial school, a coach, a parent, an aunt or uncle or a teacher who gave a very slanted view of American history. We may have been anywhere from eight to fourteen, I imagine. Once the idea formed in our head, “That can’t be right!”, it picked up steam and soon we were questioning ALL of those sources. Ta da! We had our very own Bullshit Detector! It wasn’t always right, it wasn’t always useful, but it WAS, and continues to be, an important tool in our intellectual toolbox.
It appears others never have that awakening. Their brains don’t seem geared toward questioning and seeing through dogmatic BS. Facts are a very different thing for them because reality itself is very different for them.
WTS, this seems to go along with that ability or inability to live with ambiguity. To a little child the “rule” is usually that authority figures are powerful and infallible, and it’s best to align oneself with them. The notion that there are some judges, policemen, teachers, and military officers who are corrupt, ignorant or just plain wrong is too complex and even unnerving to handle. And, as you said, some adults are out there voting and affecting the lives of others when they’ve never had that great “awakening.”
The most rigid conservatives in our family have had similar backgrounds. They come from families in which one parent is distant and the other is intelligent but not rational, and is extremely controlling. The more “engaged” parent tended to indulge in a lot of superstitious and magical thinking and there was no counter-balance from the one who was removed. The foundation for logical thought was askew right from the start. They also had that extreme form of family “loyalty” that another poster noted, which seemed to imply that holding an opinion different from other “gatekeeper” family members’ opinions was an unforgivable form of disloyalty. It seems to be a sort of “Borg Thought” in which the family moves and thinks as a unit and individuality is discouraged. It’s a sort of latter day tribalism in which the family (or, substitute church or political party here) becomes the source of safety and self-esteem for the fragile individual ego.
kes – you have named these phenomena precisely. Magical thinking and tribalism. To that I would add one more thing: believing in conspiracies against you is the only excitement disaffected people ever get anymore. It gives purpose, shape, and meaning to lives that are without any in any other way.
In the 1950s several sociologists examined UFO cults in America in a book called, “When Prophecy Fails”. They found that, like the Millerites and other ‘end of the world’ visionaries, the more the prophecy failed, the MORE the believers adhered to the ideology, not less. The End did not come, the spaceships never arrived, but the more they believed it would happen and soon. The believers were beyond reason.
Yes humor CAN work, but it also can generate rage in the one who believes. I have no real idea quite how we got here, but I wonder how much “The Bourne Identity” coupled with REAL conspiracies (and yes, there ARE some) have generated broad based fear that propels people into ideological camps. We on the progressive side are not immune either. We had real fears of Bush’s potential to move us into fascism, and even I feared he, not Clinton, would impose martial law to remain in power. I was wrong – gladly so! – but there are the dupes who believe it even more profoundly since they follow leaders such as Beck and Bachmann who propagate the “Obama equals concentration camps for Christians” mantra.
Guess what my job is? Telling people truth about the messes we’re in and recommending how to fix them. It confronts some of this on a daily basis. But what works is grounding my explanations in moral frames and explaining its failures in those terms first followed by policy details:
“We all want a state or country where we can support ourselves and raise our kids.” (Value) Question – “Why are we creating or permitting policies that make that almost impossible?” Answer – “Let’s look at what does and does not work for this value.” = examining the policies step by step.
OK – I don’t have Beckians for members – our folks have their marbles. It does not mean they are all liberal and informed. One older man railed against our critique of corporate dominance BUT did so in terms of small business. When I gently unpacked the issue with him, he began to change his mind. He was thinking Bailey Savings & Loan; we are talking about Potter Global Bank. He began to see we were NOT imposing new standards of operation on small business but valuing and rescuing them FROM Potter Global Bank. Understanding whom and what he valued helped to have that conversation successfully.
But I don’t have to deal with the Huttaree or the militias of any stripe – only my mailman (unionized, well paid who hates state unions and blames them for everything wrong in CA) is that dim. We may have to give up on them and shoot for the middle who are just wobbly in their worry.
But unless and until the MSM begin challenging some of the unmitigated crap out there, the Lords and Ladies of Fear and Magical Thinking will have undue influence. After all – fear and banding together are the only communitarian experiences left, and it’s just so damned much FUN.
I hope you don’t run into anything like this-
Oh and I have got to get this gals beauty secrets!
My favorite comment:
2 minutes ago
You know there’s a point where messing? with your face only makes it worse, right?
Yea, you passed that a LONG time ago.
There was also one about smearing the camera lens with vaseline and backing up 20 feet.
Now I’m not usually this cruel on natural appearances, but there is nothing natural about this.
What? That is not natural?
Shocked! I am shocked!
I thought those repub
ladies just all come out like that!
I’m so bummed
I know Patsy – and here we took her on faith that she was just a natural, Bible bangin’, God lovin’, gun totin’, man-deferring, all-American woman, right? I’m shocked that’s not her natural hair color, too.
Patsy, she is bloody scary, looks and thoughts.
That is the base of the republican party!
Is that a joke?
You are right
They are in it to win it!
Can’t wait for that debate!
Well she does have that Tammie Fay Bakker thing going. Ugh.
I guess not.
George Washington rides again!
It took me watching to the end to figure out it wasn’t.
Patsy, it’s the salmon mousse! 😉
She is swimming in it!
Reminds me of Dyan Cannon.
Oh, and QVC sells a product called Spackle; I think it one of the shades available is salmon.
Ouch! I’m now questioning my heterosexuality.
Maybe this is a dude… the voice is a little low and that close up makes it easy to hide the adams apple !
Not to worry, dear AdLib – it just means you have good taste.
Personally I think this is a send up, but many think she (presuming it IS a she) is for real. She is actually too well spoken in her banality to be anything BUT a joke, IMHO.
Patsy – I’m SO with you. I want to learn to use that lip liner so I, too, can have ring around the fat lips. First I’d have to get fat lips, but hey. Black outlines are tres chic, doncha think?
Make up by Sharpie!
Oh c’lady, what a great comment to come home to after a long day at work! Beautifully written, as always, and completely to the point.
I read parts of your post to my son (we’re both up at 2:30 a.m.) and he describes your depiction of the mindset of the disaffected as “recreational paranoia.”
I love that! I think you’ve put your finger on a notion that others have overlooked: conspiracy thought as entertainment in a world that is otherwise pretty vapid.
You smart lady, you!
I remember learning about this way back yonder in college — the “reduction of cognitive dissonance.” The example I recall was someone looking to buy a car and considering a Volvo and a Toyota. At some point, something occurs to make the person lean toward the Toyota. From then on, the brain will simply collect evidence to support that decision — focus on the pluses of the Toyota and the negatives of the Volvo.
I think the part that interests me is what is that “something” that occurs to send the “objective” person off into subjective land. I have some close family relationships with some quite conservative people. I get along quite well with them but of course our political discussions are like tip-toeing over coals. The main difference between them and me is that they are less apt to see that other ways of life are as valid as theirs, eg, foreigners, gays, other races (fear of anything “different.”) Extreme devotion to family but not to strangers is another characteristic (“we” must protect ourselves from “them.”)
Excuse my cynicism but I’ve just assumed for many years that most people are intellectually lazy. After a few decades of living like that, one does tend to turn into an idiot.
The Toyota/Volvo example is so accurate. I have caught myself doing the same kind of subjective thinking and wag a mental finger at myself.
It’s very human to do so but the degree to which some delude themselves is the difference between people who may occasionally eat a fast food hamburger and people who grow obese because they are addicted to them.
Insecurity does seem to be at the root of ignorance so it’s less surprising that those insecure folks who are fearful of being exposed as “wrong” would also be intimidated by other people who are strange and different to them, gay, black, Latino, Jewish, even the opposite sex.
On the positive side, it does seem that the younger generations seem less emotionally insecure and thus less willingly ignorant. All of that overboard effort by parents to give kids high self-esteem may be paying off…although an exaggerated sense of entitlement in many of them may be the price to pay.
Tolerance for ambiguity is the reason for the “flip-flop” criticism Conservatives levy on Liberals.
The reason for the flip-flop in Liberals is because they show greater brain activity when presented with conflict and ambiguity whereas it’s the opposite with Conservatives. Conservatives are more likely to get things wrong when needing to make a shift in thinking on any level. That tenaciousness is mistakenly seen as toughness and decisiveness, beautifully exhibited by Bush.
There is also a crosscurrent of alcoholism and religious fundamentalism which are both tied in with the above.
Yes, the open, confident mind is more geared towards accepting new information and using critical thinking to conclude if their previous ideas are valid or if a new proposition makes more sense.
Again, if the goal is to know what the truth is in a situation, then one pays little attention to whether they WERE wrong instead of whether they ARE right.
When truth isn’t the goal but emotional gratification is, it surely does matter more that one feels that they are right and inconvenient truths must be obscured or ignored.
History is strewn with the tragedies of individuals, groups and societies that place a higher value on their emotional gratification than truth. It makes the many, the pawns and victims of the few because when people readily support the destructive lies of the few just for the cheap price of feeling “right”, they ignorantly collaborate in something that’s very wrong indeed.
“A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”
– Robert Frost
There are cognitive styles that are dichotomous, resistant to updating, intolerant of ambiguity, very high on rigidity that correspond with anti-democratic views, social and economic conservatism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, etc…
It all corresponds with a childhood possessing a highly autocratic upbringing with deep psychological conflict. It is very important to realize that NO talking will reach these people.
It has been posited that people like this are evolutionarily beneficial during war time because of paranoid tendencies, whereas Liberal-minded individuals are beneficial during peace.
Hit the bulls eye again, Q!
That simple dynamic of being a child and feeling bad about oneself for being “wrong”, being punished in anger by one’s parents for making mistakes, clearly lays a foundation for some to build armor around their ignorance.
Their thinking is, “If I don’t think I’m wrong, I’m not wrong.”
Tangential to the solipsism of children, they allow themselves to be fooled by themselves so the world they admit to seeing portrays them as infallible…and definitely not having cause to feel the inferiority about themselves they otherwise are married to feeling if they are exposed as being “wrong”.
The irony is that those who readily admit they make mistakes or are wrong about something, learn from that and then are more knowledgeable and more confident.
What is seen as weakness by the ignorant is what makes the informed who they are.
As to those with petrified ignorance being better during war times, I think the Bush Admin’s performance during Iraq and Afghanistan undermines that meme. Especially when comparing it with FDR and WW II.
Smart is definitely better.
Sharron Angle…living proof that the article you cite and the points you make are so true, AdLib. It’s just so depressing to have to accept the fact that this person is giving Harry Reid very serious competition.
It reminds me of seeing the Palin-Biden debate during the campaign. All I could think was: “Don’t people see the tremendous difference in the ability of these two candidates to reason logically and think rationally? It’s so obvious!”
But Angle and Palin fans just can’t/won’t allow themselves to see or accept it.
I think your point about the use of humor is well taken, AdLib. So often in the heat of a discussion, humor is the first casualty.
Also,I must admit the only time recently when I’ve been able to make a dent on one of the family die hard Republicans was during a discussion of the Eric Holder decision regarding the New Black Panthers who were allegedly carrying weapons outside a polling place. Fux Noise had juxtaposed some footage of one of the guys yelling and screaming on the street about the need to “kill some cracker babies,” and they were attempting in their slimy way to link those comments to Holder — and, by association to Obama. I said that this was not journalism in any sense, but character assassination. When he continued to take the Fux position as gospel, I finally said: “When you have watched or listened to President Obama speak, did he ever, at any time, strike you as a person who seriously wants to see dead babies? Dead white babies? Does that feel true to you?”
He was — for once — speechless.
I have no idea why that actually “worked,” but it was just about the only thing that has.
Props to you for discovering an argument that painted him into a corner of reason and props to him for finally accepting in that particular case that your reason was inescapable (he could’ve done what many other Repubs do, change the subject and/or launch a different attack).
I’m like you, even the Obama Admin was, during the HCR debate, they didn’t push back much against the “death panels” charge because they assumed people aren’t stupid enough to believe that this humanitarian plan by this humanitarian president would actually be a plan to kill people’s grandparents for no reason.
I’m reminded of an exchange in a WC Fields movie:
“Sir, you’re drunk!”
“And you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy the rest of your life.”
Ignorance, like a diamond, can be forever.
BT, I guess I did the reporter thing and used the word “alleged” because I didn’t think there had been a conviction yet…although for the stick wielder, it does look likely! And I gather that no charges have been dropped against him.
What bugged me, though, was Fux’s implication that Obama and a wild-eyed guy on the street who’s yelling: “Kill the cracker babies” are soulmates. That’s just ridiculous.
If Fox wants to talk about it daily, liberal blogs and MSNBC should perpetuate the story that happened over a year and a half ago by one person at one polling place by one raciest who was disciplined?
From the article that AdLib wrote about, it makes very little difference. Those that think that Obama/Holder did something illegal concerning the case, will continue to believe regardless of the facts.
What is the issue that has anything to do with an elected politician?
Did I miss a story that a politician supports the NBPP? (all 6 of them?)
Still, it might just gain traction among independents and casual LIV’s.
There needs to be a vigorous pushback on this faux story.
By the way, this is painful to watch, but FWIW:
I will stay with the article AdLib posted. If people believe that Obama (and ALL Dems) had something to do with this incident…. they will believe it. Any proof it hit Holder’s Desk? What does the story prove? That they were black idiots, Obama and Holder are black so they support them?
BT – in ’72 I ran two Congressional District campaigns for McGovern and in that capacity met a number of others doing the same. The days of dittos and mimeographs (ah-sweet smell of toner). During the Watergate hearings the Republicans dredged up an event involving one of my colleagues who had, as we all did being way too busy to pay much heed, allowed some guy to use the mimeo to print flyers for West LA Jewish areas that said “Nixon is tref” (meaning non-kosher). OK – my friend did not take enough care, to be sure, but he got hauled up before the Watergate committee in Congress and the Reeps demanded an answer of how this HIDEOUS thing could have been allowed. He answered calmly that given the revelations about Watergate, this oversight of his in not monitoring another person was, well, not much.
With all we’ve seen from the militas, the violent teabaggers, the murders of police and abortion providers, this one incident is, well, not much. I’m glad the leader was prohibited from the polls til 2012, but I do think things need to be kept in proportion. IF a real significant Black Panther group arises with true threats and real actions, I will be OUT THERE in as much fury as with the gun toters threatening Obama. Until I know they are not RW plants and until I see a pattern, I’m NOT getting upset about this other than at the level of being pissed about their actions that day toward those people. Period.
Proportion. One MUST keep proportion.
BT – there is no doubt these things happened, but the question that loom large in my mind is – who ARE these guys really? I had a serious run in with NWROC that we had full reason to know were provocateurs. My organization defused them with HUMOR (the leaders were pissed!) but I suspect these guys are not whom they appear to be. Too many instances under conservative administrations of people posing as “radicals” who are paid agitators who TRY to stir up trouble to make whoever they pretend to be look bad. For me, with wads of experience with such dudes infiltrating peaceful groups – for me, the jury is out on all this.
And even if they ARE who they appear to be – what federal crimes did they commit? If people were not barred from the polls by them, there is no case.
But the decision NOT to prosecute came under Bush, not Obama. So, in the immortal words of Gilda Radner – never mind.
C’Lady, from the NYT:
C’Lady, from the NYT:
Good investigating, thanks. But the Southern Poverty Law Center, while it has its eye on a couple of Black supremacist groups (Nuabians is one thought I’m spelling it wrong) has NO info on a revived Black Panthers. The question of their real identity lingers… NWROC goes everywhere posing as radicals but has waaaaay too much money and far too many resources. I have their phone number, they still answer though deny who they are, and one fine day I’m getting them tracked. Same with these guys – if they’re Bush era fed plants I will NOT be surprised. If they are self styled wackos I also won’t be surprised nor especially alarmed.
Just a wee bit too convenient for FOX. I’ve watched the clip and they were not doing much of anything but running their mouths. Not saying they can’t be some new version of Black Panthers, but I remain deeply suspicious that they could so easily be RW plants. It’s happened with way too many groups. One I spoke to had its most radical and aggressive member – the ONLY one who was – turn out to be an undercover policewoman. She was a provocateur for the LAPD’s terrorist squad. The group consisted of 10 Quakers – and her. She was the only one spouting extremist rhetoric. Once bitten, twice shy. Just saying.
I think the case about the New Black Panthers Party is a very good example of what Joe Keohone wrote in his article along with AdLib’s thoughts.
That is brilliant, kes, because asking a question of him made him have to ANSWER it. And putting it into a frame of values he could share (have you ever seen anything…).
According to Olbermann last night – the decision NOT to prosecute these guys came Jan. 9, 2009. Eleven days before Obama was inaugurated. A month before Holder was selected and confirmed as AG.
It was the Bush administration who answered the question – no, there is nothing anyone has seen that make these guys more than a nuisance.
And, BTW, I firmly believe they are NOT Black Panthers but more likely part of NWROC – National Worker (or Women’s) Rights Organizing Committee that I have some evidence is a FBI front and provocateur group that operates under conservative administrations. So….
Buddhist thought and philosophy says that suffering is caused by ignorance. This ignorance manifests in the delusion that if we get what we desire we will be happy. The problem is even after we get what we want and realize we aren’t happy we just desire more of what we are deluded about whether it’s sex, money, power, etc.
The modern concept of knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss, is wrong. The truth is more like knowledge is power but ignorance is emotional weakness. Because when we realize that physical safety and security is a delusion, we can begin to live life without negatively affecting the only home we have, Earth, and without causing suffering of other sentient beings.
What’s fascinating is that, if you have an open mind, you learn through observation in your own life the truths that were merely words in your youth.
After the repeated cycle of infatuation, acquisition and return to normalcy, it finally sinks in to many that lasting joy can’t come from materialism or even from someone else. The ability to be content or joyful is self-generated, we allow ourselves to feel that way or we don’t.
So true dildenusa, ignorance may begin as no fault of oneself but the continuation of it is indeed due to one’s emotional weakness, a severe feeling of vulnerability that accompanies admitting a mistake. As Questinia describes above, a child who grew up with one or both parents punishing them with hostility for making a mistake may condition them to avoiding responsibility for making mistakes at all costs. Lying to others and even themselves, all to protect their need to escape this ghost of punishment that no longer is a part of their adult life.
This meshes well with the authoritarian sensibility of the GOP and its similar behavior of never admitting mistakes or untruths.
It is a codependent relationship, rank and file members and the GOP leadership each affirming the infallibility of each other.
Thank goodness their numbers are shrinking.