Cognitive Dissonance

May 18, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Haven’t you ever noticed that most people argue political points irrationally?

There was a study done where psychologists asked a series of opinionated people (both pro and con) about a controversial subject with no black-and-white answer (I think it was capital punishment). The people were then asked to read two scholarly papers, one pro and one con about the issue. Now, if people processed this information completely rationally, they would at least realize that the issue is a bit more complex than they originally thought. And maybe the other side had valid points that they had not originally considered.

In fact this does not happen. . .

People actually distort the articles when they re-describe them. They would wave the confirming article in the air exclaiming how competent the writing is. And they would be supercritical of the disconfirming article, finding minor flaws and magnifying them to major reasons why the paper is wrong. Even though this behavior is most obvious with, say, anti-evolutionists, most “regular” people do this with run-of-the-mill political arguments as well.

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