Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

More About "You Are Now Less Dumb"

I'm reading the chapter about the "backfire effect", which is about how people will reinforce their existing beliefs when presented with evidence that contradicts them. It includes this section on page 151:
Geoffrey Munro and Peter Ditto concocted a series of fake scientific studies in 1997. One set of studies said homosexuality was probably a mental illness. The other set suggested homosexuality was normal and natural. They then separated subjects into two groups. One group said they believed homosexuality was a mental illness, and the other did not. Each group then read the fake studies full of pretend facts and figures suggesting that their worldview was wrong. On either side of the issue, after reading studies that did not support their beliefs, most people didn't report an epiphany, a realization that they'd been wrong all those years. Instead, they said the issue was something science couldn't understand. When asked about other topics later on, such as spanking or astrology, these same people said they no longer trusted research to determine the truth.
Soooo ... let's be clear on this. These researchers lied to their subjects about the results of make-believe studies that never happened. The subjects did not believe the fake research, and said they trusted research in general less after hearing about the fake research.


This study pretty much exemplifies not only that people are not persuaded by research, but why they are not persuaded by it. BECAUSE IT COULD BE FAKE AND THEY WOULDN'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. I am not questioning that the backfire effect exists (not only does it fall in line with my own biases, but there are other studies exploring the effect that don't rely on lying about evidence in an effort to prove it). But I do think it's funny that this is used to prove how irrational human biases are, when it's a rare instance of those human biases leading to the correct conclusion: "don't believe these guys, they're either lying or wrong". XD
Tags: books, psychology
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