Does Your Brain Like Belief or Knowledge the Most?
|December 11, 2013||Posted by Staff under Activism|
In the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem. The hurdle is how our minds work.
Do facts matter? No. When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.
When people were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the bad economy. If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.
In one experiment, some people were asked to interpret a table of numbers about whether a skin cream reduced rashes, and some people were asked to interpret a different table – containing the same numbers – about whether a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns reduced crime. when the numbers in the table conflicted with people’s positions on gun control, they couldn’t do the math right, though they could when the subject was skin cream. The more advanced that people’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them less able to solve the math problem.
Denial is business-as-usual for our brains. More and better facts don’t turn low-information voters into well-equipped citizens. It just makes them more committed to their misperceptions. When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win. The power of emotion over reason isn’t a bug in our human operating systems, it’s a feature.
Ed. Notes: So now what? I’d say, downplay argument and up-play forging relationships around the topics that people can agree about. That might mean invoking a big familiar frame that resonates with a lot of people, hopefully a critical mass.