This Article Won’t Change Your Mind
March 18, 2017 6:23 PM   Subscribe

In one particularly potent example of party trumping fact, when shown photos of Trump’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s side by side, in which Obama clearly had a bigger crowd, some Trump supporters identified the bigger crowd as Trump’s. When researchers explicitly told subjects which photo was Trump’s and which was Obama’s, a smaller portion of Trump supporters falsely said Trump’s photo had more people in it.
The facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs
posted by AFABulous (65 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kudos for a further documentation of the Great Winding Down.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 6:55 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


More like confirmation bias on steroids while snorting cocaine.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:17 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Cognitive dissonance. If it shakes up your mind, beliefs, etc you just don't see it.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:23 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


I keep running into these jokers. They are SUPER angry about legal issues that they clearly don't understand, and if anyone (by this I mean me) tries to engage and explain the relevant law, they just explode and start calling me a "libtard." I am amazed this is still a thing people say out loud, but if you're proud of hating Muslims, hating BLM, and being "deplorable" then I guess you feel liberated to say any damned thing.

Can't be educated, these people. Don't quite know what to do about it.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:31 PM on March 18 [51 favorites]


Can't be educated, these people. Don't quite know what to do about it.

Prevent them (or the people they vote for) from gaining undue political influence, I guess.
posted by clockzero at 7:40 PM on March 18 [12 favorites]


It isn't limited to religious people. I went on a hike with a guy from Seattle yesterday who told me with complete faith that there was a scientist who had eliminated the need for pesticides by using fungus but that there was a huge conspiracy from the pharma and ag companies because they make so much money of pesticides and vaccines. When I asked where he had read this, he couldn't remember, but just kept saying it was a "fact". (I checked later, and it seems as though he is talking about potential fungal biopesticide development but I couldn't find anything about his "conspiracy".)

It's dangerous and arrogant to think that only the right or the religious are prone to fake facts. (This guy was a self-described progressive.)
posted by frumiousb at 8:18 PM on March 18 [48 favorites]


>I am amazed this is still a thing people say out loud, but if you're proud of hating Muslims, hating BLM, and being "deplorable" then I guess you feel liberated to say any damned thing.

My personal favorite is when people make fun of "social justice warriors". Because social justice... is... bad? And we should all be social INjustice warriors? I guess that's what they are.

Welcome to Modern America. Shit makes no sense.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:21 PM on March 18 [35 favorites]


The surest sign that you have an ideology is that you feel that you're surrounded by other ideologies that are completely irrational. Those of us on the left have ideologies too.

Now, denying facts is bad, but as the article discusses, most of the time it's in service to a set of values. And people don't like things that threaten their values.

If they're not our values, it seems kind of outrageous. But having values is not a bad thing at all; in fact, not having values is literally immoral, and also pretty hard to do. Having an open mind about everything is not only tedious (how would you decide anything?), but undesirable.
posted by zompist at 8:27 PM on March 18 [8 favorites]


It's kinda sadly symmetric: "it's a known scientific fact that 'the right or the religious are prone to fake facts.'.... er... hello? ... hey buddy could'ja at least toss me a fake p-value to support that thesis
posted by sammyo at 8:32 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I went on a hike with a guy from Seattle yesterday who told me with complete faith that there was a scientist who had eliminated the need for pesticides by using fungus but that there was a huge conspiracy [ . . . ] (I checked later, and it seems as though he is talking about potential fungal biopesticide development but I couldn't find anything about his "conspiracy".)

Yes, this happens all the time. If the statements come from a friend or (if on-line) an "ideological ally" my first instinct is to politely challenge & correct and/or try to figure out what they "really" meant, much as you describe. That's not my first instinct if it's from a Trump supporter. Make of that what you will.

My personal favorite is when people make fun of "social justice warriors". Because social justice... is... bad? And we should all be social INjustice warriors? I guess that's what they are.

The phrase is intentional sarcasm, just like we might talk about some bozo trying to keep blacks from voting as "nobly defending the electoral system." The opposite to them is someone who actually cares about justice, as opposed to pretending to care. You are missing the cutting wit of the jibe by taking it literally.

"cutting wit" is sarcasm on my part, in case that didn't come through.
posted by mark k at 8:34 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's interesting to look at the reasons why people persist in their belief in falsehoods in the face of clear factual evidence. Fortunately, none of us here on Metafilter have this problem, already holding exclusively the true beliefs.
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. at 8:35 PM on March 18 [19 favorites]


When I started disagreeing about religion growing up, I'd be told that I was resisting the truth because I wanted to sin more than I wanted to submit to God. The very idea of submission already raised my hackles, so being told that I was wrong for not wanting to submit just made me more angry. Then when I went to school, I'd be told by white supremacist kids that I was resisting hearing the truth about how black people really are inferior because I had an ego problem, and again, I was supposed to submit, which no, I wasn't about to do that (someone like King was an outlier, in their minds, and people like W.E.B. DuBois were only as smart as they were because they were part white (!!!)).

I would like to think that I am open to hearing the truth about things, whatever they are, and would know that whatever the truth of a situation may be, my sense of self isn't destroyed as my beliefs changed. As a young teenager hearing these messages, though, there was a tiny part of me, if I was awake in bed late at night, that wondered if in both instances I was the one who was wrong, and I examined myself about it. Then I grew up, and learned that all people have and need their core beliefs, which express themselves in religion, in politics, etc. Those beliefs are part of their very sense of self, and to have any crack is, in a real sense, a killing off who they know themselves to be. They need other people to share those beliefs as reinforcement. Greys and continuums don't exist for a lot of people for that reason.

If your existential sense of self leads to certain religious beliefs, political beliefs, racial beliefs, then of course you're going to make choices in gathering information that reinforce what keeps you you. Of course changing them is going to be hard, especially if the evidence all points to something that skews away from what one believes.
posted by droplet at 8:36 PM on March 18 [25 favorites]


It's an interesting article and has things worth discussing, but I gotta say using the Trump bit as a pull quote kinda works against the premise of the article for this audience as it goes towards suggesting this is a "them" problem, not something more universal.

Among the progressive types I know, belief in the power of the "deep state" runs fairly rampant, supported by really, really thin connecting threads of "evidence" in most instances. Of course, many of the things being referenced in support of the totality of the belief are, more or less, facts, but the way they are strung together suggesting conspiracies is, to say the least, far less factual.

There are many other instances of progressives adopting as truth information that seems shaky on its face, as long as it works in support of their beliefs, but debating any specific piece of information as an example would be to miss the larger point of the article I think.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:52 PM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Did anyone else think that something strange was going on with the framing about 3/4 of the way through the article? Specifically, here:

“Around the time [the book] came out, I was a little bit unsure how speculative and how real the idea was,” says Manjoo, who is now a technology columnist for The New York Times. “One of my arguments was, in politics, you don’t pay a penalty for lying.” At the time, a lot of lies were going around about presidential candidate Barack Obama—that he was a Muslim, that he wasn’t born in the United States—lies that did not ultimately sink him.

“Here was a person who was super rational, and believed in science, and was the target of these factless claims, but won anyway,” Manjoo says. “It really seemed like that election was a vindication of fact and truth, which in retrospect, I think it was just not.”


Whether Obama was rational and science-minded or not has nothing to do with the fact that he was the target of lies. And Manjoo or anyone else would have been crazy to think that Obama's reelection was a "vindication of fact and truth"; it just meant that the liars, who kept on lying as shamelessly as before, hadn't succeeded in their aims yet. "Which in retrospect, I think it was just not": this sounds as if Manjoo thinks that the rational Obama was defeated in 2016, and rationality with him, when of course it was a different campaign, also based on lies, run by the same people who had been spreading the earlier passel of lies, that this time managed to reach a larger number of voters ready to believe in them.

The other strange thing about the article is that it doesn't acknowledge identity (specifically, race) as the prime motivator for a lot of these easily deluded believers. The readiness to believe in bullshit shouldn't be analyzed as a purely cognitive bias.
posted by homerica at 8:56 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Huh? Beliefs arise from cognition, no? They don't reside in melanin. Also, as was said in the article, (see Inauguration Day crowds example), people will sometimes enthusiastically deny reality in order to show allegiance to their in-group. Facts don't matter, the group does, is one of the conclusions.

The other main conclusion is that you can't change peoples' beliefs, but that they will need to come around on their own. I believe this to be true, as much as it sucks.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 9:25 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


this is my family.

what will fire them up: anecdotes from friends, suspect media (jones &c), their personal observations.

what will not move the needle one bit: peer reviewed articles, nyt, wapo, rationalist arguments.

i think confirmation bias is a public health emergency.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:31 PM on March 18 [27 favorites]


[Pruned out a very large LOLreligion derail in the hopes this thread can not suck.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:32 PM on March 18 [21 favorites]


An interesting perspective of someone who DID change their mind. (almost as amazing as the possibility that cracked.com is outgrowing funny listicles)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:36 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


>They are SUPER angry about legal issues that they clearly don't understand

I saw a patriotic bumper sticker in a pickup window:

"I Obey the Constitution"

me: ta f? This person lacks a basic understanding of what the Constitution *is*, assuming his sticker is not referring to his work in government.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:11 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Klaxon Aoooogah, the point isn't that melanin causes beliefs (that would be absurd), but rather that the in-group to which many people are eager to demonstrate loyalty is one defined by racial prejudice. But the article avoided any mention of that fact-- as if the initial distribution of beliefs had been random, and people just clung to their beliefs because of confirmation bias. The gesture of "the left has fake news too" struck me as an analogous attempt to turn false belief into a symmetrical issue between R's and D's, when the core of the willingness to accept many of those false beliefs is white resentment of high-achieving new-majority folks. In short, the article was marred by a lot of the usual false equivalence, which is too bad because some of it was informative about concepts in applied psychology that concern us all.
posted by homerica at 10:13 PM on March 18 [8 favorites]


One word: fluoride.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:14 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Narratives are stronger than facts.

You can get a fact to prove anything, a good story however? Well.
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


" “For desired conclusions,” [Gilovich] writes, “it is as if we ask ourselves ‘Can I believe this?’, but for unpalatable conclusions we ask, ‘Must I believe this?’” People come to some information seeking permission to believe, and to other information looking for escape routes."

That about explains it.
posted by storybored at 10:33 PM on March 18 [18 favorites]


I know an Australian that supports Trump. We have a very supportive safety net (for now) and he's sort of relied on it most of his life. He's always been politically incurious, I'm sure he just thinks it's like a reality tv show. It was super boring until this season, but he's into it now this guy's in it.

I won't engage with him on that, I just want to play computer games and smoke some pot with the guy. That's all he does anyhow. He's sort of stuck in a welfare trap where he can live rather comfortably with the support of the government.

Then last week I called him a socialist. He protested that he wasn't. I did that thing where you count off points with your fingers: 'social housing, social welfare, social healthcare, you went to a state school, dude you're a socialist. You'd be fucked in America'. The third person in the room started nodding and said 'yeah' in a sort of laconic stoner way.

After a pause ... he bowed his head and said 'yeah' as well.
posted by adept256 at 11:07 PM on March 18 [28 favorites]


Andre 3000 is inclined to agree with the main idea: Speeches only reaches those who already know about it

I skimmed most of the article, slowing to check out the WaPo inauguration survey and grabbing some quotes. "This kind of arms-race between deception and detection is common in nature." Interesting framing: I never thought of the phenomenon of fake news through the lens of nature, or, more broadly, evolutionary adaptations.

And in skimming, the name Dorothy Martin sounded familiar. After googling to re-discover this article, I remembered why the name had stuck in my memory: Martin was from Oak Park, IL, and retired to Sedona, AZ... just like my mother-in-law! M.I.L. is a good sport about things like that so I will tease her at the next family dinner about her latest UFO sightings.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 12:16 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]




I'll see your flouride and raise you a Fukushima. Some of the stuff people were (and still are) saying beggars belief and rational thought. Both are good examples of people who are polar opposites politically both believing in conspiracies to "hide the truth." Nevermind that the claims being made are completely farcical.

I'm coming to the belief that extremism itself, no matter what the particular viewpoint itself, clouds one's ability to think critically, probably because perceiving oneself as being so far outside the norm engenders distrust of everything that is perceived as normal or mainstream. In some ways it validates the idea of incrementalism in my mind. Forcing people to dramatically shift their world view seems to break the brain. Even people who are fairly well attuned to logic and reason rail against social policies they perceive as going too far.

Problem is that I totally understand why many people think that a slow march toward sanity and reason isn't good enough. I'd probably feel the same way if I had a boot on my neck. Ironically, the very things that make it easier to organize on the side of justice also shoves the changes into people's faces in a way that is more difficult to ignore, making it impossible for people to come around at their own pace.

In some ways I can't help but think that things were better in that way 10 years ago before the rise of comment sections on everything and all the "social" features of every website. When things were more siloed, people still had the benefit of being able to communicate with like minded folks and information was available to people who were ready for it, but everything wasn't being shoved into people's faces the way it is now. You kinda had to put some effort in to find any particular point of view.

Maybe the benefits outweigh the costs, but watching the constant arguments and the spread of extremism of every sort I can't be sure anymore.
posted by wierdo at 1:58 AM on March 19 [13 favorites]


>>Can't be educated, these people. Don't quite know what to do about it.
> Prevent them (or the people they vote for) from gaining undue political influence, I guess.

Yep. That's what they're doing to you right now, for the same reason: you can't be educated to see that they're right so they're making sure you can't mess up their plan by gaining undue political influence.

I think a big problem here is that both sides are happy to frame the other side as "bad", with equal conviction and equal likelihood of being persuaded otherwise, but for one side the corresponding "good" behaviour pays off better in the current climate. Essentially the only real options for a quick win against what Trump represents seem to be doing a lot of things that anti-Trump people are ideologically opposed to, so they won't do them, whereas further entrenching the power of Trump only requires doing things that Trump supporters would be ideologically aligned with, in general.

As stated frequently, you can't argue with the other side because you won't win. So what do you do? One option is to simply oppress them to the point of powerlessness and there seems to be some experimentation with that at the moment. But if you're ideologically opposed to that, what else? Name-calling, which we see a lot of, obviously doesn't help. Describing all the terrible things the other side is doing doesn't help because when you make a list of those things, their supporters see it as a list of all the great things they're doing, further validating their position. To me, the obvious thing to do is to educate the next generation properly so they will be able to see through this stuff but we still have to put up with it for a long time and in any case the education system is being dismantled and evidently with good reason (from some points of view).

Addressing this question properly seems to me to be critical but I don't see it happening. Perhaps it is too intractable. It certainly feels that way to me ATM :(
posted by merlynkline at 2:31 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Terrific article.

I work at a research center where some of my time is spent on the fragmentation of the concept of belief. Did the ancient Greeks believe in their myths? Do people with psychosis believe in the contents of their delusions? It's unclear. There are plenty of great quotes here similarly wondering what people who express political affiliations "really believe." I'm tempted to think that we should just do away with the notion of belief altogether.
posted by painquale at 3:06 AM on March 19 [12 favorites]


Do people with psychosis believe in the contents of their delusions? It's unclear.

Wasn't the slightest bit unclear to me at the time; it was a huge, overwhelming epiphany of YES. If that helps at all.
posted by flabdablet at 3:12 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


"Which in retrospect, I think it was just not": this sounds as if Manjoo thinks that the rational Obama was defeated in 2016

I don't know why it sounds like that to you. The full sentence that you quoted is: “It really seemed like that election was a vindication of fact and truth, which in retrospect, I think it was just not.” It sounds to me like he's pretty clearly saying that whatever else it may have been, Obama's election was not "a vindication of fact and truth." I don't think there's much to argue with in that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:52 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Destroy all humans.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:06 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm feeling a lot less open minded and non-judgmental these days than I used to be. And I am worried that I am becoming what I used to deplore -- a blinkered ideologue who thinks everyone who disagrees with them is evil.

But at the same time, I'm also thinking a lot about slavery. The Civil War was probably the last time we were this politically polarized. And I'm sure people on both sides engaged in motivated reasoning.... Just like people on both sides were normal humans who loved their families and gave to charity and so on. And people on both sides were cruel or destructive at times (Sherman's march to the sea, etc.) Humans gonna human, right? This is the sort of thing I've always told myself. No ideology makes you immune from human faults -- or virtues. No group of humans is really "better" by whatever metric than any other group, whether you group by ideology, race, wealth, or whatever. In intrinsic ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, as in other ways, the people of the north were probably no better than the people of the south. They just happened to be born into a society that did not have such terrible ideas floating around in it.

And yet, I do believe there was a right side and a wrong side to the Civil War. One side used extreme violence to take away people's liberty and break up their families, and the other side did not. And in a way it doesn't matter if the people of the north were just as bad at reasoning and just as tribal in their behavior as the people of the south. They didn't hurt people in the systematic ways the south did.

With the Civil War, one side was not better than the other. But one side was right and the other side was wrong. There is an assymetry there. Both sides are not the same, even though PEOPLE on both sides might be the same.And the side that was wrong had to be stopped if they couldn't be convinced, even if the people stopping them were just as flawed and might have believed the same things if they had been born in a different place.

(So how do you know if you're on the right side? I'm starting to think the best indicator might be how your side treats refugees and prisoners of war and other extremely vulnerable people. Especially those from despised groups. Whichever side treats them better is almost certain to be the right side. That's a morality Protip for you.)

(In America, we tend to think about Nazis, but slavery was every bit as evil and much easier for us to understand from the inside... And it lasted a lot longer, and had deeper support within the population. There really needs to be a whole genre of "Heroic slaves and abolitionists" stories the way there is a whole genre of WWII stories. WGN's Underground qualifies, I think, and "12 Years a Slave"...)
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:16 AM on March 19 [48 favorites]


No group of humans is really "better" by whatever metric than any other group, whether you group by ideology

Maybe I'm misreading you, but this is wrong. There are some truly hateful, horrible ideologies out there, and people who do not subscribe to them are better than those who do. To argue otherwise sounds like supporting a false equivalence.
posted by dazed_one at 6:26 AM on March 19 [9 favorites]


Yeah but I think any of us, born into different circumstances, could get suckered by a horrible ideology. Because, as the linked piece points out, we're all vulnerable to motivated reasoning, especially when it's necessary to secure our place in our social group.

My point is, however, that this does not make all ideologies equivalent.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:35 AM on March 19 [7 favorites]


I still disagree. We're all vulnerable to motivated reasoning, that is true, but we do not have to fall prey to it. There are always those who resist the status quo and those who change their opinions when they realise the error in the groupthink. Being born into a group that has an odious ideology does not mean one is doomed to subscribe to it. Those who don't are better people than those who do.
posted by dazed_one at 6:59 AM on March 19


I have long been fascinated with the problem of cognitive dissonance. Like since 4th grade when I figured out in a catechism class that God can't be both "all merciful" and ok with sending unbaptized babies to limbo for eternity for simply not being born near a person with the presence of mind to drip some water on their tiny foreheads and make the sign of the cross. I basically spent 8 more years of Catholic education wandering the halls thinking, Dah fuq, y'all?

A book that helped me understand this phenomenon of how people can ignore "facts" and evidence and rational arguments was MISTAKES WERE MADE BUT NOT BY ME. It is very well written and I wish I had a 1000 copies of it to hand out. It not only helped me see how otherwise decent people can tenaciously hold on to some pretty outrageous ideas and "motivated reasoning," but it also helped me recognize how I too fall victim to biases that support my beliefs and my sense of "I'm a good person, please don't show me anything that might prove that I'm not." We need more Spocks in the world, cause apparently about 99% of us just cannot be relied upon to be rational.
posted by pjsky at 7:33 AM on March 19 [8 favorites]


Whether Obama was rational and science-minded or not has nothing to do with the fact that he was the target of lies.

On the other hand, he also survived a bunch of stuff that would have had his supporters taking to the streets if that stuff had been done by a republican.

One line of Nixon's impeachment was his (failed) attempt to sic the IRS on political enemies. Obama's IRS succeeded, when caught stonewalled, and the scapegoat got to retire on full pension.

He signed a bill allowing for indefinite detention without charge.

He ordered the killing of US citizens without formal charges or trial by jury. His AG said it wasn’t a problem because we are at war. Undeclared war. Which, contrary to his wind down claims in 2008, has set new records in killing. Eight solid years of this, a presidential record.

Apparently ignorant of and uninterested in economics, he allowed Wall Street to dictate the greatest shift of money from working and middle class savers to the one percent in history.

I could go on.

The point being, that we forgive our team and decry theirs, every single time. It's human nature. The article isn't uninteresting, but it's hardly groundbreaking.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:46 AM on March 19 [18 favorites]


Being born into a group that has an odious ideology does not mean one is doomed to subscribe to it. Those who don't are better people than those who do.

I think we probably all agree on this.

But people often assume that if they were born into a group that has an odious ideology, they would be among those that resist it. We want to think that we're good people, and that we've arrived at our beliefs for good reasons - that it's not just the luck of our social circumstances. But most of us just don't have this kind of evidence about ourselves.

I think you can condemn odious ideologies, and even the people that hold them, while still recognizing how profoundly our environment affects us. Being a good person isn't just an individual project, it's a community one.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:51 AM on March 19 [12 favorites]


Then last week I called him a socialist. He protested that he wasn't. I did that thing where you count off points with your fingers: 'social housing, social welfare, social healthcare, you went to a state school, dude you're a socialist. You'd be fucked in America'.

What drives me absolutely up the fucking wall is that these people want to dismantle a system from which THEY ultimately benefit...not because it's broken (it could be fixed) or because it's expensive (so is that fucking wall and that disastrous defense budget) but because someone else might get something for free (something THEY also would get if necessary). God forbid. That seems to be the obsession. Especially if that person doesn't look like them and is therefore doubly unworthy.
posted by tully_monster at 7:55 AM on March 19 [6 favorites]


How does the old saying go? You can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:04 AM on March 19 [6 favorites]


Obama's IRS succeeded, when caught stonewalled, and the scapegoat got to retire on full pension.

This is one of those seductive lies that gets repeated because it sounds really good but doesn't describe what occurred.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:22 AM on March 19 [27 favorites]


I think this article (and others like it) make it clear -- but remain frustratingly oblique about it -- that normalization plays a critical and insidious role here.

My stance toward Republicans these days has morphed into "I won't even argue about your policies, just please stand up against all the fucking LIES!" The most tractable element in this equation isn't the amoral shitbags at the top, or the cognitively dissonated followers, it's the relatively clear-eyed influencers in the middle who know goddamn good and well when they see a line of bullshit but see some short term advantage in letting it pass without complaint.
posted by bjrubble at 8:37 AM on March 19 [9 favorites]


I've been meditating a bit on a section of Common Sense:
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
There is a lot of wisdom in last sentence. People do resist facts, but they are not immune to the gradual accumulation of evidence over time.
posted by ethansr at 8:42 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


If you can't join 'em, beat 'em.
posted by Brachinus at 8:49 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones: do you have an actually link on Obama setting records on killing? Because that link did not appear to support that at all. Obama did increase the use of drone bombings, but that's not what you said....

Also, as pointed out above, the IRS SHOULD BE BLOCKING POLITICAL GROUPS FROM RECEIVING TAX FREE STATUS.

You act as if preventing executive overreach is a part of the Democratic platform, which it really hasn't been. So an accusation of hypocrisy is a little bizarre. Obama said he would increase the use of drone bombing. It was literally part of his campaign platform.
posted by cyphill at 9:09 AM on March 19 [7 favorites]


How does the old saying go? You can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

Don't being facts to a feelings fight.

Idk, I feel like I have no ammo for persuasion. I was raised in an odious ideology (Objectivism) but my entire life I've been one flavor or another of educated urban atheist liberal elite. If people are best persuaded by folks who are mostly like them except for one or two ideas, well... I'm not anything like a religious rural conservative. Even being from an Objectivist household doesn't get me far because I was never really a true believer, and my parents never really pushed (to their credit).
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:29 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


So what would get someone to change their mind about a false belief that is deeply tied to their identity?

“Probably nothing,” Tavris says. “I mean that seriously.”

But of course there are areas where facts can make a difference. There are people who are just mistaken or who are motivated to believe something false without treasuring the false belief like a crown jewel.

“Personally my own theory is that there’s a slide that happens,” McIntyre says. “This is why we need to teach critical thinking, and this is why we need to push back against false beliefs, because there are some people who are still redeemable, who haven’t made that full slide into denialism yet. I think once they’ve hit denial, they’re too far gone and there’s not a lot you can do to save them.”


Two things to separate here. There is a gullibility level in people that is not measured by IQ, but it can be measured, and mentalists are adept at finding such people in audiences for entertainment. There are also accidental influences that lead people to be more desperate that usual. Since desperation is a positive factor for voting (for positive change presumably) but gullibility is a negative factor for voting (because they can be persuaded to vote for the most persistent candidate) this presents a possible social remediation, perhaps beginning in early education where gullibility coping strategies are addressed. The current problem is that no true believing adult is going to listen to anyone telling them what their paranoid sources warned them about. The silver lining is that such people are often dysfunctional and can be persuaded that voting third party is their best option, assuming one exists for paranoids.
posted by Brian B. at 10:14 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


It seems that a good story has always been more persuasive than facts: if you want to change somebody's mind, you have to hit them in the feelings. Propaganda and Hollywood movies have that in common - they're all about the feelings.

Which kind of suggests to me that the best response to odious ideology is to use emotions, not facts. (Which is sort of odious itself, but I feel like fighting fair isn't working at the moment.) Pleas from progressive groups to share personal stories about healthcare coverage etc are working this angle, and I think are more likely to win over (some of) the opposition than simply rebutting their lies.

What I'd really like to see are the masters of tugging the heartstrings (Hollywood, I'm looking at you) come out with stories that defend liberal values. Not just tearjerkers, superheroes can be good for this too - remember "truth, justice, and the American way"? More truth and justice please, even if it takes a guy in a cape to remind us. (We don't need to argue that reality never lived up to this, the point is to create a story that draws people in and gets them to believe.)
posted by Quietgal at 10:14 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Compassion can change people's minds.

Pretty much everybody on both sides knows things are wrong. The main problem the general population faces is that those few who profit from how corrupt the system works are also in a position to define how we think about that corruption. By turning us against each other and distracting the majority of the public, these few are free to continue shaping our economic and governmental systems to their sole benefit. Diviseness sure does keep us busy! Those that profit battle it out at the top + they keep on profiting. As long as the majority of the population keeps fighting amongst ourselves, there is nothing to stop them....

Only between 40% to 50% of the US population votes in any particular election. Imagine if we were all engaged and stopped fighting with each other as though politics was like favoring a football team? Imagine if we were engaged with each other and our civic duty, recognizing the importance a competent and fair government plays in our personal daily lives?? Those parasites at the top live in fear of this scenario, hence all of the effort that goes into shaping how we think about and engage with society.

Don't hate your fellow humans because the are Trump supporters, or even if they specifically hate you. Like you, they know something is critically broken. Like you, they want to fix things. This is actually common ground, so start there.

Practice diplomacy, stop thinking you are smarter than the other guy. I can not think of another way to fix this. I believe we can still fix this! I thank the fates daily, because at least folks are shaken up lately and paying attention! I feel like this moment is the best chance we've had as a nation in years to pull together and steer our collective asses in a better direction than we were heading.

Anyway, it's the only option we have left if we are committed to our values as people who honor and value others. It's not a football game, and a lot of effort goes into making sure we are all misinformed to various degrees. I feel like this moment is the best chance we've had as a nation in years to pull together and steer our collective asses in a better direction than we were heading.
posted by jbenben at 11:53 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Regarding the survey of Trump supporters on inauguration crowd sizes, I think the most important point in the article is this:
While this may appear to be a remarkable feat of self-deception, Dan Kahan thinks it’s likely something else. It’s not that they really believed there were more people at Trump’s inauguration, but saying so was a way of showing support for Trump. “People knew what was being done here,” says Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale University. “They knew that someone was just trying to show up Trump or trying to denigrate their identity.” The question behind the question was, “Whose team are you on?”

In these charged situations, people often don’t engage with information as information but as a marker of identity. Information becomes tribal.
posted by biogeo at 12:03 PM on March 19 [15 favorites]


Which kind of suggests to me that the best response to odious ideology is to use emotions, not facts.

That's been my take on the situation for awhile now. This:

You can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

Is pithy, but I don't think it's accurate. When I engage with right-wingers, and they want to persuade *me*, they lean on a lot of anecdotes designed to make a person feel a certain way. It's not about numbers, but it's still about a coherent and internally consistent framework, it's just one that centers on 'what makes them feel right?'

This always backfires on me the same way that facts backfire with them: while I do make decisions based on emotion, (the same as they do consider hard facts plenty of times), I find being pushed that way crass and offputting. I am deeply insulted by the suggestion that I should let my heart get in the way of doing the right thing. Like, trying to push my buttons just makes me angry with them, not sympathetic.

I imagine the reverse is true. In retrospect, I think that when I have come at conservatives with numbers in the past, their reaction has been 'how can you talk about cold numbers, look at how I feel about this!' I imagine they find the idea of putting their heart aside crass too, even if it would demonstrably lead to a better outcome overall.

The logical solution seems to be changing our approach to engage with people on the basis of what makes sense to *them*, rather than what would work on us. In most cases, that seems to mean more appeals to feelings.
posted by mordax at 12:03 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


These discussions of what we would or would not do if we were born in certain circumstances are about human nature, and human nature is itself ideological.

It's pretty clear to me that these people could be convinced if they were part of a debate where something is at stake.

I'd say "debate where enough is at stake," but then I'd be talking about something else entirely.
posted by steeringwheel at 4:39 PM on March 19


So, uh, I don't need to bother sharing the article on Facebook, right?
posted by bluebelle at 4:52 PM on March 19



I like to revel in the foolishness of my idiot foes as much as the next guy. So, I understand why conversations about cognitive biases drum up lots of tales about politics and religion, and particularly, stories about how other people cling to their obviously wrong and extreme beliefs.

But cognitive biases apply to all kinds of ideas and thoughts that are not particularly extreme or polarizing. And we all have them all the time. The joke is not just on the Trump supporters and religious nuts, it's on us too.

I do like the idea that we could use knowledge of how biases work to make up communication techniques that would sidestep them, but it seems a bit optimistic.
posted by cron at 7:59 PM on March 19


Applying Social Judgment/Involvement Theory to the current problems in American politics, the researchers seem to mostly suggest you will be more successful pointing out lies if you shoot for smaller steps when interacting with the deeply involved.

Don't expect epiphanies from people who get hours of messaging from a single polarized source. Take small steps with them.

You'll get more mileage out of engaging the uninvolved.

http://www.cios.org/encyclopedia/persuasion/Esocial_judgment_2nature.htm
posted by surplus at 12:38 AM on March 20


I feel like social media is increasingly just preaching to (or screaming at) the choir and that's why I've largely limited my usage. Many articles have been written about the increase of polarizing social bubbles, so who are we trying to convince?

As one of the groups being oppressed, my blood pressure can't handle "compassionate" conversations with conservatives on that topic. It's not fair to ask oppressed people to take on that burden of having to defend their own humanity.

But depending on my mental health that day, I can discuss other topics such as immigration or social spending. I can personalize it by telling them about my Muslim friends. Most conservatives have immigrant doctors (I myself have Ukrainian, Nigerian, Pakistani, Indian, and Armenian doctors, along with a few token white people). And almost everyone I know benefits from social programs/public service in some way, even if only roads or mortgage tax credits. I don't know if I've made a difference. I do know that they tend listen to me more if I'm also acknowledging their frustrations. Behind the immigrant hate is usually economic insecurity. I don't believe people would be white supremacists if they weren't afraid, or if they weren't using other people's racism to gain power (e.g. the entire executive branch).
posted by AFABulous at 8:16 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Yes to Hollywood and the men in capes! Every fall, mixed in with the trailers in the cinema, there should be a slick short film where Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and Clark Kent all go to the polls and do their duty. And then they reflect about how that's at least as important as anything they do in their costumes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 AM on March 20


How does the old saying go? You can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

And yet this thread and many like it contain stories of people reasoning and being reasoned out of positions they were enculturated into. But maybe it's only us worldly, wise people who can be reasoned out of positions, not those other people. You know the ones.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:01 PM on March 20


maybe it's only us worldly, wise people who can be reasoned out of positions, not those other people. You know the ones.

I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left | Megan Phelps-Roper
posted by flabdablet at 2:46 AM on March 21


I do not think Pater Aletheias actually believes his maybeism is true.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:56 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of preaching-to-the-choir garbage that fills up my timelines. What purpose does it serve?
posted by AFABulous at 7:35 AM on March 21


I think at least two conditions are required for "being reasoned out a position" to work 1) you do need to be the kind of person who at least wants to be "wise" and reasonable. That's necessary, but not sufficient because you also 2) have to find yourself in a social millieu where changing your mind won't cost you too much social status, won't cost you all your friends and family and support network and sense of personal identity. Because when the stakes are that high, the human mind can rationalize anything.

That said, it did cost me quite a bit in terms of my real life friends and family when I abandoned the conservative beliefs I was raised with (haven't watched the Megan Phelps-Roper video, but I bet it cost her even more.) But I had discovered the intenet and found a role in virtual community, and then I went to college and found myself in another social environment there too... I don't think it's a coincidence that those new social contexts came along at the same time as my beliefs changed. This is anecdote, not data, but I think it makes sense.

Upton Sinclair, I think, said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." I would add "or his social support network."
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:22 AM on March 22




-The Problem With Facts
-Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons: "Instead of treating disagreement as demonstrating a need to transmit their own opinion more effectively, they viewed it as demonstrating a need to collaborate to investigate the question together... Improving the quality of debate, shifting people's mindsets from transmission to collaborative truth-seeking, is a painful process. It has to be done one person at a time... If you want people to be right more often than chance, you have to teach them ways to distinguish truth from falsehood."
posted by kliuless at 10:22 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


« Older Roll over Beethoven, make room for Johnny B. Goode   |   Sit and relax. Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.