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January 30, 2006 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Study ties political leanings to hidden biases, and reveals that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.
posted by semmi (40 comments total)

 
When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
posted by semmi at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2006


pretty sure this is a double...
posted by mowglisambo at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2006


This message brought to you by Professor NoShit Sherlock from the Institute for the Study of the Incredibly Obvious at Duhh! University.
posted by jonmc at 8:20 AM on January 30, 2006


Double-ish.
posted by ND¢ at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2006


There is some truthiness to this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:25 AM on January 30, 2006


Also, water is wet and ice cream is cold.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:26 AM on January 30, 2006


I don't believe it!
posted by you just lost the game at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2006


In related news, bears found to defalcate in the woods.
posted by caddis at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2006


Snark aside, the brain scan confirmation of this truism is interesting.
posted by caddis at 8:34 AM on January 30, 2006


This was funny the first time, when it was called Cognitive Consistency Theory.
posted by boaz at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2006


Bears are smarter than I thought.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2006


And their research method consisted of watching the nosiest political posters on MeFi, right?
posted by raedyn at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2006


a.k.a. the disconfirmation bias, settled psychological fact for over 30 years. Lame single-link post to lame filler material pulled from the Post's "we're short 8 inches on the science page" drawer on a slow news day. Delete.
posted by ChasFile at 8:37 AM on January 30, 2006


I said "nosiest" instead of "noisiest". Heh.
posted by raedyn at 8:41 AM on January 30, 2006


…partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs…

We do not!
posted by adamrice at 8:43 AM on January 30, 2006


There was this, however:
Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes — subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did. [Em. mine]
See folks, science can be fun.
posted by boaz at 8:53 AM on January 30, 2006


What a bunch of jaded fuckers y'all are.

As for myself: Someone takes the trouble to give me hard data on something for which we've previously only had soft data, I tend to at least try to pay attention.

(Aside: You "no shit sherlockers" -- are your "reward centers" tingling about now?)
posted by lodurr at 9:19 AM on January 30, 2006


You "no shit sherlockers" -- are your "reward centers" tingling about now?)

Like R. Kelly in the Junior High Ladies Room. But I digress.

C'mon, the fact that people get a palpable buzz from being "right," is hardly news. Jaded dosen't enter ito it.
posted by jonmc at 9:23 AM on January 30, 2006


Not at all taken aback, it is conspicuous, and another reason why the statists must be defeated. It is perfectly fine to be irrational and a slave to cultist political thought, but it is when they project their own insecurities and attempt to crush liberty, that their tyranny becomes manifest.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 10:08 AM on January 30, 2006


Sure, that's what the liberal media WANTS you to believe.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 AM on January 30, 2006


New article about the same study as the first. I say dupe. We did all these same jokes last thread.
posted by Plutor at 10:12 AM on January 30, 2006


But of course it isn't this simple....

Look, if you believe something, honest and for true, you shouldn't change it the moment someone comes up to you and says "you're wrong, fathead!"

Even in the case of "evidence," what if the evidence is forged? Often people are given "evidence" of UFOs, astral projection, poltergeist activity and dozens of other things. The same thing that projects us (well, some of us) against those things is the same thing that prevents from changing our opinions instantly the moment someone says a thing that contradicts our beliefs -- and that's a good thing. Minds need some kind of inertia in their operation or false evidence, whether misleading because of accident or (as is more and more frequent these days) purpose, will cause them to veer around like a weather-vane in a cyclone, making it impossible to ever build any thought structures that won't get torn down a moment later.

Of course, it's very possible to have too much inertia. The thing that makes you a thinking person, a person who doesn't take the first thing he learned when he was a kid and parrot it stubbornly and forever against all evidence, what William Blake once memorably called a "reptile of the mind," is how long you persist in the face of evidence, and that's where the process falls down in this age. People tend to watch the things they already agree with, read what they agree with, and many of the authors of these works, these days, are merely loudspeakers of one side or the other's party line.

(Though let's be honest here, and I'll even state it plainly: conservatives are far more guilty of this at the moment than liberals.)
posted by JHarris at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2006


Oh I don't know about that. Ever argue gun control on the blue?
posted by Richard Daly at 11:34 AM on January 30, 2006


JHarris, good points (and to clarify in the face of teh typo gods*, you mean "protect" and not "project", I assume).

Put in a slightly different way: What they're identifying works against taking on a new view of a situation, but in terms of populations, that's fine -- stability ("intertia") is probably moer important than rapid change.

The problem arises in that we are now to a great extent determing selction factors in real time. It's just possible that flexibiilty is now more important than inertia.


--
*...who have been very bad to me lately. It's this new keyboard, seriously.
posted by lodurr at 11:40 AM on January 30, 2006


conservatives are far more guilty of this at the moment than liberals - JHarris

Ugh. What a thoughtless comment. I don't have time right now to address this in great detail, but that claim just doesn't stand up. I'd suggest that currently in the US conservatives might be on the defensive more often than liberals, but that's more a function of them being in positions of power (ie - government) than it does with an innate predisposition towards being more blind to new information. Roles reversed, it would be liberals on the defensive more often.

This kind of blanket statement suggesting that liberals as a class are more open minded than conservatives as a class is unthinking and back-patting and based on what? It's exactly the kind of closed mindedness and unthinking assumptions that you accuse conservatives of.
posted by raedyn at 11:51 AM on January 30, 2006


jonmc, I think you are totally misreading it. Of course it is very hard to tell through your oh-so-jaded, totally cool, ironic, postmodern use of right in quotation marks.

The point hasn't got anything to do with being right or wrong, it is about brains rebelling against information that isn't consistent with existing programing. Go watch the documentary Minds of Our Own that I posted about, to see it from a different angle. Watching those kids struggle to resolve their beliefs with their ability to reason is truly astonishing.
posted by Chuckles at 11:59 AM on January 30, 2006


I'd suggest that currently in the US conservatives might be on the defensive more often than liberals

I dunno. After ten years, they're still running against that damned liberal Congress.

Frankly, I think the conservative movement has very effectively used the weight of inherent bias.
posted by dhartung at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2006


Of course it is very hard to tell through your oh-so-jaded, totally cool, ironic, postmodern use of right in quotation marks....The point hasn't got anything to do with being right or wrong, it is about brains rebelling against information that isn't consistent with existing programing.

which is precisely why I put 'right,' in quotes to begin with. And I am the least ironic/postmodern person you will ever meet. And I couldn't be cool if my life depended on it. Bark up another tree.
posted by jonmc at 12:21 PM on January 30, 2006


And I couldn't be cool if my life depended on it.

Yeah, right.


Sorry, couldn't resist....but what an odd thing to say about yourself. Is this like 'inverse dozens' or something?
posted by lodurr at 12:28 PM on January 30, 2006


"And I am the least ironic/postmodern person you will ever meet."

Haven't you heard? He drinks beers from cans sincerely!
posted by klangklangston at 12:29 PM on January 30, 2006


Not to re-rail or anything, but are there similar results when you look at attitudes toward abstract ideas, rather than people? With people, there may be questions of trust involved. I call this the 'fallen televangelist syndrome.' If you're emotionally invested in someone else, you're more likely to trust them, to discount evidence that they have betrayed your trust, and to forgive them if they do betray it.

Also, people do change their minds about highly contentious issues. I'd like to see some research on causes and thresholds.
posted by expialidocious at 12:33 PM on January 30, 2006


Sorry, couldn't resist....but what an odd thing to say about yourself.

Well, 'cool' to me always conjured up the who crossed arms, deadpan unimpressed style. And I'm a very spasmodic, hyperactive guy, who gets very eveangelical about stuff he likes, so I've never been able to pull that off.

Haven't you heard? He drinks beers from cans sincerely!

I live three stories up, man. It makes things a lot lighter on garbage night.

/ot
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2006


And I am the least ironic/postmodern person you will ever meet. And I couldn't be cool if my life depended on it.

jonmc is an asshole sometimes, and a cranky old coot most of the time. But he's the kind of asshole I think would be fun to sit and drink with and trade stories. And he's the kind of cranky old coot that I think would make for a very entertaining evening.

And my agree/disagree ratio with him is damn nearly 50/50, which I find very odd and intriguing on its own.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2006


And my agree/disagree ratio with him is damn nearly 50/50,

I'd say the same of you, oddly. Such people are usually the most fun to talk to, since there's a lack of either "me too," or auto-disregarding

/tangent
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on January 30, 2006


“...supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.”
Isn’t that - itself - a bias? I mean since Archie Bunker?

Not that I and the other man members of my golf club don’t believe in keeping the black man down. Now I’m off to my job at the Establishment.

“conservatives are far more guilty of this at the moment than liberals”- JHarris

I’m with raedyn. But JHarris has a point. I suspect it’s mostly a function tho of who’s in power. Lots of screams of ‘tinfoil hat’ at the right back when Clinton was in office.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:15 PM on January 30, 2006


You're right, Smedleyman, although to be fair there were a lot of people on the right who were accusing Clinton of murder.
posted by brundlefly at 1:33 PM on January 30, 2006


Just listen to any NYTimes reader.
posted by HTuttle at 1:42 PM on January 30, 2006


conservatives are far more guilty of this at the moment than liberals - JHarris

Ugh. What a thoughtless comment.


I stand by it. The comment referred to the statement I made, right before, about people consuming those news and opinion sources that confirm what they already think, instead of accepting that they will be challenged and facing up to that. As proof of that, I merely present the majority of A.M. talk radio and Fox News -- which is everywhere where I live.

This kind of blanket statement suggesting that liberals as a class are more open minded than conservatives as a class is unthinking and back-patting and based on what? It's exactly the kind of closed mindedness and unthinking assumptions that you accuse conservatives of.

Except, if you had paid attention to what I said, I had the words "in the moment" in there, of which I hope you will pardon me when I counter that it seems like you made a thoughtless response. Whether liberals or conservatives are insular in their opinion diet as an attribute of their beliefs, I did not say, although one might possibly argue that the nature of the word "conservative" implies a reluctance to adopt new positions. But sure, it is certainly possible to take either side too far, especially if you ignore the libertarian/authoritarian axis.
posted by JHarris at 2:42 PM on January 30, 2006


“there were a lot of people on the right who were accusing Clinton of murder.”

True. I don’t know whether he did or not. I doubt it from the stuff I've seen.
But when stuff like that comes up I always think of that scene from the Godfather where Michael Corleone is walking with his wife to be and he says “My father is no different from any powerful man, senators, Presidents.”

And she says “Don’t be naive, senators and Presidents don’t have people killed.”

And he smiles and says “Who’s being naive, Kay?”

Interesting that Bush Sr. and Clinton are so close. And that the Bush family had ties to whitewater, etc.
*takes off tinfoil hat*

Pure speculation really. I don’t know that anyone got killed over the S&L scandal either and people made off with billions. But people do kill others over money.
I think that’s the worst fallout from this kind of thinking. People are more than willing to excuse what is a real crime than hold their favorite politico accountable.
People still steal other people’s signs in local elections. That’s criminal (trespassing for one). But some folks do it all the time.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2006


This kind of blanket statement suggesting that liberals as a class are more open minded than conservatives as a class is unthinking and back-patting and based on what?

... perhaps on the definition of the very terms?

</tongue in cheek>
posted by uncle harold at 1:55 AM on January 31, 2006


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