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How Facts Backfire

• boston.com
It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.
 

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

4 Comments in Response to

Comment by Olde Reb
Entered on:

 

With all due respect for the wisdom of Sharon, I believe it is why liberals tend to believe they can continue to commit future generations to spend money for programs that fiscally unrealistic in order to buy votes at the expense of our grandchildren (touted to be humanitarian)---in order to build overpaid corpulent bureaucracies with lavish benefits.

Comment by Die Daily
Entered on:

My dad once told me, in reference to scientists: "Son, often times scientific progress happens one funeral at a time"! I believed him then and I believe him now.

Comment by Trouser Chili
Entered on:

This is not surprising at all given the ebook I read about the authoritarian personality, whose link I found on this site months ago.

Here's the link for conenience - http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

It's fascinating.

 

Comment by Sharon Jarvis
Entered on:

This explains why conservatives prefer to remain incredibly stupid and vote against their own interests.


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