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Why Facts Fail - Brendan Nyhan
Posted: 17 December 2010 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Ever been in an argument with someone and felt massively frustrated, because nothing you can say seems to change the person’s mind?

Maybe that’s what you should expect to happen. Maybe you should get used to it.

According to University of Michigan political scientist Brendan Nyhan, that’s how our minds work-and it’s not just that. When it comes to politics, people who believe incorrect things tend to be strongly convinced that they’re right, and moreover, often become stronger in that conviction when they’re refuted.

It’s a pretty alarming aspect of human nature-but in this interview, Nyhan explains how we know what we do about people’s intransigent clinging to misperceptions, and how we can work to change that.

Brendan Nyhan is a political scientist and Robert Wood Johnson scholar in health policy research at the University of Michigan. He was previously a co-author of the political debunking website http://www.spinsanity.com, and co-author of the New York Times bestselling book All The President’s Spin. He blogs at http://www.brendan-nyhan.com.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/why_facts_fail_brendan_nyhan/

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Posted: 17 December 2010 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The human capacity for inquiry, people’s responses to states of uncertainty, and their reactions to novel information are topics of longstanding interest to me.  I have found the following two lines of study very helpful in understanding why people’s reactions to information are so often recalcitrant.

Dewey, John (1929), The Quest for Certainty : A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action, Minton, Balch, and Company, New York, NY. Reprinted, pp. 1–254 in John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953, Volume 4 : 1929, Jo Ann Boydston (ed.), Harriet Furst Simon (text. ed.), Stephen Toulmin (intro.), Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, 1984.

Sorrentino, Richard M., and Roney, Christopher J.R. (2000), The Uncertain Mind : Individual Differences in Facing the Unknown, (Essays in Social Psychology, Miles Hewstone (ed.)), Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia, PA.

Jon Awbrey

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Posted: 19 December 2010 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OK, I get to ask the smartest and most rational liberals in the world a question. What do you actually mean when you say, “there will be no death panels”? It seems to me, in principle you can keep pouring money into a patient infinitely and thereby keep extending his life by seconds then fractions of a second without limit – unless there is a limit somehow to the money available. Has it ever occurred to any Democrat that there might be a limit to the money somehow for the tax payer or for any source? If the government is providing the money for a dying patient, I would think the government might be the entity that decides when to shut off the money and therefore when the patient dies. But I’m just a conservative. What is the real (liberal) answer?
    And Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? Well chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction. He used them on the Kurds. We all saw the pictures. I saw them. Liberals (most of them conveniently after the fact) claimed he had got rid of them. I reasoned that liberals lie more often than dictators disarm. That led me to the wrong conclusion that time. But I still think it is smart to bet with the odds.

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Posted: 19 December 2010 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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rg21, your mistake is in thinking that there is a coherent “liberal” group that you can petition.

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“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

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Posted: 19 December 2010 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I was in a gathering of friends at a restaurant. It was my birthday, making me eligible for a free piece of pie. One woman, a good friend I never lied to, refused to believe that day actually was my birthday. She finally demanded to see my driver’s license. Having nothing to hide, I produced it at once then turned to enjoy my pie.
  Now I’m looking for a Democratic woman. I’ll lie to her all year, starting with my age. Women say men do that. Well, maybe for good measure I’ll also say I was born in Hawaii. I’m betting the other friends the piece of pie she will believe me and never ask to see my license. She might even curse the Republican woman for having asked. But if she does ask, I’m not going to show it to her and she’ll love me for that. Democrats are funny that way. One more reason they are so adorable.

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Posted: 20 December 2010 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Oh my.

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Posted: 20 December 2010 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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rg21 - 19 December 2010 03:50 PM

I was in a gathering of friends at a restaurant. It was my birthday, making me eligible for a free piece of pie. One woman, a good friend I never lied to, refused to believe that day actually was my birthday. She finally demanded to see my driver’s license. Having nothing to hide, I produced it at once then turned to enjoy my pie.
  Now I’m looking for a Democratic woman. I’ll lie to her all year, starting with my age. Women say men do that. Well, maybe for good measure I’ll also say I was born in Hawaii. I’m betting the other friends the piece of pie she will believe me and never ask to see my license. She might even curse the Republican woman for having asked. But if she does ask, I’m not going to show it to her and she’ll love me for that. Democrats are funny that way. One more reason they are so adorable.

  But oh… let’s say that crazy woman kept insisting after she saw your ID that it couldn’t have possibly been your birthday. No matter how many people you brought in as witness she still didn’t believe you.

I think I’d just go with an independant, those girls are freaky.

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Posted: 20 December 2010 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I dabble in genealogy. Genealogists are always seeking people’s birth records and other documents of personal lives. When records for an individual are scarce or hard to find relative to others in the same time and place, it sometimes means someone had something to hide. Presidents and presidential candidates are favorite subjects of professional genealogists. Why is so little known about Obama? Why hasn’t he made detailed birth records and other records U. S. Presidents have customarily made public immediately available? Why haven’t the American news media that could find every grade school reprimand for Joe the Plumber in 36 hours even shown curiosity about Obama?

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Posted: 20 December 2010 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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rg21 - 20 December 2010 05:56 PM

I dabble in genealogy. Genealogists are always seeking people’s birth records and other documents of personal lives. When records for an individual are scarce or hard to find relative to others in the same time and place, it sometimes means someone had something to hide. Presidents and presidential candidates are favorite subjects of professional genealogists. Why is so little known about Obama? Why hasn’t he made detailed birth records and other records U. S. Presidents have customarily made public immediately available? Why haven’t the American news media that could find every grade school reprimand for Joe the Plumber in 36 hours even shown curiosity about Obama?

We know WHERE he was born, we have SEEN his birth certificate, we know HOW he is related to about 10 other presidents and the queen of England. We KNOW where he attended elementary school, secondary school and university.
http://www.wargs.com/political/obama.html Here is his genealogy, I hope you can sleep better at night now!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 21 December 2010 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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1.  In the United States, the insurance companies operate the death panels.
2.  Of course Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction—he got them from us.

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Posted: 21 December 2010 12:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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rg21 - 20 December 2010 05:56 PM

Why is so little known about Obama? Why hasn’t he made detailed birth records and other records U. S. Presidents have customarily made public immediately available? Why haven’t the American news media that could find every grade school reprimand for Joe the Plumber in 36 hours even shown curiosity about Obama?

Obama is an alien.  Get over it.

They decided it was cheaper than invading.  They just had to slip some alien code into our computerized voting machine and voila.  Alien for president.

LOL

psik

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Posted: 21 December 2010 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Adam Isaak - 17 December 2010 08:13 PM

Ever been in an argument with someone and felt massively frustrated, because nothing you can say seems to change the person’s mind?
Maybe that’s what you should expect to happen. Maybe you should get used to it.

Interesting podcast.
I think there is a balance in the discussion between focusing on very topical points which will make the book look current now, but dated in a few years, and a broader perspective. Chris tends to push to topical.

Is this like the “love is blind” aphroism—is the point that ‘belief is blind’?

How come religious belief doesn’t come up here?

Or the ‘mote in his eye—beam in your eye’ saying?
  How do Nyhan and Mooney know that they don’t suffer from the same problem?
  When was the last time either of them changed their mind about something?

Good podcast—gets you thinking…

[ Edited: 21 December 2010 05:35 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 21 December 2010 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Yes, I’ve seen the genealogy at that link. In fact, that’s why I raised the question – the contrast to other Presidential genealogies along with the tardiness and reluctance to publicize that are unique to this President. And why so much don’t ask, don’t tell as compared to Joe the Plumber, for example. We all know why. It’s political correctness. Political correctness is a mongrel and monstrous species, but a major element is dishonesty. I have a have a habit of skepticism, but I notice a lot of other people who make that claim try to make liberalism serve them like a religion and political correctness is part of their ritual. The stronger the dissonance between evidence and faith, the more virtuous the believer who adheres to the faith. Where they suspend their skepticism, mine grows more vigilant.

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Posted: 21 December 2010 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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rg21 - 21 December 2010 05:07 AM

Yes, I’ve seen the genealogy at that link. In fact, that’s why I raised the question – the contrast to other Presidential genealogies along with the tardiness and reluctance to publicize that are unique to this President. And why so much don’t ask, don’t tell as compared to Joe the Plumber, for example. We all know why. It’s political correctness. Political correctness is a mongrel and monstrous species, but a major element is dishonesty. I have a have a habit of skepticism, but I notice a lot of other people who make that claim try to make liberalism serve them like a religion and political correctness is part of their ritual. The stronger the dissonance between evidence and faith, the more virtuous the believer who adheres to the faith. Where they suspend their skepticism, mine grows more vigilant.

Ummm, no. You. are.wrong. I take that back, you are so far off base, you aren’t even wrong..

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Posted: 21 December 2010 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Ok, Elites…

I’ve referred to them as Opinion Makers in previous posts. The real question I think is which Elites a particular person listens to and why.

Elites need not be more knowledgeable or accurate then Joe the Plummer yet they influence the opinion of thousands.

I think they play to peoples fears and doubts. If you are afraid of government control because of some bad experience with government I suspect your are more likely to listen to Elites on the right-side of the political spectrum. If your are afraid of corporations destroying natural resources you are more likely to listen to Elites on the left.

The more people start listening to Elites, the more they start to make sense to the individual because they build on past misconceptions that has already been accepted by the listener. So if you trying to correct a current misconception you fail to correct the previous misconception and never address the initial fear/doubts that drove the individual to accepting the authority of the particular Elite in the first place.

The truth is, no Elite is above questioning. However regardless of one’s view people are more likely to accept misinformation that supports what they already want to believe, I suspect based mostly on what they fear.

I think if you want to correct people’s misconceptions you are going to have to address the fundamentals that strongly motivate people’s beliefs, their fears. keeping in mind fear is usually very irrational and so very hard to reason with.

People fear Muslims, fear Obama, fear Democrats, fear government control. That’s very strong motivation to listen and be influenced to a political Elite on the right.

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Posted: 21 December 2010 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Okay, this is funny.  All the people pretending to be conservatives rushing in to prove Poe’s law.  “Obama’s not an American!”  “Sadam did have weapons of mass destruction, because he had them before, and before and now mean the same thing!”  “Obama raised our taxes!”

Hilarious!!!  I mean, you guys sound just like a bunch of brain dead inbred Bush worshipers.  Dead on accurate tone, but you took it just a tad too far.  Not even the conservatives could be so stupid.  I mean, death panels by lack of eternal life?  That is far too much a stretch even for Glen Beck.  Sorry, just not buying that you are that stupid.  Funny, though, you are.  I laughed, after an initial face palm thinking you might be serious.

Here’s a way to see if you’re one of the ignorant fools that is thinking the wrong thing and digging in, fighting to retain your ignorance: look at the facts.  Obama has records proving his American birth.  No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, proving Sadam was innocent of those charges (only those charges) that led to war.  The public option did not have death panels, and ending life support would have remained the same for the government as it is for private insurance.  Obama reduced our taxes.  These are all easily verifiable facts, not matters of opinion.  You don’t get to argue about these.  Not even democracies get to vote on gravity.  If you need to make up conspiracy charges to explain the facts presented, that’s you digging in to defend your personal stupidity.  Sorry, that’s how we determine reality from make believe.  I don’t want to call you stupid, but you are.

The “Elite” title was a nice touch, too.  Conservatives are the only ones calling out “smart,” “educated,” “well spoken,” “learned,” and “diplomatic” as insults.  You know you’ve been losing brain cells when you admit proudly to being stupid.  “Dis ere’ cuntry goan git ruled by weez lowr’n'avrige folk!”  Yeah, what a battle cry.

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