The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science – by Chris Mooney
This is one of my favorite topics – facts are stupid things.
The author opens with Festinger’s study of a group that (incorrectly) predicted the end of the world, and how the unfortunate fate of living increased, rather than decreased, their conviction they were right, walks through motivated reasoning, and into why attempts to correct mis-information may backfire. The piece touches on social desirability in survey responses, and notes that higher levels of education may make one less likely to believe facts rather than more likely (one of my favorite dimly lit corners of political psychology). The article is wonderfully loaded with internal links to academic research.
The takeaway for practitioners is this:
“Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.”
I recognize the irony of using data to demonstrate that data aren’t persuasive – I like the piece because it confirms my biases – but it may also be right.