May 4, 2013

WHICH IS WHY CONFIRMATORY BIAS IS SUCH A PROBLEM:

How to Argue With Extremists (Daniel Akst, 5/02/13, WSJ)

Researchers asked volunteers to rate their position using a scale of 1 (strongly against) to 7 (strongly in favor) on such policies as the flat tax, merit pay for teachers, and a higher Social Security retirement age. Participants were asked to rate their stances a second time after being asked to explain some of the policies.

Not only were extreme positions moderated, but participants in another, similar experiment were less likely to donate to an advocacy group. "The evidence suggests that people's mistaken sense that they understand the causal processes underlying policies contributes to political polarization," the researchers wrote.

One odd thing about the internet is that, despite free access to nearly every publication and information source, there is a tendency of people to isolate themselves in intellectual ghettos, only reading journals, blogs, etc. with which they agree.   One of the more amusing manifestations comes when readers object to even the idea of citing non-conforming sources. Thus one finds the bizarre belief that anything found in the New York Times must be wrong because the editorial page is generally liberal.  

These poor misguided souls would benefit greatly from just expanding their data intake, and, as appears from the study above, their own output.

Posted by at May 4, 2013 8:18 AM
  

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