Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Reality Must Conform to Me


Last week I shared an article that describes the dynamic of entrenched views that defy logic, how people will become even more sure of their beliefs and opinions when confronted with rational evidence that shows them mistaken because their self-worth gets wrapped up in being right.  It doesn't seek to change the dynamic, just suggests a strategy for working with it: present your arguments in ways that are the least threatening to self-worth and entrenched views if change toward the middle is to be made.  See more at Seeking the Middle Ground.

This week I want to share an article with a similar theme.  Not only are people incapable of thinking rationally when confronted with evidence that challenges their political views, they lose their ability to even do math--a field that is not a matter of opinion but that really does have single correct answers.

Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math

Farewell, Enlightenment: New research suggests that people even solve math problems differently if their political ideology is at stake.

Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly. But perhaps we don't realize how bad the problem actually is. According to a new psychology paper, our political passions can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills. More specifically, the study finds that people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs. . . .

The result? Survey respondents performed wildly differently on what was in essence the
same basic problem, simply depending upon whether they had been told that it involved guns or whether they had been told that it involved a new skin cream. What's more, it turns out that highly numerate liberals and conservatives were even more—not less—susceptible to letting politics skew their reasoning than were those with less mathematical ability. . . .

For study author Kahan, these results are a fairly strong refutation of what is called the "deficit model" in the field of science and technology studies—the idea that if people just had more knowledge, or more reasoning ability, then they would be better able to come to consensus with scientists and experts on issues like climate change, evolution, the safety of vaccines, and pretty much anything else involving science or data (for instance, whether concealed weapons bans work). Kahan's data suggest the opposite—that political biases skew our reasoning abilities, and this problem seems to be worse for people with advanced capacities like scientific literacy and numeracy. "If the people who have the greatest capacities are the ones most prone to this, that's reason to believe that the problem isn't some kind of deficit in comprehension," Kahan explained in an interview. . . .

"If the wrong answer is contrary to their ideological positions, we hypothesize that that is going to create the incentive to scrutinize that information and figure out another way to understand it," says Kahan. In other words, more numerate people perform better when identifying study results that support their views—but may have a big blind spot when it comes to identifying results that undermine those views.

What's happening when highly numerate liberals and conservatives actually get it wrong? Either they're intuiting an incorrect answer that is politically convenient and feels right to them, leading them to inquire no further—or else they're stopping to calculate the correct answer, but then refusing to accept it and coming up with some elaborate reason why 1 + 1 doesn't equal 2 in this particular instance. (Kahan suspects it's mostly the former, rather than the latter.) . . .


At 9/07/2013 12:56 AM, Anonymous Public Opinion said...

Not only are persons incapable of conceiving rationally when confronted with evidence that trials their political view. Nice post


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