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Why Do People Persist in Believing Things that Just Aren't True?


Stashed in: Influence!, Be yourself., Awesome, Believe, New Yorker, Brilliant Insight, Psychology, Psychology

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I know this one.  They did a study over 10 years ago that I'll have to dig up.  People, especially women, place more credibility on personal information shared through their social networks (NOT online social networks) than authoritative sources.   It's a survival mechanism.   

Please do dig it up because I find the thought of it being a survival mechanism fascinating.

"Even when we think we’ve properly corrected a false belief, the original exposure often continues to influence our memory and thoughts. In a series of studies, Lewandowsky and his colleagues at the University of Western Australia asked university students to read the report of a liquor robbery that had ostensibly taken place in Australia’s Northern Territory. Everyone read the same report, but in some cases racial information about the perpetrators was included and in others it wasn’t. In one scenario, the students were led to believe that the suspects were Caucasian, and in another that they were Aboriginal. At the end of the report, the racial information either was or wasn’t retracted. Participants were then asked to take part in an unrelated computer task for half an hour. After that, they were asked a number of factual questions (“What sort of car was found abandoned?”) and inference questions (“Who do you think the attackers were?”). After the students answered all of the questions, they were given a scale to assess their racial attitudes toward Aboriginals.

Everyone’s memory worked correctly: the students could all recall the details of the crime and could report precisely what information was or wasn’t retracted. But the students who scored highest on racial prejudice continued to rely on the racial misinformation that identified the perpetrators as Aboriginals, even though they knew it had been corrected. They answered the factual questions accurately, stating that the information about race was false, and yet they still relied on race in their inference responses, saying that the attackers were likely Aboriginal or that the store owner likely had trouble understanding them because they were Aboriginal. This was, in other words, a laboratory case of the very dynamic that Nyhan identified: strongly held beliefs continued to influence judgment, despite correction attempts—even with a supposedly conscious awareness of what was happening.

In a follow-up, Lewandowsky presented a scenario that was similar to the original experiment, except now, the Aboriginal was a hero who disarmed the would-be robber. This time, it was students who had scored lowest in racial prejudice who persisted in their reliance on false information, in spite of any attempt at correction. In their subsequent recollections, they mentioned race more frequently, and incorrectly, even though they knew that piece of information had been retracted. False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected."

W O W.

So we're willing to believe untrue things if those things back up the identity we've created for ourselves?

we all live in our own little universes in our meat minds?  sometimes they overlap? 

Yes and yes.

junk science

The article deliberately placed leading statements and descriptions, coaxing the participants toward the desired conclusion. Example: "the store owner likely had trouble understanding them." This kind of slanted test is the worst kind of JUNK SCIENCE.

People believe what they want to believe. I don't need science to tell me that.

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