A recent Michigan study found “when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds” according to this article written by John Michael Spinelli, “Will ‘Ohio Truth-O-Meter’ fix facts for 2010 elections? Michigan studies say beliefs trumps facts” (link).
It is true, we’ve seen it happen here more than once, where even when facts are presented, people ignore them and want to believe the source they are quoting.
Spinelli’s article references a July article from the Boston Globe, “How facts backfire” (link) that I also recommend reading. One part in particular I wanted to point out:
“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”
These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.
This also struck me as profoundly true:
The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are.
So for the fact checkers out there it means we have our work cut out for us…