I recently read this article about why simply properly informing the misinformed often backfires, leaving things in a worse state than before.
Several interesting items caught my attention. First, the study claims that self-described conservatives are worse than self-described liberals when it comes to the backfire effect. They become even more certain of their beliefs after being correctly informed, whereas for liberals, the effect is much less pronounced. This fits well with one definition of liberalism I once heard: liberals are those that hold all beliefs tentatively, and conservatives are those that hold most beliefs dogmatically.
Strangely, this does not fit my experience very well, which makes me wonder: How did they measure the degree of certainty? Since they only used three beliefs in the study, could this be a fluke? Might additional beliefs "wash-out" the difference? How well-presented was the correct information? From personal experience, I notice that facts that look like propaganda make me suspicious and conclude that if that's the best the opposition can come up with, I'm probably right.
Another interesting find was that the greater one's degree of education, the greater the effect. Did they fully disentangle this variable from the conservative-liberal variable, or am I to conclude that conservatives are more educated? This goes against what I have seen in other studies. I have heard that liberals are more school-smart and conservatives are more street-smart.
Another interesting find was that those with high self-esteem had a decreased effect and were more likely to accept correction. This makes me wonder: are we going about this the wrong way? Instead of angrily and arrogantly pushing our own version of the facts, perhaps we would better serve ourselves to build others up - and then tell them the facts. We all might be more persuasive if we toned things down. It's worth thinking about anyways.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.