25.8.09

Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs



"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal." -  Robert A. Heinlein,  Assignment in Eternity, 1953


PhysOrg.com  August 21st, 2009  In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions ...


Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.


"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.


"The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.


While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information.


"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

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