I refer to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine 7/17/17. “The March of Science-The True Story”, as a possible explanation to the current political division in our country. The article deals with qualities of human nature whereby there exists in us “The impulse to believe what we want to believe”.
Three hundred and fifty years ago (17th century), Francis Bacon realized that “The human understanding when it had once adopted an opinion, draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
A recent study by Stanford psychologists’ supported Bacon’s findings, but with a surprising twist. Participants with strong beliefs on either side of the issue of the death penalty, when presented with contradictory evidence to their position rated contradictory information poorly when it did not support their beliefs. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, information contrary to their held beliefs actually resulted in “more not less, polarization between the two groups”
Two reasons for this finding offered by the psychologists are:
- we may hold on to our beliefs even stronger by diminishing the truth of contradictory information
- we may hold on to any information supporting our own beliefs
Any comments, strategies, or suggestions are welcome.