Have ever you noticed how much discourse there is today?
There seems to be an endless stream of causes or differing views from pro-Trump to anti-Brexit, Atheism to Theism, Vegans to Carnivores, everyone defined by their position and immovable by their belief.
But have you ever wondered why it seems people refuse to change their belief, no matter what the historical evidence or scientific studies prove?
Well, it turns out "motivated reasoning" is to blame.
In the 1950’s Psychologist Leon Festinger observed that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions they want to believe in. I know that seems a bit basic but it’s amazing how much we’re able to shift our focus on just supporting evidence. Doing this gives us permission to simply stop thinking or even listening to anyone else.
In short, our emotions and motives outweigh our reasoning for the facts or evidence.
It’s the same type of thinking that creates conspiracy theories - That's why Jack the Ripper was a member of the Royal family, Elvis Presley is flipping burgers and Dinosaurs never existed.
You may laugh but an endless amount of information and evidence is placed on Google to support any of these views meaning we’re in danger of believing just about anything.
So, is anyone immune?
In a word no, if you think you're too smart to engage in motivated reasoning then you’ll have to think again - Smart people are more susceptible because they’re better educated, with some knowledge of science and some knowledge of critical thinking which feeds ‘motivated reasoning’.
Where’s the evidence?
There's lots of different tests that prove this mindset, one carried out in 1986 by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information showed how people reacted to a poor score on an IQ test. After hearing their results subjects were then given positive and negative articles on IQ Tests - Despite seeing more positive articles (3 positive to every 1 negative) the subjects remembered only the facts within articles that criticized the validity of IQ tests, as opposed to articles that supported them.
Is there anything we can do?
It appears that skepticism is a good place to start – And to be more interested in how you evaluate your beliefs rather than what you have concluded. You must relish being proven wrong and see it as an opportunity to change your beliefs or become less wrong. It takes vigilance, practice and a lot of dedication - It's a life-long practice of policing your own thinking.
And, that’s not a welcomed message.
Especially when you’re about to read a host of marketing messages about how to shed 2 stone in 2 weeks, find the job of your dreams and make lots of money by working just 4 hours a week.
Learn more about the art of influence and persuasion here.