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View Full Version : The psychology of rationalizing what you want to believe



MAPNUT
2009-Sep-08, 01:14 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/science/08tier.html?_r=1 This article about Cook, Peary and the North Pole touches on how people find ways to support what they want to believe, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Warning No. 1: skip the politics in paragraphs 12-16. Warning No. 2: Even scientists can be guilty of this.

Daffy
2009-Sep-08, 03:33 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/science/08tier.html?_r=1 This article about Cook, Peary and the North Pole touches on how people find ways to support what they want to believe, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Warning No. 1: skip the politics in paragraphs 12-16. Warning No. 2: Even scientists can be guilty of this.

Interesting that you want those paragraphs skipped. To me, they read as evidence for the validity of the premise. It's a premise that goes a long way to explaining the tenacity of conspiracy theorists.

R.A.F.
2009-Sep-08, 03:42 PM
Interesting that you want those paragraphs skipped.

You don't understand why a discussion of politics (which is what I assume he was trying to avoid) would be "frowned" upon here?

Daffy
2009-Sep-08, 03:45 PM
You don't understand why a discussion of politics (which is what I assume he was trying to avoid) would be "frowned" upon here?

In this context, no. It was part of the study. But if the moderators tell me I'm wrong, then I'm wrong.

PetersCreek
2009-Sep-08, 04:01 PM
I'll say that you're wrong. First, politics were used as just one example of motivations that get in the way of facts. They are not central to the study so we need not include them if the consideration of other motivations will allow substantive discussion. Second, the specific political example used may not be dicussed here, period. It has long been a prohibited topic.

Glom
2009-Sep-08, 04:22 PM
I'll say that you're wrong. First, politics were used as just one example of motivations that get in the way of facts. They are not central to the study so we need not include them if the consideration of other motivations will allow substantive discussion. Second, the specific political example used may not be dicussed here, period. It has long been a prohibited topic.

Ooh. Forbidden fruit. I will then chime in by mentioning this (http://www.bautforum.com/small-media-large/3653-stargate-real-actual-reason-bush-blair-wan.html).

MAPNUT
2009-Sep-08, 04:53 PM
Tiptoeing through a mine field here, I'd like to direct you to the link in the Times article "as the researchers report", even though it's right in the middle of the paragraph about Saddam and Bush. The authors talk about "motivational reasoning", which is related to cognitive dissonance. That's what I'd like to talk about, as it seems to describe pretty well the mind set of people who really want to believe in flying saucers or to disbelieve in the Apollo moon missions.

Gillianren
2009-Sep-08, 05:00 PM
Okay, here's the bit that gets me. (It's from the middle of those political paragraphs, but it is not itself political.) " . . . Some flatly said they were entitled to counterfactual opinions." See, we get that here sometimes. I hear it about all sorts of things. "Well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion."

This actually is true. You are. You can believe that your taste in books or movies or music is better and that other people's are worse. You can have your own opinion about sports teams, politics, and what climate you like best. You are completely entitled to a favourite colour. We learn this very young. I learned it in school; I suspect many of you did as well. But, as has been said, you are not entitled to your own facts. What I think some people don't get is that some things are not opinions. You don't get to decide for yourself whether or not the sky is blue or the Earth is round(ish) or evolution is real. You just don't get to, and a lot of people believe that you do.

Fazor
2009-Sep-08, 05:18 PM
I agree with Gillian. Opinions are, well opinions. Everyone has one. Facts are facts. They are the same for everybody. That's what makes them facts. The end.

Daffy
2009-Sep-08, 05:45 PM
I'll say that you're wrong. First, politics were used as just one example of motivations that get in the way of facts. They are not central to the study so we need not include them if the consideration of other motivations will allow substantive discussion. Second, the specific political example used may not be dicussed here, period. It has long been a prohibited topic.

You're the boss. No worries; subject dropped by me.

Swift
2009-Sep-08, 07:38 PM
<snip>
What I think some people don't get is that some things are not opinions. You don't get to decide for yourself whether or not the sky is blue or the Earth is round(ish) or evolution is real. You just don't get to, and a lot of people believe that you do.
Unfortunately, many people do think you get to decide such things. I don't recall an ATM about sky color, but we certainly have had people argue the Earth isn't round. But when someone starts off with the proposition that the sky is really purple, and states this as a fact, it is hard to go much further with the discussion (as evidenced by a number of the ATM threads).

The more tricky area is with things that are less obviously facts, not things like the color of the sky, but things like the background radiation left over from the big bang (to just grab a random one) - things that are a little more tricky for the average person on the street to go measure.

And then of course is the whole range of differences among hypothesis, theory, fact, law, data, etc., something which I think extremely few average people even understand that there are differences, let alone what they are.

Fazor
2009-Sep-08, 08:00 PM
The more tricky area is with things that are less obviously facts, not things like the color of the sky, but things like the background radiation left over from the big bang (to just grab a random one) - things that are a little more tricky for the average person on the street to go measure.

Yes, but this brings up the point that if you do not know a fact, you cannot simply substitute in your opinion.

Swift
2009-Sep-08, 08:25 PM
Yes, but this brings up the point that if you do not know a fact, you cannot simply substitute in your opinion.
I guess that depends on the meaning of "cannot". ;) People seem to do it all the time. I agree with "should not", but obviously they can and do. :D

Fazor
2009-Sep-08, 08:34 PM
I guess that depends on the meaning of "cannot". ;) People seem to do it all the time. I agree with "should not", but obviously they can and do. :D

Touché.

Perikles
2009-Sep-09, 08:33 AM
"Well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion."

This actually is true. You are. You can believe that your taste in books or movies or music is better and that other people's are worse. You can have your own opinion about sports teams, politics, and what climate you like best. You are completely entitled to a favourite colour. We learn this very young. I learned it in school; I suspect many of you did as well. But, as has been said, you are not entitled to your own facts. What I think some people don't get is that some things are not opinions. You don't get to decide for yourself whether or not the sky is blue or the Earth is round(ish) or evolution is real. You just don't get to, and a lot of people believe that you do.Very well put, if I may say so. The problem is that facts are not always so undisputable. There is sufficient evidence to say categorically that the Earth is roundish(ish), this is an undisputable fact. Even so, it was a long time after the first artificial satellites were in orbit that the UK Flat Earth Society was disbanded due to lack of support.

The problem is when you get to statistical correlations, or the lack of them, because most people have very little understanding of statistics or probabilities. I have always been surrounded by people who believe there is something valid in astrology. No manner of argument about correlations will convince such believers if they want to believe, because somehow, a statistical correlation does not seem to them to be a hard fact. Very frustrating.

jokergirl
2009-Sep-09, 11:54 AM
Well, since correlation does not equal causation I would argur that this is a valid and cautious argument - however in the context of your acquaintances who believe in astrology I'm inclined to believe that they are probably not arguing that point ;)

;)

JayUtah
2009-Sep-09, 04:59 PM
Correlation does not imply causation. However a lack of correlation quite strenuously proves a lack of causation.

Gillianren
2009-Sep-11, 12:21 AM
Netflix suggested to me today that I would like to watch a certain internet-origined "documentary," because they really do need to fix their recommendation system, and I was skimming its reviews. (It's rated awfully high--higher even than a theatrically-released "documentary" Netflix actually had my opinion of correct.) One person, in their review, said that the problem with its presenting the "official story" was that, by describing it, they made it sound too plausible.

Weakly Interacting MP
2009-Sep-11, 03:19 AM
^^

Kind of reminds of that recent Onion article quoting Armstrong. Make it sound plausible enough and some people will believe it.

How did Lincoln put it again? Fool all some of the time, fool some all of the time.