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Given Truth, the Misinformed Believe Lies More 961

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-let-the-truth-get-in-your-way dept.
SharpFang writes "In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that misinformed people, particularly political partisans, rarely changed their minds when exposed to corrected facts in news stories. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."
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Given Truth, the Misinformed Believe Lies More

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:44AM (#32899364)

    There's something called the Kruger-Dunning effect which is kinda interesting as well Dunning-Kruger effect []. The premise is the following one:

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.

  • by necro351 (593591) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:47AM (#32899422) Journal

    Excerpt from the article:

    "CONAN: And again, we'd like to think of our brain as something that's been trained in, you know, Cartesian logic, when in fact, our brain is sort of hard-wired to leap to conclusions very quickly.

    Mr. NYHAN: That's right. And what's interesting is in some of these cases, it's the people who are most sophisticated who are best able to defend their beliefs and keep coming up with more elaborate reasons"

    I remember taking a neuroscience course in college once with a professor who had done experimentation that he thought suggested that what separated humans from other mammals (the cortex) was primarily a mechanism to _slow_ learning. In fact in studies I've read child apes are able to more quickly learn how to use tools than child humans. Humans are slow learners in the same way that a feedback control loop needs a dampener: it allows us to stabilize and converge on techniques and facts that serve us well without too easily 'forgetting' them.

    WARNING: anecdotal evidence
    Walking and talking with people, the more 'reasonable' of us tend to simply be those that think about the issues (whatever they may be) more than others, and so misinformation in their minds will more quickly be 'flushed out'. However you don't _want_ people to just believe 'facts' without great trepidation, that is a good thing, its called skepticism, and it should be hard to overcome. Facts printed in news stories or articles (as mentioned in the article) are often wrong, like the countless stories that mis-reported the Toyota accelerator problem without doing their fact-checking first (one of the biggest proponents was a repeat insurance defrauder).

    end anecdotal evidence

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:55AM (#32899590) Homepage
    Can be found here []. The statistical correlations found were weak, in some cases not even statistically significant. Also, for some questions they didn't see any backfire effect (where corrections make people believe the lies more) for all questions. For example, when dealing with liberals, there was no backfire effect when correcting the misconception that George Bush banned stem cell research (he in fact restricted it to a specific set of cell lines). However, in this case, correction did not alter the belief level although it didn't create a backfire result. Clearly, more research is needed. There's also a relevant older article which shows that uninformed people are more likely to think they are informed. []. This connects with the Dunning-Kruger effect [] where incompetent individuals generally overestimate their own competency.
  • Re:This is a win! (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustOK (667959) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:08AM (#32899834) Journal

    oblig xkcd []

  • by united_notions (916092) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:10AM (#32899876)
    Slashdot has covered this story - or a similar one - before: []
  • by Pollux (102520) <speter AT tedata DOT net DOT eg> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:21AM (#32900066) Journal

    First, The Boston Globe has an article [] that explains the same details, though not in question & answer interview format.

    Second, the adult human brain is engineered to actually dismiss information that it does not agree with. There was a very good article I read (that I think was posted a while ago on /.) that explained the situation very well. In summary, the prefrontal cortex of the adult human brain is the "information filter" that is responsible for filtering out "unnecessary" information. For example, ask yourself how many people you walked by today. Then ask yourself how many of those peoples' faces do you remember vividly? Though your eyes most likely saw many, many faces, your prefrontal cortex filters out that information before it even is stored in short-term memory. I know there's an article out there that explains the science more thoroughly, but sadly I failed to find it.

    Anyways, the same information filter that filters out unnecessary information also is also responsible for blocking any information that it determines to be dissonant from accepted information, i.e. cognitive dissonance []. In this previously mentioned misplaced article, scientists hooked up participants to an MRI in an experiment analyzing how their brains processed conflicting information. The participants were sorted into two groups: physics majors and non-physics majors. The video was a recreation of Newton's gravity experiment, where a person drops a tennis ball and a bowling ball, both hitting the floor at the same time. When the physics majors saw the experiment, their brain did not register much activity, because what they saw was already what they knew to be true. But when the non-physics majors watched the video, the "WTF" section of their brain went crazy. In short, they believed that the bowling ball would hit the ground first, and when it didn't, their brain had a difficult time processing the information that conflicted with previously held beliefs. When faced with this confliction, adult minds must either reclassify what they know (a very difficult task for the adult brain), or filter out what they have just witnessed (a very easy task for the adult brain). In the end, I'm sure most of those non-physics majors ended up rationalizing what they saw with excuses such as, "Video editing" or "lead weight inside tennis ball."

    As difficult as it is, the only way to prove to someone the truth is to first prove to them that their accepted beliefs are false. The only way this is possible is to take what they believe to be true, then show them how their own "facts" are inconsistent with one another. Only by creating cognitive dissonance within their own thoughts, rather than introducing it from an external stimulus, can you create the conditions necessary for them to be willing to listen to truth.

  • by theghost (156240) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:25AM (#32900144)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:31AM (#32900272)

    Paradox fail. The opposite of "everything I say is a lie" is "not everything I say is a lie," not "nothing I say is a lie."

    Suppose you speak the truth now, then everything you say is a lie, which is a contradiction to the premise that you are speaking the truth now.

    Suppose you lie now, then not everything you say is a lie. So you must have told the truth at least once, but not necessarily right now. Consequently there is no contradiction.

    Your comment is a lie, but not a paradox.

  • Re:Right (Score:5, Informative)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:02AM (#32900862) Homepage Journal
    He could have had his birth certificate lost or destroyed (fires do happen, things get lost in traveling, etc).

    If he doesn't actually have a birth certificate, he can't show it, can he? The best he can do is go back to the hospital and ask for a replacement. However, as Hawaii and other states don't give out copies of Birth Certificates, the best he can do is have a Certificate of Live Birth.

    Further, as others have repeatedly pointed out, there is the birth announcement in the Hawaiian newspaper. It's a bit hard to claim that 40-some-odd years ago, someone placed a fake birth announcement in a newspaper so some black guy could be elected President.

    As to the proof of his birth, which Birthers repeatedly deny isn't valid despite it being used by several states (and which goes back to the heart of this story):

    Snopes []
  • Re:Because... (Score:5, Informative)

    by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:02AM (#32900874)

    The era of objective journalism was a lot shorter than most people tend to think. The very idea that journalism was different from politics really only emerged around WWII.

    Go look up some revolutionary era newspapers, some Jacksonian era newspapers, some antebellum newspapers, some reconstruction newspapers, some gilded age newspapers ... you'll see bias not even fox news would stoop to.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:36AM (#32901462)

    That is a really twisted interpretation of the word "progressive".

    A progressive believes that the current system not working as well as it should, and that it must be improved from within.

    Compare to revolutionary that believes that change is needed, but the system can not be changed from within.

    Compare to a conservative who approves of the current state of government.

    A Regressive believes that recent changes have been for the worse and seeks to repeal them.

    None of these infer as to what direction they believe the change should be in. These are the meanings of these words untwisted by any personal and political agenda. Other political terms like liberal, right and left are somewhat more open to interpretation.

  • You're confusing competence with ideology. You can be a liberal (or a conservative, or a libertarian, or a Marxist, etc) and still be incapable of getting things done. "Ram it down their throats" isn't a characteristic of any one ideology, necessarily (though some, like Communism, use it to full effect). No matter how popular a politician is, "ram it down their throat" is usually bad bad bad. FDR was popular, but when he tried to pack the Supreme Court, the public started threatening to impeach him, and he never went near the subject again. So the fact that he failed means that he wasn't a liberal, by your reasoning?

  • Fact: Obama himself thinks that continuing to spend is the answer to the economic problems we face.

    Well, yes it is. The economic problems are because you need a certain minimum level of cashflow for a market economy to work. Either you have to re-inflate the economy or abandon the capitalist system. You can't have capitalism without capital.

    (Which, interestingly, means that Republicans are anti-capitalist and anti-market at the moment. You cannot believe in market forces if you do not believe in the right of a market to exist.)

  • Re:Pride (Score:3, Informative)

    by jackpot777 (1159971) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:06AM (#32902036)
    Confirmation Bias.
  • by MightyDrunken (1171335) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:07AM (#32902044)

    But on the subject of truth and lies, Hitler never started World War II, either. Britain and France had decided that Germany had to be taken down long before the actual Polish invasion. In fact Chamberlain said, in May 1939 "the fate of Poland depends on the final outcome of the war, which will depend on our ability to defeat Germany rather than to aid Poland at the beginning.".

    I would not come to the conclusion based on prior events. From 1933 Hitler abolished democracy, re-militarized, tore up the Treaty of Versailles and reintroduced conscription. By 1935 Russia, the UK and others were trying to build pacts with each other because they could see where this was going! In March 1938 Germany annexed Austria then just before your quote of Chamberlain, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

    In my view Hitler had started the road to WW2 probably by 1935 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland were the final straw. But because of Germany's head start France, UK, Russia and others were not willing to put their unprepared countries on the battlefield.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:07AM (#32902064)

    ... he's just an entertainer like any other news or talk media figure.

    Then there's the case of Jon Stewart, who keeps reminding people that he's a professional comedian, and still so many people treat him as a serious journalist.

    That's a bit of a stretch. Jon Stewart also, for example, purports to adhere to journalistic standards. He's not exactly Monty Python. He is somewhere in the middle, by his behavior, despite what he says.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:10AM (#32902120) Homepage Journal

    you are wrong on this just like most other people, but I have a good thing to point at: before Nixon got government involved in health insurance payments, it was possible for a family of 4 (that's four) people in US of A to buy health insurance from a private corporation for $25 (that's twenty five dollars) per yer (that's $25/year) with a $500 deductible (which means that you have to pay the first $500 yourself before insurance kicks in) and with a $50,000 maximum (which was enough to cover 2.5 times the worst and most expensive scenario at the time, the worst being paying about $20,000 while fighting cancer).

    Yes, it was a private system and hospitals charged up to $110/day for hospital stay and the maximum bills didn't go above $20,000 but it was real insurance because of the $500 deductible, which really was covering most of any normal expenses anyway.

    It was a working private insurance system and it was killed by the government intervention and money, once government got into paying for medical treatments it created a moral hazard and it created more demand than was there otherwise with the $500 deductible and it allowed the prices to skyrocket by intervening.

    I am in Germany right now, the system is dual - there is public health insurance and there is private insurance. I am paying for my problems out of pocket and that's the way I prefer it.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:21AM (#32902300)

    that this would make GW Bush a very, very progressive president

    About a billion people have said that before you, you know. Many conservative organizations complained endlessly about the spending and power increases under Bush, but they never got any media coverage. The libertarian leaning Cato Institute hated the SOB.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:33AM (#32902526)

    Not that anyone else on the "news" is correct either, but Glenn Beck is a pretty consistent liar. []

  • by Sique (173459) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:34AM (#32902528) Homepage

    There is. For instance Germany has the ARD, which in turn consists of broadcasting entities in each federal state, controlled by the respective state.
    The broadcasting entities are producing their own magazines and news broadcasts, but all are broadcasted via the same network. Because different states lean differently, you have pretty leftist magazines sharing time slots with pretty conservative magazines, you have rather green magazines running one week and at the same time the next week very pro business magazines, depending on the broadcasting entities which produces them.
    The system is not perfect, but at least it gets somewhat more balanced than just having one controlling entity for everything.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:21PM (#32903330)

    Yes. It's disappointing, but the way to sway people is to use anecdotes instead of data, and use appeals to emotion instead of reason.

    So don't talk about a million sick children dying of a vaccine-preventable disease, just pick one kid and talk about him. And don't talk about how our purpose is to save lives and increase human prosperity, just say how that kid sure is sad and sick and it's such a shame and wah wah.

    Yes, I'm serious, that's the way to do it. Take all of your nerdy intuitions and do exactly the opposite.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @01:23PM (#32904254)

    do you realize (and would you agree) that this would make GW Bush a very, very progressive president when you consider the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act?

    Well, since G.W. Bush was an extremely progressive Republican, it makes sense doesn't it?

    Bush was not a conservative, he was a liberal Republican. There is a huge difference between the two (there is nothing stopping anyone from being a conservative Democrat either - there are actually quite a few). Republicans tend to be more conservative and Democrats tend to be more liberal, but the two are not mutually exclusive by any means. The only difference between a liberal Democrat and a liberal Republican is the agenda they are pushing forward.

    By definition anybody who seeks major change cannot be a conservative, unless the changes are only to undo previous changes.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:16PM (#32907356)

    When I showed him that it was true and showed him that by percentage more Republicans supported Kennedy's Civil Rights reforms than Democrats did he went into a fit of rage!

    A true fact but a bit misleading. The party composition was different then. Only a very few southern members of congress voted for the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 (introduced by Kennedy but passed under the Johnson administration) and only a few northern members voted against the bill. Among Northern Democrats a higher percentage supported the bill than Northern Republicans. Furthermore the passage of the bill caused many southerners to switch parties to the Republicans and is directly responsible for both parties respective positions on civil rights today.

    You have to be careful comparing different eras. The Republican party of Lincoln's time bears little resemblance to the "same" party 100 years later which in turn bears only a casual resemblance to the Republican party of today.

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @03:07PM (#32938574)

    OK it's only fox news that says people are waitin in line for healthcare. And 2 canadians I talked to were just lying about it. right

    You said people die waiting in line, not that there was a line. No one dies waiting for healthcare. If its high priority they get healthcare immediately. If not, then you wait, or you can pay for certain services if you like. My fathers pacemaker was next day. I had a ligament tear in my knee and needed an MRI and athroscopic surgery. I was still fully mobile (just couldn't run) so I had to wait a couple of months. No it's not perfect, but its better than 15% of the population without any health care as in the US, and the majority of the rest only covered for basics. Some people say that the US has the best health care in the world, but thats only true for the 5% that can actually afford the premium care. For the rest, its no where near the best in the world and you should be ashamed of that.

    the drugs are cheaper in canada, since canada subsidizes them.

    No Canada does not subsidize drugs. In fact drugs are not covered under provincial health care, unless they are part of a hospital stay

    Your healthcare should be paid for/provided by no one that's not willing to do it.

    No one is forced to provide health care. It's just paid for. The doctors, nurses, hospitals all operate just as they would in the US, they are just not run by insurance companies, but by a board of directors like a company. The only difference is instead of submitting expenses to the insurance company, its submitted to the government. Government does not 'run' the hospitals, they just pay the bills.

    The US system sucks. the Canadian system sucks.

    I would say both have deficiencies and a merging of the two would make them great. I support fully funded health care like we have in Canada. What I don't like is that certain procedures are not allowed to be run privately. My view is if someone wants to start a private practice to do whatever, and they think they can make a profit at it then go ahead as long as a standard of medical care is maintained and no public funds are used (we call this two tier health care and its making inroads but is hotly debated).

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes