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Given Truth, the Misinformed Believe Lies More 961

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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:33AM (#32899146)

    It's nothing but lies designed to obscure the fact that Barak Hussein Obama is a Muslim terrorist who wants to entrance our children with commie healthcare. The sooner he goes back to his hometown in Kenya the better.

    And my facts are just fine. Bill O'Reilly told me so.

    • This is not communist propaganda, Obama isn't a terrorist, and O'Reilly doesn't know everything. Those are facts, I'm pretty sure I just bolstered your own beliefs :P

    • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:41AM (#32899298)
      -1 troll? I'm guessing somebody needs to replace the batteries in their sarcasm detector.
    • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:08AM (#32899830) Homepage Journal

      Funny stuff.


      For Obama to try something like 'commie healthcare', he has to be a liberal first, and he is not, he is a politician of the kind, who do not care about ideology.

      I am a libertarian, I care about ideology and thus I will never be in government. Ron Paul or Peter Schiff (who is trying to become a Senator right now) are very exceptional people, in that they care enough to try and fix the system based on their ideology and not so that they can personally make money or get more power.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by copponex ( 13876 )

        and not so that they can personally make money or get more power.

        I would caution anyone voting for Peter Schiff, who's ultimate goal is to crash the dollar since he has been predicting that for about a decade. Solipsism can do just as much damage as greed or a lust for power.

        I agree with Ron Paul on many things, but as long as he stays within the Republican Party, they'll never let him be more than a sideshow.

        • You are a liar, it's that simple.

          Just like Ron Paul works in the government to his own financial detriment - he wants to audit the Fed, he wants to stop bleeding of money in wars, he is personally invested in gold up to 50%. Anything he succeeds at actually would cause the gold prices to come down. Like raising the interest rates, getting back to production and sound economy.

          Schiff is exactly the same - he is against any spending, he is against printing of money to STOP the hemorrhage of the dollar, which

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by copponex ( 13876 )

            The only difference between what I said and what you said is that you believe Schiff has good intentions. But the fact remains: Schiff is personally invested right now in the failure of the US dollar. He has staked his reputation on it. If presented with an option to freeze spending and deny social services on a massive scale that would certainly destroy the American economy, Schiff would support it, because he has said many times before that such a collapse is the cure our economy needs for the disease of

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:45AM (#32901630) Homepage Journal

      I guess that you didn't see where they said "political partisans"?
      Take a look in the mirror dude. It is the same on both sides.

      My rule of thumb. Never trust anybody that has a political bumper sticker on their car or claims to be a "supporter".

      To give you an example from the other side. I didn't like Obama's space policy before the election. I still don't. When I showed people his policy they said that it wasn't so. When I showed it to them on his own website they said that they are sure he wouldn't do it.
      When I told the same partisan that it was a Republican president and not Kennedy that put forth not just the first but the first and second Civil Rights acts I was again called a liar. 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!

      By the way my point was that one shouldn't support or vote for parties but individuals. I was trying to show that that there are good people as well as scum in both parties.
      You how ever are every bit as much of the problem as the people you dislike so much. Two sides of the same coin.

      And I do not like Presidents Obama's space policy. His health care reforms are not terrible but he didn't do enough about drug costs. His energy policy is a nightmare. I do not think he is a good president.
      But he was born in Hawaii and what people seem to forget is it doesn't matter if he wasn't!
      You do not have to be born on US soil to be born a US citizen. If one of you parents is a US citizen you are a US citizen!
      If not then any US living abroad for work, school, or military service that has a child would have issues!
      That isn't the way it works so no it doesn't matter even if he wasn't born in Hawaii.
      And being a Muslim doesn't mean you can not be president. Just as being Catholic, Mormon, or Jewish means you can not be a US president.
      So there!

  • Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmiller173 ( 641510 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:38AM (#32899250)

    ... when exposed to corrected facts in news stories.

    Perhaps because we have learned to distrust the news providers?

    • Re:Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by divisionbyzero ( 300681 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:48AM (#32899436)

      ... when exposed to corrected facts in news stories.

      Perhaps because we have learned to distrust the news providers?

      Agreed. One of the greatest coups of big business is the co-opting of journalism. Now, nobody believes in objectivity. Everything is just politics.

      • Re:Because... (Score:5, Informative)

        by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:02AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bryansix ( 761547 )
        News outlets did this to themselves. Point in case? How many people heard about Israel killing Turkish citizens on the aid flotilla headed for Gaza? Probably everyone. Now how many people heard about the reason the blockade existed? Probably a lot less of you. Now how many people heard about the fact that no shots were fired until the people on the boat attacked the soldiers with metal rods, knives, and bats and were abour to cut them from head to toe? Probably none of you. Yet the Youtube video show exactl
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Yet just this morning I heard a recap of the events where they left out those very important facts. Rewriting history by leaving out facts is morally and ethically wrong and yet that is what the Mainstream Media do all the time.

          I'm not sure what you mean by mainstream media but I was aware of all of those facts. All too often the distinction between mainstream media and other media is a false one predicated on whether one agrees with the coverage and that's why I ask. For example, some people do not consider FOX News to be mainstream media but it's the most popular news station on television. Obviously that's absurd...

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:00AM (#32899676)

      This is one of the reasons that I dislike discussing/arguing issues in person. They will bring up some information I hadn't heard before, but I have no idea whether it is reliable or not. I try not to be set in my beliefs, but 90% of the "facts" that people spout usually had some foundation in truth originally but have become so misinterpreted by the time they heard it that it is almost complete crap. I like to look into things before I accept them, but that isn't an option in person. If you can't immediately refute any random thing they bring up and won't just accept what they say as gospel truth then you are pegged as a ignorant stubborn idiot. Furthermore, when I am pressed like that I do feel a strong desire to dig in and defend myself, when otherwise I would just take in the information and have one more thing to mull over while I continue to read about the issue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tibit ( 1762298 )

        I'd say that you're overestimating how good the spouted "facts" are. My expectation is that the "facts" will be 100% crap, not 90% crap, and when talking to certain people I usually blindly assume that they are wrong on everything they say, and check myself after the fact. I can always recant stuff in a follow-up discussion. This works quite well in general, and with certain people it's a slam dunk -- it never fails. They always spew crap, and while I may not be able to pin-point immediately why they are wr

    • Re: Because... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EXTomar ( 78739 )

      A cultural norm my European cousins have noticed about Americans is that we seem to be taught to believe what "friends tell us" more than "stranger tell us" even when that relationship seems irrelevant. They observe that seems to make Americans rather listen to people we know instead of "experts tell us" and sometimes outright hostility to "authority tells us". Anyone with a little bit of collegic philosophy or logic study should realize that it isn't that our friends are purposely misleading but that the

  • by Darth Sdlavrot ( 1614139 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:38AM (#32899258)

    Including this

  • by omar.sahal ( 687649 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:41AM (#32899294) Homepage Journal
    Well people (and by people I mean you and me as well) believe a whole lot of things just because that's the way we were brought up. We have never really dug into our beliefs thoroughly.
    When it comes to politics it really is some sort of emotional connection, not fact based, facts can't change our minds when this is the case. Politicians like to play on our innate sense of belonging, our fears, not however our minds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:44AM (#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 Primitive Pete ( 1703346 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:46AM (#32899396)
    Seriously, this looks like a weak rehash of Festinger's (1957) Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, only without the data or depth of study. People change their opinions to suit their convictions, and shown by Festinger's study of the reactions of doomsday cults' reactions to the fact the the world didn't end on the expected date (c.f., "When Propheshy Fails"). Really, what am I missing here?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 )
      Well, "cognitive dissonance" has always been sort of an armchair theory, there have always been people [] who doubt that it actually even exists, and that its effects can just as easily be explained by other psychological phenomena (and I have to say, seeing the Tea Partiers who parade around with signs like "Get the Government out of my Medicaid!" without the slightest hint of irony seems to lend credence to this opinion). This is an experiment which evaluates a behavior, instead of creating a theory to fit o
  • Right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:46AM (#32899410)

    I know this is Idle but there's been a lot of articles related to how people think lately. Myself, I'm perfectly okay with people having different viewpoints. Even outright wrong ones. Why should I care about it? So there are people that think their party is infallible and fall for the party talking points. Nothing new really and understanding it doesn't really change much. I can't really use this information beyond what I think are some common sense rules about people in general.

    Diversity is part of humanity. Who's to say where the next great change will come from? Logical thinking is not the end-all be-all for human prosperity.

    As a wise man once said - let them live.

    • Re:Right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:19AM (#32900020) Journal

      There is a difference between diversity and ignorance. Diversity would be people's views on abortion or whether there should be prayer in schools.

      Ignorance is claiming Obama isn't an American because he's never shows his birth certificate even though Hawaii has repeatedly indicated they do not give out copies of such. They only give Certificates of Live Birth, similar to what other states do.

      Yet, we have people like Senator Vitter (R, LA) continuing to trot the misinformation about Obama's citizenship despite evidence to the contrary.

      P.S. Once again Slashdot has me typing this in a 2"x3" box.

    • Re:Right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shish ( 588640 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:32AM (#32900300) Homepage

      Why should I care about it?

      Because sometimes people act on their beliefs, and even if your philosophy is "live and let live", that won't stop *them* from going out of their way to affect you

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:51AM (#32899496) Homepage

    After all, we know that the truth has a liberal bias.

  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:52AM (#32899534)

    For most people, Politics, like Sports and Religion is all about having an emotional attachment to something - they're for/with/believe a group/ideology because they feel like "one of the group" and one cannot be against oneself.

    A high level of intelectual abilities (i.e. IQ) is no defense against it: just look at all the religious-like flamewars around things like editors and operating systems.

    In order to do trully informed judgements one must first be aware of one's inner-self, one's drives and fears and be capable of analysing one's motives. One must be capable of separating the "logic" from the "feelings" and the "habits" in the way things are perceived, interpreted and reasoned about.

    Unfortunatly this requires a level of inner maturity that seems to be far above that of most people ...

  • by Anonymous Meoward ( 665631 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:52AM (#32899538)

    I just read this [] a while back. There are larger ramifications than political sniping, and beyond politics altogether.

    It's a perfect illustration of why this phenomenon matters to all of us.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:55AM (#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.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:19AM (#32900024)

    The experience of the last century shows that fanatics can remain hermetically sealed from the truth until the fabric of their society collapses around them, and there is literally rubble in the streets.

    I think that education is the only hope to fix this, but that means that this will be a problem for the rest of our lives, if not a lot longer.

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <{ge.ten.atadet} {ta} {reteps}> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:21AM (#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.

    • B.F Skinner (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) *
      B.F. Skinner did some very interesting experiments with pigeons. He kept them hungry and put them in a cage with a food dispenser that would dispense a food pellet at random intervals (with a known average interval). When the pellet dropped the bird would instinctively connect it with some random movement it had made just prior to the food appearing. It would then repeat that movement over and over again until another pellet dropped. Since it did not work every time the bird would also connect other random
  • by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:04AM (#32900908)
    We are a culture that values strength over intelligence. A man who is unflexible, unyielding, who cannot be changed is strong. A man who is open to change, who compromises appears to have a weak heart. When we argue and discuss, our goal is not to learn something, is not to find the right answer - our goal is to win the argument
  • by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:27AM (#32901320)

    These findings are not a surprise to me.

    Thanks to the innovation of the internet I've had probably thousands of arguments with people committed to a particular viewpoint.

    The usual mentality is not curiosity, listening and interest in discovering truth.

    It is a verbal boxing match with both sides flinging opinions and links until someone gets tired and stops

  • by jackpot777 ( 1159971 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:48AM (#32901670)

    It would sound like the perfect troll: find out how timid a kid was at age 3, that tells you how conservative he'll be at 23.

    As it goes, it's completely backed up by research []. And the researchers weren't looking for that info, it just sat there in the data.

    In 1969, Berkeley professors Jack and Jeanne Block embarked on a study of childhood personality, asking nursery school teachers to rate children's temperaments.

    They weren't even thinking about political orientation. And why would they? They're psychology professors researching personality theory, personality development, research methodology, and stuff like that.

    Twenty years later, they decided to compare the subjects' childhood personalities with their political preferences as adults. Why? Who knows. Maybe for craps and giggles. Maybe because they had a column blank on their spreadsheet and wanted to fill it with one more metric to see if there was a link between voting and eating the erasers on the tops of pencils.

    What was interesting to them was the arresting patterns they found.

    As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient.

    People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3.

    Don't forget: the Blocks had NO IDEA what political affiliation any of the three year-olds would have when they did the survey in 1969. But go forward twenty years, and there it is. Everything that people say they want their kids to be: kids just like that became Libs. Everything that makes short-tempered parents scream and beat their kids: future applicants for a CPAC pass and an EIB golf shirt request on the Christmas list.

    The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics. The article doesn't say if Professor N.S.Sherlock lit his pipe and smiled knowingly to himself upon hearing the results, but I wouldn't die of surprise if it happened.

    Pure science: sometimes, the truth just hurts. Especially if you've been easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable all your life.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein