Thursday, September 18, 2008

Misinformation Study

There's No Arguing With Conservatives... No, Seriously...

A new study out of Yale University confirms that offering reality-based rebuttals to conservative lies only makes conservatives cling to those lies with greater vigor. In essence, schooling conservatives makes them more ignorant. (Or is that ignoranter?) From the September 14th Washington Post article on the study:

Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration's prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation -- the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003.

Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration's claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse. A similar "backfire effect" also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.

In a paper approaching publication, Nyhan, a PhD student at Duke University, and Reifler, at Georgia State University, suggest that Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals: Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might "argue back" against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in the misinformation.

Nyhan and Reifler did not see the same "backfire effect" when liberals were given misinformation and a refutation about the Bush administration's stance on stem cell research.

** The added links are my doing and did not appear in the original Washington Post article or the forwarded email I received. ~ Alessia


Will Belegon said...

A frustrating finding indeed. But what interests me the most here would be the "why" factor. I suspect the answer would involve the constant hammering from certain sources (like Rush Limbaugh) about how "the enemy will try to talk you out of your beliefs."

It's sad, really.

Alessia Brio said...

And that "hammering" smacks of the brainwashing techniques used by cults and religions.

I am reminded of that piece about masturbation that I posted on the Toys for Tarts blog.

Scary stuff indeed.

Angie said...

That's really disturbing. :/ I mean, what do you do, if showing them the facts doesn't work? Hopefully that'll be Nyhan and Reifler's next project.