Conservative minded Americans more likely to hold onto misinformation?

The title may seem like a low-blow, but according to a study done by political scientists at Yale, it appears to be the case.  From the Washington post:

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.

Broadly speaking (although not entirely true), arguing with a conservative just might double their chances of gripping onto what has been proven incorrect.  Of course this has plenty riding on it as the US election ramps up to its close, and the Canadian election gets started.  As Dan Sweeney at the Huffington Post said, 

[W]hat’s a leftie to do?

I ain’t got the answers, ace, except to say this: When arguing with conservatives in front of on-the-fence independents, remember that you’re not trying to convince the conservative to actually buy into silly notions like facts and reason. You’re highlighting the differences between left and right for the outside observer. If the other guy insists on political views that belong only in Disney World’s Fantasyland, other folks will realize what’s happening.

I’m curious what, if any, are the physiological and environmental bases for such behaviour?  Do any of you have an idea?  Is this a field of active study – what factors lead to one’s politicization?

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice:

6 Responses to “Conservative minded Americans more likely to hold onto misinformation?”

  1. Buffal0Bill

    Biological weapons were found, but not remotely in the numbers expected. Over 500 tons of yellowcake were shipped out of Iraq by our government this summer. This amount is sufficient to make over 100 nuclear weapons and is evidence of Saddam’s ongoing intent to develop nuclear weapons. Further, Republicans and Democrats including the Clintons, Kerry, and many others who voted for war in Iraq had access to the same intelligence that George Bush had. Several bipartisan investigations concluded that the administration did not place pressure on the CIA to cook the books in favor of war in Iraq. The vast majority in the CIA are trying to undermine the President anyway. Why would they go along with an effort to falsify intelligence? The head of the CIA was a Clinton appointee. Hating George Bush is not reason enough to ignore the facts. What’s a leftie to do? Try dealing with the real world and real facts and not bogus information from the fever swamps of the far left.

  2. glennw98

    BuffaloBill’s comment is further proof that the research cited above is correct.

  3. nancy

    BuffaloBill’s comment is further proof that the research cited above is correct.

    Baddaboom! Point awarded to glennw98.

  4. Dave S.

    I haven’t read the original study, but based on the Washington Post article, they didn’t show the same effect. What they showed was that the percent of liberals that clung on to their refuted information didn’t drop to the control group percent. However, the republicans shown a refutation were more likely to believe the refuted material (i.e. this percent increased – the percent of liberals decreased, but not to control levels). This is the “backfire effect” the Post article mentions, and a fundamentally different result from the liberals.

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