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QotD: The Strongest Bias

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm with what you already believe to be true.  Not only do we tend to seek out and remember information that reaffirms what we already believe, but there is also a "backfire effect", which sees people doubling down on their beliefs after being presented with evidence that contradicts them.  So, where do we go from here?  The only way people will start rejecting falsehoods being fed to them is by confronting uncomfortable truths.
--Emma Roller
in NYTimes.com

Note to self: This bias may not be uniquely American.  A 2016 study confirms that our political beliefs are the ones most resistant to change in spite of new information that refutes them.  It's called Neural Correlates of maintaining one's political beliefs in the face of couterevidence.

WHAT MAKES US RESISTANT TO NEW IDEAS 2016

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence

Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 39589 (2016)

doi:10.1038/srep39589

23 December 2016

Abstract

People often discount evidence that contradicts their firmly held beliefs. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms that govern this behavior. We used neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence, presenting 40 liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held political and non-political views. Challenges to political beliefs produced increased activity in the default mode network—a set of interconnected structures associated with self-representation and disengagement from the external world. Trials with greater belief resistance showed increased response in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and decreased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. We also found that participants who changed their minds more showed less BOLD signal in the insula and the amygdala when evaluating counterevidence. These results highlight the role of emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning, and related phenomena.

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