The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb.
Sean Blanda

I discovered the site Cultural Cognition not too long ago. There are some interesting research studies hosted there. One in particular stood out when I read it; “The expressive rationality of inaccurate perceptions.” I’ll quote the excerpt in question, the bold fragment is my emphasis;

Nothing an ordinary member of the public does as consumer, as voter, or participant in public discourse will have any effect on the risk that climate change poses to her or anyone else. Same for gun control, fracking, and nuclear waste disposal: her actions just don’t matter enough to influence collective behavior or policymaking. But given what positions on these issues signify about the sort of person she is, adopting a mistaken stance on one of these in her everyday interactions with other ordinary people could expose her to devastating consequences, both material and psychic. It is perfectly rational under these circumstances to process information in a manner that promotes formation of the beliefs on these issues that express her group allegiances, and to bring all her cognitive resources to bear in doing so.

I interpret this to mean that the social need of belonging is a stronger motivation than being factually accurate. It’s a risk/reward system. Interpersonal relationships are closer and more immediate to an individual’s life so maintaining those relationships is more important than abstract policy. Expressing opinion within a social group has an instant effect.

Addendum: I share this research as a point of interest, without any value-added statements connected to it, i.e. support/dispute. I see the research as one working theory behind the complex nature of human motivation.

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