Facts Don’t Matter
The University of Michigan conducted a study and out of that research they have learned something that is clear to anyone paying attention to this 2016 Presidential election: facts do not change beliefs.
The University of Michigan found that we base our opinions on beliefs and when presented with contradictory facts, we do not change what we already believed. In fact, when presented with facts most people just adhere to their original belief even more strongly.
The phenomenon is called backfire, and it plays an especially important role in how we shape and solidify our beliefs on immigration, the president’s place of birth, welfare, climate change and other issues.
The label of backfire is a great one. I notice if I hear something that sounds wrong to me, look up the information from a reliable factual source, then put that information out on my blog or on Facebook, what happens is exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I want to change people’s beliefs but all my efforts to appeal to facts backfires and rather than changing beliefs, I get a push back that indicates these believers are insulted, incensed, and sometimes it feels like they want to hurt me to silence me.
This is not personal on their part. This refusal to change what you already believe appears to be a trait common to most humans. That means the trait also exists in me. Perhaps I am just as entrenched, maybe I am clinging to what I believe and it is possible that I too am unpersuaded when presented evidence showing that what I believe is wrong.
When scientists and law makers got concerned about the poor quality food consumed by many Americans, laws and regulations were put into place forcing food companies to put national information on the packaging of that food. Wow. Great idea. People who need to avoid salt can now look on the back of a can and see how much salt is in the can. If you want to avoid carbohydrates, you can look the label and know what is high in carbohydrates and what is low in carbohydrates.
In my house, because my wife is a brittle diabetic, we do look on packaging to see the grams of carbohydrates. It doesn’t often keep her from eating the food, but it does help her figure out how much insulin she will need to cope with those carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, studies show the 97% of people ignore the nutritional information on the packaging. These labeling laws resulted in great cost to food manufacturing, and obviously these labeling laws caused the cost of food to go up, and then 97 percent of the population ignores that information. The facts are there, but mostly the consumers don’t care.
Here is how one lie got passed off as a truth to the public.
Arizona Republican Jon Kyl said in a statement to the press that the percentage of Planned Parenthood’s services that were abortion related was more than 90 percent. When that statement was FACT CHECKED it was reported that the actual percentage of Planned Parenthood services that involved abortion was actually 3 percent.
When this discrepancy was presented to Jon Kyl he replied that his words “were not intended to be a factual statement.”
I suppose it is like you have a big birthday party and say there were a thousand people there. Actually there were 20 people there, but your house is small, it was wall to wall people and to you is felt like a thousand people were there. You know it isn’t true, but a thousand people is a hyperbole that reflects a truth: a lot of people were there.
At a gathering for Trump in Arkansas Mr. Trump said there were 12,000 people there when the venue they were in would only accommodate 7,600 people. Trump may have just pulled the number out of the air because he was so impressed to see the venue was filled to capacity.
But if I point out the statement is NOT TRUE, I would expect a big pushback, and harsh words because I am a liberal and I just want to make Trump look bad.
What are you supposed to do when so many of us are not moved by facts? I include myself in this. When so many humans cling to what they already believe and they reject everything that contradicts those previously held beliefs, what are we supposed to do?
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan