Scientific Study Shows Conservatives Aren't Interested In Truth

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A new study out of Yale University confirms what argumentative liberals have long-known: Offering reality-based rebuttals to conservative lies only makes conservatives cling to those lies even harder. In essence, schooling conservatives makes them more stupid.

From the Washington Post article on the study, which came out yesterday:

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.

If you've ever gotten in an argument with your conservative friends (assuming you haven't offered each other a mutual Carville-Matalin-style political ceasefire to preserve the friendship), you've probably seen this "backfire effect" in action. The more you try to tell people that Sarah Palin is lying when she says she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, the more they believe she was telling the truth. The more you try to explain how similar McCain's policies are to Bush's, the more they maintain he's "the original maverick."

The typical mantra of the left is that we don't need to sink to the Republicans' level because we have the truth on our side. But if the other side is utterly immune to the truth -- and indeed, the truth only makes them dig deeper into their fantasy world in which the economy is fundamentally strong and the War in Iraq is a staggering success -- what's a person to do?



Posted by Just a visitor on 2008-09-17 12:54:21
I think the labels of "conservative" and "liberal" may be a little too broad. Certainly, many so-called conservatives are reactionaries. Even so, it explains why there are so few talk radio shows aimed at liberals: most can think for themselves
Posted by Einherjar on 2008-09-17 13:24:13
this is actually freaking terrifying
follow the money
Posted by Morton on 2008-09-17 13:36:34
I think the reason there are so few liberal talk shows is that the conservative viewpoint echos the sentiment of corporate America. What's good for corporations (such as war) is not always good for the public.
liberals just as stubborn
Posted by mrbob on 2008-09-20 01:04:25
Well, when I ask my liberal friends "how can you worship al gore when you're aware that his mansion ( metaphorically) eats 240 hamburgers a year while normal homes eat 12?" they usually rebut: "but he's the vice president."

Of course, 10 minutes later, these same liberals are crying that global warming will kill us all.

So, as Sigmond Freud noted, most people simply look for facts which justify their own narratives.

Why else would the democrats be throwing money at "homeowners" even though the government is broke especially because of the recent bailouts.

My prediction is that Americans will have to pay down the road via social security cuts, or something else, but most of my friends don't believe that since they believe in free lunches.
Posted by Dr. CP Miller on 2008-09-23 00:53:17
Liberals (Democrat/Socialists) and Islamic extremists must be removed from the Earth.
Posted by Ped O-Bear on 2008-09-23 07:59:29
Of course Liberals think (only) for themselves! All you have to do to be liberal is think of how much you can get away with and not have to take responsibility for it.
Don't you ever get tired....?
Posted by David on 2008-09-23 08:05:50
Don't you all ever get tired of wasting your time with this back and forth BS....conservatives hate liberals...liberals hate conservatives...blah blah blah blah blah double blah is bigger than your blah....yea...well your blah is so stupid blah blah blah
Posted by WTF on 2008-09-23 08:14:59
I really do not understand people these days.

Mr Bob: So, are you suggesting that since Al Gore is not doing EVERYTHING he could be doing, that this somehow excuses YOUR carbon footprint? Please ponder Matthew 7:5 and stop using Al Gore's "bad habits" to justify your own. Al Gore will have to answer for his "sins"... and you sir, will have to answer for yours. Maybe you should spend more time trying to better yourself, and less time tearing down what efforts others do make.

Professor: Please, PLEASE tell me where you are a "professor". My child will be entering college next year, and I want to insure that she is no where near your type of thinking. Sorry to be all "Goodwin" on you, but jesus pete, you sound like a Nazi.

Ped O-Bear: I do not think that the "liberals" have the market cornered on being selfish pr*cks. The behavior you describe "think of how much you can get away with and not have to take responsibility for it" is not limited to "liberals". We have a whole administration just FULL of selfish people.
It Figures
Posted by jtrahan63 on 2008-09-23 08:46:11
This is great! The posts above that come from obvious conservatives do nothing but reinforce the article's contention that conservatives become more stupid when presented with FACTS.

Not a single response addressed the contentions of the article.

I have been posting on our local newspaper's website, in the "opinions" section. The more I present facts (legislation from websites, quotes from speeches, etc.), the more the neo-cons attack ME, instead of addressing my facts.

I think it may be they are not using all of their brains. They are only using their brain stem, like reptiles and Dick Cheney.
Posted by Gary on 2008-09-23 08:59:59
Given two world views, both of which can cite evidence for their truth, and given that there are complex arguments for each, everyone decides based on what they HOPE is true. So (where conservatives are concerned) it comes down to whether you want to be the sort of person who HOPES that the world is full of evil enemies to justify your anger and paranoia, who HOPES that the rich are deserving and the poor are poor because they are lazy, who HOPES that war and more war is the answer, who HOPES that torture of suspected terrorists saves lives.....I could go on, but you get the idea. So it doesn't come down to facts (which are always debatable) but to what sort of person you want to be. And, in terms of the sort of people they are, conservatives are just MODERATE Nazis.
Call it a day
Posted by Kmuzu on 2008-09-23 10:01:22
Can we just accept the majority of Republicans are as dumb as a bag of hammers?

Most have no idea who their senators or representatives are, can not name the three branches of government nor find Iraq on a map.

Their children are being home schooled by halfwits and they think graduating from a good college makes you an elitist.

They're a cornucopia of retards and that is that.
Posted by ehutch on 2008-09-23 10:48:37
whats surprising is that there are so many of these people. in the mean time, things will just keep getting worse.
Look for broader trend
Posted by tedrick on 2008-09-23 11:43:19
I'm a security guard and one of my coworkers is a conservative. He's not very smart, and I'm not saying this to be inflammatory...he just doesn't understand or read anything about politics. This does not prevent him from being very opinionated. One day we were talking about truck beds and I mentioned the myth busters episode where they determine (via, the scientific method) that it's more efficient to leave your tail gate up when you drive around. It's the golf ball effect where pockets of air move with the object and in turn create less friction...or something like that. He wouldn't have it! Any mention of science repelled him. I realized later that for a non-reader, any science based discoveries he was taking-in were probably word of mouth anecdotal things like whether or not your baby should sleep on its back or stomach. No wonder science came off like a crazy devil. It just can't compete with those stoic good ole boys who can keep their word for 30 years running while us readin' folk are flippin' our babies every five minutes!

I never tried to argue with this man because it would be painful. He had this "back-fire" effect going on strong. I stopped talking at all because anything i said would immediately be rejected.

Liberals seem to be getting more dogmatic and stupid these days too. Bush bashing is too easy and you have to be rich to buy a Prius. The black people i live around are violent and like to rob me and my roommates, shoot my friends and beg for money every chance they get cuz i live in the edge of hood but any criticism of black culture will send liberals into a tailspin of middle-school race-relation buzz words. I guess compact fluorescents are taking the lime light right now and everyone is patting themselves on the back for having gone green. My point being that you were so blinded by your rage in light of this potentially racist comment that you failed to rationally consider any validity that it held. All ideological groups are susceptible to this. In lefty world universal cause of immoral action is economic disparity. You tell one group that the urban core is violent because they're poor and people will won't react strongly one way or the other. If you tell them that the urban core is violent and all people know the difference between right and wrong and that these violent decisions are a product of the the individual's freewill (a popular conservative approach to the problem), then they(the liberal group) will cling to the first approach more adamantly.

Any way this research is interesting. I think you could conjure this "back-fire" effect from any group of people. The challenge would be finding the issues that spark it. Demonstrating the "back-fire" on different ideological groups would show a better understanding of the phenomenon.

This might also be media induced. It would be hard to find a control group that hadn't been exposed to thousands of hours of tv.
Al Gore and his sins put doubt in his presentation
Posted by Intelitary Milligence on 2008-09-23 11:52:10
Ask a scientist and they'll tell you it's climate change not warming.

Warming is for knee-jerkers.

Personally I say it's:
a top-down process: not you or me but all of us cause it

a top-down problem: not carbon dioxide here or there but a spread out heat trapping effect all over the world

a top-down solution: neither you nor me can fix it, we need to have corrupt oil people telling us to save energy and pay oil taxes just like we need corrupt bankers telling us we need to save them and their foreign bank friends

a top-down hat trick of doom so I say it's bullshit
Media Control
Posted by jtrahan63 on 2008-09-23 12:19:40
If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.

---Howard Zinn (Professor Emeritus in the Political Science Department at Boston University)
Posted by Keith on 2008-09-23 22:52:28
Our political views are determined by our worldview. If one sees the world in terms of competing forces then conservative ideas such as "free market" and "patriotism" have deeper meaning than they do for those who see the world as a community.

Fear of failure drives competition more than any desire for success. Success as a nation, an economy, or a civilization is best achieved through co-operative efforts, but those who fear their own inadequacy when compared to others strive for "individual" success. While they are usually the ones who attach themselves more firmly to icons of their alignments, it is their selfish desire to rise above others that drives them and they will turn on their own as fast as they will counter "others".

Poverty and "real" physical need will drive this reaction in just about every individual, group or demographic sampling, but in the absence of "need" or stress, it is almost uniquely confined to the white race. We seem genetically predisposed to competition, even when it hampers the success of the individual as part of the collective.
Conservatives resistant to reality..what a shock!
Posted by Thomas Terry on 2008-09-23 23:42:50
Could you more effectively immunize a person against the pitfalls of reason using anything else but conservatism,isolationism, religion and patriotism? I think not...
Whichever side is more stupid...
Posted by john g on 2008-09-24 00:28:36
both sides are foolish for not following the constitution. When talking to both sides, they both just don't get it. The constitution is beautiful and so simply written a child can understand it. Simplicity is mark of a good engineer. What's the psychological reason some people want to control what other people do even if it effects no one but a consenting adult or adults?

I say defense, they say preemptive strike.

I say no central bank, they say "we need it".

I say freedom, they say intervention.

I say less government, they say more government.
to Keith
Posted by Toon on 2008-09-28 09:24:59
I agree with you mostly but until you bring up race. Need and stress do drive the competitive urge and explain well the reason that working class whites are attracted to the conservative message. And the explanation fails as you move up the economic ladder. But it fails to explain that kind of behavior for the rich in every country no matter their racial background.
Headwing not left or right
Posted by drrichbiz on 2008-09-28 21:30:57
Yes there are "stiff" thinkers on either side of spectrum. The conservatives have knee-jerked against human-caused global warming and alternative energy, despite evidence from NASA, and NOAA and others researchers that surely deserves some respect. Republicans should have at least should have backed alternative energy as away to take down dictatorships--instead they laid down for big oil.

The liberals meanwhile have kneejerked about corruption in our society--spreading that lie that any ole kind of sex is great--there are no morals. Anal penetrating orgies are just fine, though aids is just a jerk away--leaving all the kids, spouses and relatives with a lousy situation. Our entertainment culture is dominated by a race to the bottom, butt bottom. Instead of keeping time-tested morals we want to experiment with morals we call "new". The 60s are 50 years old and no, hippy sex and drugs did not work---it brought only misery, misfortune, broken families, and death. Actually if you follow "liberationist" trends you are back to old-fashioned virtues like monogamy and chastity that respect everybody. A lot of "new" morality is a smokescreen for rape and spread of STDs. One of the problems with prostitutes in the age of the Egyptians and the sea ports of the ancient world was their tendency to use infanticide as a birth control method--this means killing newborn babies to lessen their responsibilities so they could continue their occupation. The ancient greek town of Corinth, a sea port, had all the corruption of modern day, including drugs of choice and all manner of sexuality. So all what we have today is not "new".

Remember the debate about welfare to work a few years ago. The liberals were all up in arms about how people would die if their welfare checks had conditions of moving toward employment on them. Well it never happened but we never heard the followup on that story in the media. Rather many people on welfare did have to go to work---and gained back their self respect.

At the same time the conservatives sold us out on alternative energy development to big oil. Bush could have held up a cfc light bulb, urged victory vegetable gardens and bicycles, but instead he told us to go shopping.

Bush was telling us to do the trillion dollar corporate welfare deal which Paulson wanted. Luckily some Republicans stepped in to get a better deal and present a better alternative so we might have something decent coming out on Monday. The Democrats were ready to roll with the first version. So sometimes its good to be "stiff". Like balancing the budget. Getting a better deal, etc.

We should have held back on Bush's rush to invade Iraq. Many knowledgeable people told him to wait. But he was stubborn and arrogant, plus Sadam had threatened his dad awhile back so Bush wanted to rush in.

We shocked and awe for a few days, invaded, Bush did his victory show on the big boat, and then all hell broke loose and caught him and Rumsfield looking like dumb cusses. Plus for the next three years that war was fought with the idea of handing it off and getting out quick----an impossible orientation to secure a country. Finally we are working with CLEAR, HOLD, and BUILD----called "surge" by the dumb schmucks who did not want to admit they were wrong for three years----which worked which libs and Barack doesn't want to ADMIT. Libs stubborn? yeah cons stubborn? yeah HEADWING ONLY WAY IN THIS AGE
cant we all get along
Posted by Lost and Found on 2010-12-28 19:41:54
Just another sham of a supposed study by biased types to prop themselves up to their already fawning crowd.... Be not Liberal or Conservative ,I say, be a man,or woman and do whats right and stay the heck out of everybodies business and min d your own..
Libertarian or Constitutionalists is the best ideas around,but to many are Sheep and follow the crowd.
You to can be a nonconformist, all you have to do is talk like us,dress like us and be like us. LOL
Ethics Professor
Posted by Lynette Wood on 2010-12-29 06:07:25
Dear can't we all get along, Your argument might be more persuasive if your spelling was better. Why do you say it's a sham of a proposed study? Do you have any research or facts to base those comments on? I am afraid that you are demonstrating what the study said, close mindedness. Sad.


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