Another way our brains betray us

This ap­peared in the news yes­ter­day.


It turns out that in the pub­lic realm, a lack of in­for­ma­tion isn’t the real prob­lem. The hur­dle is how our minds work, no mat­ter how smart we think we are. We want to be­lieve we’re ra­tio­nal, but rea­son turns out to be the ex post facto way we ra­tio­nal­ize what our emo­tions already want to be­lieve.


The bleak­est find­ing was that the more ad­vanced that peo­ple’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their poli­ti­cal views, whether liberal or con­ser­va­tive, made them less able to solve the math prob­lem. [...] what these stud­ies of how our minds work sug­gest is that the poli­ti­cal judg­ments we’ve already made are im­per­vi­ous to facts that con­tra­dict us.


De­nial is busi­ness-as-usual for our brains. More and bet­ter facts don’t turn low-in­for­ma­tion vot­ers into well-equipped cit­i­zens. It just makes them more com­mit­ted to their mis­per­cep­tions.


When there’s a con­flict be­tween par­ti­san be­liefs and plain ev­i­dence, it’s the be­liefs that win. The power of emo­tion over rea­son isn’t a bug in our hu­man op­er­at­ing sys­tems, it’s a fea­ture.