WEEKLY PICK OF STIMULATING IDEAS AND OPIN­IONS

Why we jump at state­ments that echo our be­liefs TIMES CU­RA­TOR & TRENDS

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - SUN­DAY TIMES OF IN­DIA, NEW DELHI DE­CEM­BER 9, 2018

OAur minds have some in­ter­est­ing quirks. For in­stance, if you are shown the word ‘RED’, you will read it faster if it is writ­ten in red ink than if the ink is blue or green, or some other colour. Psy­chol­o­gists call this the ‘Stroop Ef­fect’.

There is a sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­non for facts, called the ‘Epis­temic Stroop Ef­fect’: if you are given a task to spot spell­ing mis­takes in a sen­tence, you will do it faster if the sen­tence is true. Now, new stud­ies show an even more in­ter­est­ing trait of the mind — you can spot spell­ing and gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes quicker in a sen­tence that you agree with. “The re­sults demon­strate that agree­ment with a stated opin­ion can have a rapid and in­vol­un­tary ef­fect on its cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing,” re­searchers at the He­brew Univer­sity of Jerusalem re­port in ‘So­cial Psy­cho­log­i­cal and Per­son­al­ity Science.’

In a vari­a­tion of this ex­per­i­ment, re­searchers asked the study par­tic­i­pants to iden­tify pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive state­ments while pre­sent­ing them with ob­vi­ously sub­jec­tive op­tions.

“For state­ments that they agreed with, par­tic­i­pants were faster to an­swer ‘yes’... The cur­rent find­ings sug­gest that de­spite adults’ un­der­stand­ing of the no­tion of sub­jec­tiv­ity, they may re­act to opin­ion-in­con­gru­ent state­ments as if they were fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect.”

This find­ing ex­plains the cur­rent at­mos­phere of in­tol­er­ance. No ra­tio­nal de­bate is pos­si­ble un­less the par­tic­i­pants can dis­tin­guish be­tween fact and opin­ion. How­ever, the re­search shows our minds colour the per­cep­tion of facts. We read­ily ac­cept state­ments that en­dorse our be­liefs.

ECHO CHAM­BER: Even ob­vi­ously sub­jec­tive state­ments can seem like ob­jec­tive truths if they sup­port your world view

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