May 2018 – The Flight From Reason, part 2

From the presenter:

Climate Change, Gun Control (or lack thereof), Pipelines, Vaccinations, Nuclear War, etc. -These are potential risks to us all. Yet, DESPITE EXACTLY THE SAME FACTUAL INFORMATION BEING AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE, different groups arrive at vastly different conclusions about the degree of risk presented by these issues.

It seems plausible that the actual risks lie somewhere between those broadcast by polarizing groups. Are these groups just attempting to deceive? Are all members of these groups simultaneously acting irrationally by ignoring evidence? Are you behaving irrationally if you support one side or the other? Are we all so overcome by confirmation bias that none are actually capable of seeing the facts clearly? If so, must we admit that, despite thinking otherwise, we are all unreasonable?

Social science has been looking at this science of risk assessment for years. Some of the findings and theories are disquieting. In “Flight From Reason Continues” we’ll look at some of the ‘why’s’ of our polarized society and, perhaps more importantly, question what it may mean for each of us in our own formation of beliefs. It may have a lot to do with who we are rather than what we know. CAN WE BELIEVE WHAT WE BELIEVE?

A brief outline of some of the empirical work done by psychologists and social scientists will be followed by discussion of how this relates to us individually and our societal attempts to deal with these big issues of risk.

The old standby, Confirmation Bias, still gets much of the credit for our dramatic failure to agree on many of the big issues, but there’s more according to many researchers. Motivated Reasoning (often described as Confirmation Bias on steroids) is clearly involved. But what is actually motivating us to reason differently than “those other people”? One answer suggested by the Cultural Cognition Project (Yale Law School) is a bit unsettling.

The presentation and discussion included Naive Realism, Congnitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias, Motivated Reasoning (or Cognition) (including Identity-protective cognition), and the problem of scientists communicating with the public (with a suggestion by Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project to remove emotion from presentations of scientific information.)

One of many applicable articles by Dan Kahan.

Here’s a quick definition of Motivated Reasoning from the Skeptic’s Dictionary )

A link to The Flight From Reason part 1