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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Motivated Reasoning

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't sit up and take notice when someone makes an unsubstantiated comment. Some will pick up a percentage out of the air and just run with it. It's not that I'm a know- it- all, but generally I won't even discuss a subject of which I know nothing about.

As I've mentioned before; I record the PBS show “Need to Know" every week because I like the subjects they report about. This pass Friday's show was about “motivated reasoning" and how if it affects our political beliefs. The first example that they showed was about people that believed the world would end May 21, 2011. Those people that believed, couldn't be talked out of it, even if the world didn't end at the predicted date. These people pick and choose data that fits their preconceptions. That's why a large number of republicans believed president Obama was not born in this country and that the healthcare reform bill was about death panels. It has broader implications because even though 53% of Americans believe in climate change, that percentage is dwindling because of politics. According to Gallup, 72% of democrats believe in climate change, and man is a large source of the problem, but only 31% of republicans believe in climate change. Republicans used to believe in global warming, until it became a threat on the marketplace. It works across all political spectrums because it's difficult finding democrats who believed that the surge worked in Iraq or that NAFTA and other trade agreements are necessary in a global economy.

Our positive and negative feelings about people, ideas, and things arise rather fast, much faster than our conscience. Motivated reasoning is a much slower process that feeds our biases. The people consumed with motivated reasoning, tend to be lawyerly, in an attempt to win at all cost. They use built in challenges and will dismiss contradictory facts. They usually rationalize but they think they are reasoning.

I liked how Jon Stewart explained the differences between conservatives and liberals. He said that for the most part actors and reporters have a liberal view of the world but "yeah they're liberal, but that's not their primary motivating force." Take note every time our newspaper mentions an argument against fracking, nuclear power, or the oil industry. It won't take long before a right wing conservative will call it a “tree- hugging hit piece." That's the reason I acknowledge my bias in my profile because I think everyone has a bias but not everyone has an agenda. That is my opening line for saying" OK, we know where we stand, so let's discuss our differences" without trying to be above the fray by saying" I'm a moderate independent." It's not my primary motivating force to go after conservatives, but if they're just repeating talking points then that makes them fair game.

I find motivated reasoning to be a fascinating subject of which I am just now becoming familiar with. I think it's important to know as much as I can about the person I'm having a conversation with. That way I can continue having a civil discussion without stepping on their toes.


Edith Ann said...

It seems similar to what happens after some kind of trauma. In oder to cope, our brains fill in the gaps to make the story complete. We mistakenly belive that we mst have all the pieces, but we really don't.

It's validation for insecure folks. Some 'authority' says something they can agree with--viola'--it's completely valid, no matter how absurd it seems.

But I think we all pick and choose, don't we? That's why I read Newsweek and watch MSNBC rather than FOXNEWS and Rush Limbaugh. I wouldn't listen to RL if he were telling me what idiots George Bush and Rick Perry are. He doesn't 'fit' my preconceived notions!

Interesting stuff. Could explain the republican tea partiers' fascination with the likes of Sarah (I quit again!) Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

Mike said...

We do pick & choose but we don't let it consume us;we both have good republican friends.
I can have a good discussion with people that have a different opinion,but if they are in a zone;it's a waste of time.

I couldn't believe how many people came to Palin's defense;she has a history of making stupid comments.

As I'm watching the Rangers whip my Astros again,the announcer is bragging about how knowledgeable Ex-president George W.Bush is about baseball...Too bad he didn't apply it to the presidency.