I’ve got a new piece in the Boston Globe‘s Ideas section, on a bleak, but nonetheless extremely interesting phenomenon. Researchers have discovered that when someone believes something that is provably false, giving them the correct information might make them believe the falsehood even more. As anyone who has ever engaged in a debate with the type who sends a great deal of political chain emails, this comes as little surprise. But still, it’s rather amazing to see if measured, and replicated, in a political-scientific setting. And did I add it’s sort of a bummer?
Update: This one turned out to have some legs on it. The Times, Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, the Encyclopedia Britannica blog, Brendan Nyhan (whose research lies at the heart of the piece), The Monkey Cage (a great economics blog), MediaMatters, NPR, and others have weighed in. Also, Matt Yglesias pointed out that this isn’t new because Americans have never been an informed citizenry when it comes to their government–and as I pointed out in the story, this is whoppingly true–however, you need to make a distinction between uninformed and misinformed. Uninformed people will listen, misinformed people probably won’t. This is why this research is so interesting. It works from the premise that the problem in America isn’t uninformed voters, but misinformed ones.