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Monday, April 15, 2019

Dueling Fact Perceptions

Morgan Marietta at Psychology Today
Most words can be schmade easily. It costs too much money? Money, schmoney. You have evidence? Evidence, schmevidence. The Schma is a rhetorically powerful argument specifically because it is not an argument. It is a dismissal without grounds. One can argue against an argument, with evidence, logic, or threats, but it is hard to argue with a blanket emotional rejection. Our book on the dueling facts phenomenon—One Nation, Two Realities (recently released at Oxford University Press)—discusses many of the psychological mechanisms that lead to such a rejection. These psychological effects are not new, but several changes in the political environment have ratcheted them up in recent times. We offer the term dueling fact perceptions (DFPs) for the common disputes over facts, whether the existence of climate change, or the prevalence of racism, or many other disputed realities. Some scholars prefer the term partisan facts, but our evidence suggests that the origin of dueling perceptions is not merely partisan leadership by politicians and pundits, but also the inclinations of ordinary citizens driven by the mechanisms of their own minds.
This means that regardless of what political leaders say or do, ordinary citizens will project their preferred values onto their perceived facts. The perceptions that lionize their values (and hence themselves) will be the ones they seek (selective attention), believe (selective acceptance), repeat (selective reinforcement), and remember (selective memory). This adds up to a highly selective set of perceptions, reinforced by social networks that provide great payoffs to conformity.