ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2009) — In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.

The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.

"Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe. "In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.

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Hmmm....For some reason I'm not surprised in the least.

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Makes sense to me. When I was a theist I hardly ever thought about my beliefs.
I see this everyday at work, looking at 'data' that you would assume is unbiased, but I've found peers blindly accept data that supports their preconceptions but look for excuses in the testing when it doesn't. It can be quite frustrating when they have double standards for data depending on the concept, who thought of it, what they think about it, and what the consequences will be for different conclusions.
No surprise here. I just want ask people what they're using for brains when they start spouting the usual nonsense.... People will always seek confirmation for their own beliefs and prejudices. It's so much more fun that being hit with the (contridictory) facts.
As an ex-Marxist I have been guilty of this very "sin". I feel that the mark of a truly great mind is not its raw processing power, but it's ability to separate logic from preconceived notions and desires. The ability to accept new evidence regardless of its implications is one of the most unappreciated virtues of a dynamic mind.
The Catholic Church tries to ignore that in Germany only 15% go to Mass but it is copying all Evangelist methods.They also try to ignore that in Peru ,in Lima,they have lost in 5 years 20% of the Church to Evangelism.Why?The priests are mostly spaniards in a country of corruption and mostly Inka.
"Motivated reasoning" is something that has been known and understood since the ancient Greeks and Logic, properly used, has always provided the analytical tools to expose it.

I suppose it's good that some sociologists have confirmed something that is already well known, but for those who do already understand it, the study itself, as presented in the article, is probably an example of such motivated reasoning.

Why the focus on a single false belief held by some Bush supporters when there were equally strong and resilient false beliefs held by Bush haters? Why the spectulative conclusions about Obama detractors while ignoring the fact that the same conclusions could be reached about Obama supporter for just as good reasons?

I think there is probably a hidden political agenda here and the authors of the study should apply their own findings to their own reasoning and guard against making the same mistake they claim to be discovering. Until then, their "studies" aren't to be taken seriously.
It is good to have a name to describe this. I think that an honest and thorough examination of one's world view and life position might lead one toward some form of existentialism. In that I would include existential hedonism as well.
Ah yes. This is cracking open the vault of confirmation bias. Looking at it's mechanisms, we may finally be able to get some DATA up in this biznitch with regard to psychology ("microsociology").

When it takes some algebra skills to succeed in a field, it's worth some respect, and that time has rolled over the horizon just a bit. Woohoo!
wasn't there just a similar study that found that people will listen to science up until the point where is contradicts their pre-existing beliefs (especially religious beliefs)? Humans are exceptionally good at self deception.
Have to be careful with this kind of research; it cuts both ways. How many here are 90% sure that they don't suffer from some form of "motivated reasoning" on politics, social issues, personal habits, lifestyle choices, etc.?
"The ability to accept new evidence regardless of its implications is one of the most unappreciated virtues of a dynamic mind."

this is one of the most thought provoking sentences i have read in weeks. i have acquaintance with a character on another site that is a bottle neck minded theist and the idea of the dynamic mind brought to me the eureka moment that she has the converse... a static mind. what clarity this gave me. i had already given up trying to debate with the creature, it always decayed to the predictable "we are persecuted for christ" cliche' which obviates any further discussion. but now i realize that i have to be on guard for the same pitfall... to not become so complacent in my own views that i cannot be swayed from them in the light of new and better evidences.


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