Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wishing Makes It So

The Washington Post reported yesterday that researchers have scientific evidence that political leanings are related to unspoken biases. (registration may be required) In other words, "partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs."

This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who's been paying attention. What's new is that the researchers hooked up self-described Republicans and Democrats to brain scan devices. The test subjects were then presented with negative information about their chosen preferences. Unsurprisingly, they filter out anything that conflicts with their pre-existing beliefs. Rush Limbaugh knew this long before science got involved.

However, there's another link to dittohead thinking:
"When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior."
So political partisans think like drug addicts. Now it all starts to make sense.

Another less-than-stunning finding of this research was that Republicans are bigots. Duh! Yet, this being America, prejudice is part of the culture and few individuals are exempt. The research showed that:
"...substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush."
Fortunately, I am completely immune to the tendency to filter political information until it comes out the way I want it to ... so you can always trust this blog as an honest guide to the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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