Why People "Fly from Facts"

Posted on March 4, 2015

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As public debate rages about issues like immunization, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage, many people try to use science to bolster their arguments. And since it's becoming easier to test and establish facts - whether in physics, psychology, or policy - many have wondered why bias and polarization have not been defeated. When people are confronted with facts, such as the well-established safety of immunization, why do these facts seem to have so little effect?

Let's consider the issue of same-sex marriage. Facts could be relevant to whether it should be legal - for example, if data showed that children raised by same-sex parents are worse off - or just as well-off - as children raised by opposite-sex parents. But what if those facts contradict one's views?

We presented 174 American participants who supported or opposed same-sex marriage with (supposed) scientific facts that supported or disputed their position. When the facts opposed their views, our participants—on both sides of the issue—were more likely to state that same-sex marriage isn't actually about facts, it's more a question of moral opinion. But, when the facts were on their side, they more often stated that their opinions were fact-based and much less about morals. In other words, we observed something beyond the denial of particular facts: We observed a denial of the relevance of facts.

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Source material from Scientific American


Mental Health News