A [single] recent study has found that there is a strong tendency of people to change their factual beliefs to fit their moral inclinations. They call it solution aversion and it may apply to attitudes from climate change to gun control, from abortion rights to Medicare, and it applies to you and me, too. [Kay and Campbell]
Two main mechanisms drive this assault on logic and reason:
- System Justification: We want to believe, and subconsciously try to convince ourselves, that what we believe in is essentially good. Contrary information undermines confidence in our selves.
- Moral Coherence: We want our beliefs to fit nicely together. Reevaluating our foundational beliefs is dangerous to our sense of well-being and takes a lot of energy.
We could move toward more rational, less panicked, and more peaceful tomorrows if we foster a sense of pride in what David Brooks called “mental virtues”. We could teach our children the value healthy skepticism, openness to the knowledge of others, and the growth benefits of challenging ourselves with new information. Humility about one’s own understandings and beliefs would be a big step forward.
But please don’t confuse me with the facts.