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Kindred Spirits in a Pathless Land — Part Nine

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Guest post by Kindred Spirits

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight

Science of Persuasion

More ways our own brains trick us into reacting emotionally, and using confirmation bias to reinforce what we already believe.

The Science of Persuasion, by Jon Hemmerdinger:

First, partisans don’t listen to facts, and their opinions are difficult to change even with hard evidence. Second, political opinions are generally not based on fact at all, they are based on emotions. In The Political Brain Westen writes: “The results showed that when partisans face threatening information, not only are they likely to ‘reason’ to emotionally biased conclusions, but we can trace their neural footprints as they do it.” By “trace,” Westen means using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see what’s happening in the brain. The researchers found that subjects confronted with negative information about their party or candidate initially feel the unpleasant emotion of distress. It doesn’t last long. Very quickly, the brain uses faulty reasoning and false beliefs to counteract the negative feeling by reaching a false conclusion. The brain then produces positive emotion — a reward for having reached an illogical decision.

The bottom line, according to Westen, is that the “the political brain is an emotional brain.”

And another similar article, (I think looking at the same underlying research), discussing confirmation bias is The Political Brain by Michael Shermer, appearing in a Scientific American article from 2006.

 

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Bruce Gerencser