People often decline to use the information and rarely give up their views and beliefs under the pressure of irrefutable evidence. Instead, various mechanisms of psychological defense are activated, and the person, instead of accepting the facts, becomes even more entrenched in their delusions. Joe Keohane in his article “How Facts Backfire” shows how people escape from facts that contradict their beliefs (Keohane, 2010). In situations where people cannot refute the reliability of a fact, they shift the discussion to the area of personal values.
If misinformed people are given facts to correct their misconceptions, they begin to cling to their beliefs since the majority of people first have an opinion, and then give reasons. That is why Newt Gingrich thinks that feelings are more important than facts and disagrees with the CNN reporter that violent crime and murder rates are down (CNN, 2016). Gingrich is not right in this case since he wants to base policy on how his constituents feel instead of pure facts and statistics. It happens because the defense mechanism distorts the perception of the world to reduce the level of danger. In politics, the consequences of mass irrationality and escape from the facts can be destructive.
The real problem is not a lack of information, but how the brain works. The increase in the number of known facts does not transform poorly informed citizens into well-informed ones (Keohane, 2010). For example, people who believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq became even more convinced when they were shown an article that refuted it. It is difficult to eradicate prejudice, and the attempts to change people’s false beliefs through propaganda can have the opposite effect (Keohane, 2010). However, the researchers continue searching for ways to overcome the protective psychological barriers of escape from the facts.
There are already some interesting findings in this area. For example, it was found that people are more willing to accept inconvenient facts and adjust their views in a situation where this does not threaten their self-esteem. Thus, people would be able to keep alert by “monitoring both the information they receive and the way their brains are processing it” (Keohane, 2010, p. 4). This helped me to change my mind in favor of vaccination. In general, people begin to behave more adequately after increasing their self-esteem. Only then, they begin to demonstrate a greater willingness to check facts.
CNN. (2016). Feelings vs Fact—Newt Gingrich—RNC Topic on Violent Crime—Feelings trump FBI Stats! [Video]. Web.
Keohane, J. (2010). How facts backfire. Boston Globe. Web.