Easy to recognize these going on all the time on the internet. See the logical explanations to why people use illogic for all 5 points here.
“The Internet has introduced a golden age of ill-informed arguments. You can’t post a video of an adorable kitten without a raging debate about pet issues spawning in the comment section. These days, everyone is a pundit.
“But with all those different perspectives on important issues flying around, you’d think we’d be getting smarter and more informed. Unfortunately, the very wiring of our brains ensures that all these lively debates only make us dumber and more narrow-minded. For instance …”
#5. We’re Not Programmed to Seek “Truth,” We’re Programmed to “Win”…
#4. Our Brains Don’t Understand Probability…
#3. We Think Everyone’s Out to Get Us…
#2. We’re Hard-Wired to Have a Double Standard…
#1. Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
Here’s how things would work in a perfect world: You and your friend are on opposing sides of an issue. After reaching an impasse, you pull out a piece of information so precise, so compelling, so perfect, that your buddy does a 180 and completely changes his mind. You high five and skip off into the distance.
And this probably has happened … as long as it was a subject that neither of you particularly cared about. But if it was some emotionally charged issue, like abortion? God help you.
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment, and the theory that people figured out how to build arguments as a form of verbal bullying rather than a method of spreading correct information. That means that there are actually two reasons somebody might be arguing with you: because they actually want to get you to think the right thing, and because they’re trying to establish dominance over you to lower your status in the tribe (or office or forum) and elevate their own. That means there’s a pretty severe cost to being on the wrong side of an issue completely separate from the issue itself.
Now think about the way people treat the two sides of a debate like teams. Not just political parties; remember how one side of the Leno vs. Conan debate referred to themselves as “Team Coco,” or how Twilight fans refer to their factions as “Team Edward” vs. “Team Jacob.”
Then note how many debates involve people jumping into an issue in which they have nothing at stake (only a fraction of the millions of the “Team Coco” people supporting Conan on the Internet actually watch his show), just so they have the chance to join a team.
Now think of how much it would hurt them to have to change teams.
That is why confirmation bias exists. We read a news article that supports what we believe, and we add it to the “I’m right about this” column. News articles that contradict what we believe are dismissed. We make up a reason — maybe the source is part of the conspiracy from the other side or whatever it takes to make sure the “I’m wrong about this” column remains empty.
Researchers have done experiments where they hooked up people’s brains to scanners and then made them read a story pointing out something stupid their favorite candidate said. The logical parts of the brain stayed quiet, while the emotional parts of the brain lit up. Their brains were weighing the story, not based on what it logically meant for their position, but on the emotional/social consequences of that position being wrong.
Then, once the brain had decided that this news story being right would mean pain and humiliation for the reader, it told the logical part, “Figure out a way to use your ‘logic’ stuff to make this pain go away.” The next day, you probably heard those test subjects at the coffee shop going on and on about how biased the press is against their guy.
So During Your Next Argument, Remember …
You won’t remember this. You’re hard-wired to remain entrenched, and the Internet makes it worse because your political beliefs are pasted all over Facebook and wherever else you post your opinions. Backing down means going back on all that. It means letting down your team. Every inch of your psychology will fight it.