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Is Fake News Hard-Wired? Study Finds People Misremember Facts To Fit Their Beliefs

Is Fake News Hard-Wired? Study Finds People Misremember Facts To Fit Their Beliefs

recently criticized NBC Meet The Press host Chuck Todd for suggesting that Trump supporters are fantasy-prone dimwits who just want to be lied to…

NBC News anchor Chuck Todd is under fire for an openly derisive comment about Trump supporters as effectively delusional drones who want to be lied to. He even added a dig at belief in biblical accounts like Noah’s Ark. It is the latest example of how open bias has become the norm on mainstream media. Imagine if Todd said Obama supporters are ignorant voters who just want to be lied to. This is precisely why the media is now driving some voters to Trump and reinforcing echo-journalism on both sides.

On Sunday’s  “Meet the Press,” Todd criticized “misinformation” in the media and referenced a “fascinating” letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald Leader from last January. The letter read, “[W]hy do people support Trump? It’s because people have been trained from childhood to believe in fairy tales… This set their minds up to accept things that make them feel good… The more fairy tales and lies he tells the better they feel . . . Show me a person who believes in Noah’s ark and I will show you a Trump voter.”

Todd used the letter to say to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet “This gets at something, Dean, that my executive producer likes to say, ‘Hey, voters want to be lied to sometimes.’ They don’t always love being told hard truths.”

Baquet was not sold on the theory and responded “I’m not quite sure I buy that. I’m not convinced that people want to be lied to. I think people want to be comforted, and I think bad politicians sometimes say comforting things to them.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Deaf, Dumb and Blind: Who is Better at Conceding They Are Wrong–Conservative or Liberal Extremists?

DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND : WHO IS BETTER AT CONCEDING THEY ARE WRONG – CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL EXTREMISTS?

For those readers who wish to confirm their cemented bias or simply don’t read past the first paragraph or two, here is the down and dirty answer to the question posed in the title.

The answer is…neither!

And it gets worse from there. Those who harbor extreme and strident political points of view also maintain similarly strong “opinions” (though nearly all will righteously declare them as ironclad facts) in nearly all facets of their life and are unlikely to change their point of view regardless of the contrary evidence presented. I base my statement upon personal experience andan interesting study recently published which examined this very subject.

Here is the first sentence of the study’s Result and Discussion. “An unjustified certainty in one’s beliefs is a characteristic common to those espousing radical beliefs, and such overconfidence is observed for both political and non-political issues, implying a general cognitive bias in radicals.”

Are you surprised to be told this? Or have you quickly spotted a loop hole in which you may escape from the overall generalization of the statement? The wonderful thing about denial is it’s infinitely customizable and completely flexible; enabling the user to deny anything and everything including the nose on his/her face.

Of course, the only way many can accept uncomfortably too-close-to-home assertions is to declare it doesn’t apply to them, just everyone else.

I shall leave the bickering over the study’s findings to those who have immediately bristled in anger or righteous indignation, and instead ponder why extremist thinking occurs in the first place. And why it appears to be increasing exponentially throughout the social strata.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Encouraging Energy Conservation: Is Less More?

Encouraging Energy Conservation: Is Less More?

Many messages about saving energy use multiple arguments to make their case. But our research suggests that may actually be the wrong approach.

Is messaging about consumers’ home-energy habits important in climate change mitigation? Many organizations say yes, and are conducting outreach to raise awareness and persuade individuals to improve their energy use.

But are the messages being used in that outreach actually working? Our research, recently published in the journal Energy Policy, suggests the types of messages that are typically used don’t always have the desired effect. This research also suggests ways to improve energy-conservation messaging.

Often energy-related messages are crafted under the assumption that the information they contain will be received, processed and acted upon in a rational way. What does this mean? As traditionally conceived, rationality implies that people maximize their utility (more commonly referred to as their happiness) subject to their material constraints (i.e. the money they have) and their beliefs about the world (i.e. the information they have).

The richness of human behavior, however, means that people don’t always act in ways that can be explained by this model. People may, for example, care about the utility of others — in other words, they may care about others’ happiness in addition to their own. Constraints may take the form of time or willpower, rather than money. People’s beliefs may be shaped not only by the objective information they have, but also by their perceptions of what other people believe. Moreover, people don’t always act according to the beliefs they hold.

The behavioral sciences have played an important role in revealing these and other nuances in the decision-making process. As a result they have led to more sophisticated decision-making theories, and consequently, to more sophisticated policy interventions based on these theories.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Psychology of Systemic Consensus

We are all too familiar with established views rejecting change. It has nothing to do with the facts. Officialdom’s mind is often firmly closed to all reason on the big issues. To appreciate why we must understand the crowd psychology behind the systemic consensus. It is the distant engine that drives the generator that provides the electricity that drives us into repetitive disasters despite prior evidence they are avoidable, and even fuels the madness of political correctness.

Forget the argument, look at the psychology

A human prejudice which is little examined is why establishments frequently stick to conviction while denying reasonable debate. Anyone who addresses the unreason of the establishment risks their motives being personally vilified and attacked. There are many fields of government where this is demonstrably true.

Leadership is too often based on prevailing beliefs, with minds firmly closed to any evidence they might be wrong. Even Galileo was forced by the Inquisition in 1633 to recant his scientific evidence that the earth revolved around the sun – a thoroughly reasonable and logical though novel proposition to the independent mind. But it wasn’t until 1992 that the religious establishment at the Vatican forgave him for being right.

That was 359 years later and long after it mattered to Galileo. Fortunately, when the establishment view departs from the facts it rarely survives as long. Socialism, economics, climate change and Brexit show the same static opinions insulated from inconvenient contradictions. This is not to say the establishment need be judgemental. Democratic government at its best tries to remain neutral and reflect a balance of opinion. But there are times when it loses sight of firm ground and becomes subverted by the psychology of its own established but unfounded beliefs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Escape the Echo Chamber

Escape the Echo Chamber

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult 

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making — wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hearpeople from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trustpeople from the other side.

Current usage has blurred this crucial distinction, so let me introduce a somewhat artificial taxonomy. An ‘epistemic bubble’ is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. That omission might be purposeful: we might be selectively avoiding contact with contrary views because, say, they make us uncomfortable. As social scientists tell us, we like to engage in selective exposure, seeking out information that confirms our own worldview. But that omission can also be entirely inadvertent. Even if we’re not actively trying to avoid disagreement, our Facebook friends tend to share our views and interests.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Twilight of Authority

The Twilight of Authority

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the need for a rhetorical education—that is, an education that doesn’t presume to lay down the law about what’s true and what’s false, but instead teaches each individual how to understand and assess claims about truth and falsehood. That’s a concept many people find challenging these days. We live in the last phases in an era of abstraction, and the notion of truth in most people’s minds these days follows suit:  when people talk about truth, they generally mean some set of generalizations dunned into their heads that are supposedly always true in the abstract, even though they may not work all the time (or at all) in the irreducibly grubby and complex world we actually inhabit.

Think about the things that the people around you consider to be truths. (I’d ask you to think about the things that you consider to be truths, but as that guy from Nazareth noted, it’s usually a lot easier to spot the mote in your brother’s eye than the beam in your own.)  Unless you run with an unusually philosophically literate crowd, most of these supposed truths can be expressed neatly in sentences of the form “all X are Y”: “all white people are racists,” “all people on welfare are lazy,” and so on. That’s the kind of abstract generalization I’m talking about.

People get very defensive about their favorite abstract generalizations. If you question the logic behind them, you can expect to be told that you’re ignorant, and quite probably that you’re evil as well.  For that matter, if you encounter realities that don’t fit the generalization and have the bad taste to mention that in public, you can expect to be told that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. Now this may be so in an abstract sense, but the plural of anecdote is also one of the very few ways you can find out that the abstract generalizations you’ve constructed out of your data are hopelessly out of touch with the real world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

A Rhetorical Education

A Rhetorical Education

Quite a bit of the discussion on this blog and its predecessors has focused on controversial issues, the kind of thing that causes rhetoric to fly fast and thick.  Given the themes I like to discuss in these essays, that could hardly have been avoided.  Ours is an age riven by disputes, in which debate has taken over much of the space occupied by physical violence in less restrained eras. (How many people died in the struggle that put Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton in the White House?  During most of human history, that wouldn’t have been an ironic question.)

Yet this contentious age has an odd feature, and it’s one I’ve referenced more than once in recent posts on this blog:  the fact that the vast majority of the rhetoric deployed in the disputes of our day is so stunningly incompetent.

Consider the way that any widely discussed issue these days is debated: say, the squabble over legislation now before Congress that would make web hosting firms and content providers liable for illegal content posted by third parties. The supporters of the bills in question insist that it’s all about stopping online sex trafficking, and anyone who opposes the bills as written must be in favor of sex crimes. The opponents of the bills, for their part, insist that they’re just an excuse for censorship, and anyone who supports them must be trying to destroy the internet.

Set aside for the moment the substantive issues involved—they’re real and important, but not relevant to the theme of this week’s post—and look at the rhetoric. Both sides have chosen the strategy of flinging over-the-top accusations at those who disagree with them. That strategy’s familiar enough these days that nobody seems to have thought to ask the obvious question: does it work?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

People Ignore Facts That Contradict Their False Beliefs

The more people there are who ignore facts that contradict their beliefs, the likelier a dictatorship will emerge within a given country. Here is how aristocracies, throughout the Ages, have controlled the masses, by taking advantage of this widespread tendency people have, to ignore contrary facts:

What social scientists call “confirmation bias” and have repeatedly found to be rampant,* is causing the public to be easily manipulated, and has thus destroyed democracy by replacing news-reporting, by propaganda — ‘news’ that’s false — in a culture where lies which pump the agendas of the powerful (including lies pumped by the billionaire owners of top ‘news’media and of the media they own) are almost never punished (and are often not even denied to be true). Thus, lies by those powerful liars almost always succeed at enslaving the minds of the millions, to believe what the top economic-and-power class want those millions of people to believe — no matter how false it might happen actually to be.

Recently, a particularly stark example of this came to my attention. On 15 September 2017, an article that I wrote for the Strategic Culture Foundation, and which was titled by a true statement that I had only recently discovered to be true, was republished at a news-site that I consider one of the best around, “Signs of the Times” or “SOTT” for short, and a reader-comment there, simply rejected that title-statement and the entire article, because it contradicted what the person believes. This commenter entirely ignored the evidence that I had provided in the article, which proved the statement to be true.

No matter how irrefutable the evidence is, most people reject anything which contradicts their deeply entrenched false beliefs, and this reader-comment crystallized for me, this phenomenon of “confirmation bias” — the phenomenon of ignoring evidence that contradicts what one believes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“The End Of Truth” – Hayek Saw It All Coming Over 70 Years Ago

“The End Of Truth” – Hayek Saw It All Coming Over 70 Years Ago

The Road To Serfdom (authored by F.A. Hayek, first publ;ished in 1944)

Excerpts from Chapter 11 – The End of Truth

Annotated via Crossroad.to/heaven,

“The most effective way of making everybody serve the single system of ends toward which the social plan is directed is to make everybody believe in those ends. To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the same ends. It is essential that the people should come to regard them as their own ends.”[p.171]

Berit’s comment: Ponder that statement. It helps explain the significance of universal service-learning. Like socialist youth in Nazi (National Socialism) and Communist countries, all must embrace the new ideology. Those who don’t — the intolerable dissenters — must be silenced.

The next section elaborates:

“Although the beliefs must be chosen for the people and imposed upon them, they must become their beliefs, a generally accepted creed which makes the individuals as far as possible act spontaneously in the way the planner wants. If the feeling of oppression in totalitarian countries is in general much less acute than most people in liberal countries imagine, this is because the totalitarian governments succeed to a high degree in making people think as they want them to.”[p.171]

The strategies that accomplish this mental change include numerous subtle and obvious forms of propaganda. Schools, the media, children- and youth-service teams, corporations, etc…. every source of propaganda must share the same vision. Though totalitarian, it will be designed to sound noble, compassionate and fair to all. Yet the result with be the exact opposite.

Ponder this warning from Dr. Thomas Sowell’s review of Road to Serfdom:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil & System Justification: “Threatening” Status Quo

20151028_065852

It’s a lot easier to seek confirmation than information.
So not only does the online world provide less information, it provides more spin and distortion of that information from an online empire of advocates that enables us as never before to find the voices we agree with, and to ignore anybody else. 

DENIAL & AVOIDANCE HAVE DRAWBACKS

When you are confronted with information that contradicts your attitudes, beliefs, impugns your identity, or groups that you identify with, you—we—all of us are motivated to reason through that information in a way that keeps our original attitudes intact.
So, we’ll counter argue, we’ll criticize the data source, not pay attention to information that contradicts our pre-existing attitudes.

Mix in the conservatives’ recognized fear of change and support for simplified decision-making with their inclination to support the “system” as currently structured [so as to avoid change and any considerations regarding new perspectives or factors], and then add human nature’s basic desire for consistency in thought and belief, quite the stew is served! Avoiding new and contradictory information is step one, supplanted with a quest for obtaining reassurances as needed.

Questioning what the reassurances are, their sources, how they came to be, or what they are based on and/or if they are even valid are not part of the program. So those so inclined defer knowledge and presumed expertise to others who share their psychological and ideological preferences, and what results is a profound urgency to preserve what they know, regardless of the implications. Sometimes that’s just fine.

RUNNING THE RISKS

But when the challenges we face have the potential for imposing so much change, denying themselves a place at the table carries a certain set of risks. Blithely dismissing those risks—made easier by avoiding information worth at least considering—is a curious strategy.

As liberalism has increasingly been aligned with the values of empiricism and reason, the incentives for conservatives to reject empiricism and reason multiply.
To be a ‘conservative’ increasingly means taking a contemptuous view of reality.

Today we in America are besieged by a reversal of intellectual growth that finds comfort not in scientific inquiry and method but rather in instinctive reliance upon either what we want to believe or what we think others want to hear.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: We All Do This, But…. Pt 1

SaltIsland100315A

Confirmation bias is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to or believe information that confirms the personal values and beliefs they already hold, rather than allowing their beliefs to be changed by new information.
It’s a powerful force that many researchers have suggested plays a key role in the persistence of phenomena such as climate doubt. With an overwhelming abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of anthropogenic climate change, for instance, many scientists have questioned why skepticism continues to be pervasive in society. Sociologists have suggested that the reason has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to change an individual’s worldview simply by presenting new information. Confirmation bias, rather, leads people to seek out evidence — however small or poorly supported — that supports their existing personal beliefs. [1]

Seems to be a simple enough explanation….We can all [present company included] insist that we’re always objective and always looking at all sides of important issues, but … not really. Human nature is what it is. This is true for conservatives and progressives—denials and finger-pointing duly noted.

For the great majority of issues, questions, and concerns that pop up on our daily radar screens, this psychological short-cut is certainly handy, and rarely a cause of any great trouble in our lives. It’s a different story for matters whose scope and impact extends beyond today in our own little worlds.

Climate change is certainly one such issue, as was explored in Chelsea Harvey’s above-referenced Washington Post article about a study which examined the spread of misinformation online. Any number of contentious political/economic/cultural topics likewise fall under that widening umbrella. The report’s lead author offered one of the main conclusions validating the impact of confirmation bias as it relates to the spread of climate change denial:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Convenient Beliefs

BALTMORE – “Stocks still not finding bottom” warned a headline at Investor’s Business Daily. On Thursday, the Dow ended down 255 points – or 1.6%. The index is down by almost 9% since the start of the year.

“These developments, if they prove persistent, could weigh on the outlook for economic activity…” proffered a nervous-looking Janet Yellen in her testimony on Capitol Hill. She was signaling to investors.

Yellen_cartoon_02.27.2015Smoke signals…

“Don’t worry about us,” she may as well have said. “If we can get away with a big U-turn, we’re not going to raise rates anymore.”

On Tuesday, Maersk Group, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it was suffering a “massive deterioration” in its business.

“It is worse than 2008,” its CEO, Nils Andersen, told the Financial Times. But this is not even near the bottom for the world economy. Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass warns that the other shoe is a big one… and it hasn’t dropped yet.

The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam August 16, 2013. The 55,000 tonne ship, named after the son of the founder of the oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, has a length of 400 meters and cost $185 million. A.P. Moller-Maersk raised its annual profit forecast for the business on Friday, helped by tighter cost controls and lower fuel prices. Maersk shares jumped 6 percent to their highest in 1-1/2 years as investors welcomed a near-doubling of second-quarter earnings at container arm Maersk Line, which generates nearly half of group revenue and is helping counter weakness in the company's oil business. REUTERS/Michael Kooren (NETHERLANDS - Tags: MARITIME TRANSPORT BUSINESS) - RTX12NIUA Maersk container ship…the line is feeling the pinch – the Baltic Dry Index has collapsed to just 291 points (from approx. 11,800 at the 2008 peak) and container shipping rates have declined sharply as well.  Photo credit: Michael Kooren / Reuters

China’s economy is heavily dependent on capital investment. It puts its money into building factories, highways, offices, apartment blocks, railroads, ports, and airports. What do all these projects require? Rebar!

Concrete is reinforced with steel bars. As the pace of building slows, the price of rebar goes down. In 2008, a ton of rebar cost about 5,500 renminbi ($836). Now, it costs barely 2,000 renminbi ($304) – the lowest price in at least 15 years.

Steel rebar futures, weeklyShanghai steel rebar futures, weekly in RMB – click to enlarge.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who’s In Your Head?

Who’s In Your Head?

When you reflect on your life, do you sometimes lament the choices you’ve made, directions you took or didn’t take, and wonder what could have been? You may find that you’ve achieved success in one or more areas of life, yet feel like you have fallen short in others. You might ask if your life is really going as planned? But do you ever ask yourself if the plan was even really yours to begin with? If it wasn’t yours, what got in the way of living the life you wanted to live?

Have you stopped to think about what you believe and how it has impacted who you are and what you have become? If you take a minute to reflect on the path you’ve taken so far, can you say it was aligned with what you really wanted for yourself?

If you weren’t listening to your own heart-felt desires and aspirations, what were you listening to? Whose voice was in your head that made you choose a certain direction in life? Was it your parents, caretakers, family, religion, other authority figures, friends, peers, media and entertainment personalities, advertisers, the Internet?

cowboys and indians

Belief systems impact every aspect of our lives from our definition of right and wrong, good and bad, to what we do for a living, our idea of a perfect relationship, how we raise our kids, what we eat, how we spend our money and in countless other ways. Our beliefs forge a path for us, whether we know it or not, because they influence how we feel, our actions and the directions we take in life.

Regardless of where they came from, it’s important to ask yourself if you truly agree with the beliefs you have adopted and how they’ve served you. Are they liberating and empowering or limiting and fear-based?

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Kept Culture | Two Ice Floes

A Kept Culture | Two Ice Floes.

My thinking on a variety of subjects has changed over time and I expect my understanding will continue to evolve as new information, knowledge and propaganda enters my orbit. Contrary to popular belief this is a good thing because it means my mindset is not as static and rigid as some, though it is most certainly worse than others.

One of the great questions of the ages is why we, and by ‘we’ I mean anyone other than ‘they/them’, tolerate the abuse we receive from the hand of our masters. While the mistreatment is most often handed down on an individual basis, “We the Abused” outnumber the abusers by at least 10 to 1. And I count among that ‘1’ all those who enable, support and carry out the abuse. So why do we tolerate something we can clearly stop if we so wish?

Earlier on in my ongoing awakening, a never ending process of self reflection and discovery, I would sometimes use the derogatory term ‘sheeple’ to describe both a people and a condition. I was grasping for a simple all encompassing answer to a complex problem, and believing that the vast masses were blissfully ignorant while passively grazing upon an array of consumer goods satisfied my need to understand what to me at the time was incomprehensible.

This is not to say some are not exactly as described. In fact at one point in my life I fit the bill perfectly, totally consumed in my naval gazing and mostly oblivious to not only my own lot in life, but those around me. As a single parent raising my boy alone for seventeen years, I was righteously indignant if anyone dared to question my focus. After all, I was doing it for the child(ren).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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