Why Public Denials May Only Fuel Conspiracy Theories

John Allen Paulos in his Who’s Counting column at ABC News:

Screenhunter_03_nov_20_0852Iraq and 9/11, sex trafficking, flu vaccines, widespread autism. Cognitive biases color our view of these and other issues and can affect our policy choices.

Because they are well-, but not widely understood, I’d like to briefly mention three of the most common ones and some related new and troubling research about denials.

First the biases.

Three Common Psychological Biases

1. The “availability heuristic” is the pronounced tendency of people to view any story through the lens of a superficially similar story that comes easily to mind or is psychologically available. For this reason, much of politics revolves around strengthening this tendency by keeping a preferred narrative uppermost in people’s minds. It doesn’t take too keen a political instinct, for example, to realize that some politicians’ incessant invoking of 9/11 is an effort to keep it psychologically available, to help it color every aspect of the political agenda.

More here.