Why People “Fly from Facts”

Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen in Scientific American:

480E985E-E2D9-4860-BACFF29EA253F7B1_article“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no linkbetween vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it’s still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

Does that exchange sound familiar: a debate that starts with testable factual statements, but then, when the truth becomes inconvenient, the person takes a flight from facts.

As public debate rages about issues like immunization, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage, many people try to use science to bolster their arguments. And since it’s becoming easier to test and establish facts—whether in physics, psychology, or policy—many have wondered why bias and polarization have not been defeated. When people are confronted with facts, such as the well-established safety of immunization, why do these facts seem to have so little effect?

Our new research, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined a slippery way by which people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs.

More here.