Why Do We Resist Knowledge? An Interview with Åsa Wikforss

David Maclean at the IAI:

Your new project examines a particular type of irrationality in the form of ‘knowledge resistance’. Could you offer an explanation of what knowledge resistance is and what sets it apart from mere ignorance? 

Ignorance involves having a false belief, or no belief at all, on a topic. This can be the result of a simple lack of information. In that case, as soon as we read up on the topic we have knowledge. What distinguishes knowledge resistance, by contrast, is that it cannot be fixed by supplying information. It is, as it were, a type of ignorance that is not easily cured.

Knowledge resistance is a matter of believing what one wants to believe rather than what one has evidence to believe – it is a matter of resisting information, rather than taking it in. This happens to all of us, from time to time, and it has a variety of psychological causes. It may be that I hold a cherished belief about being an excellent driver (most people do) even though the evidence points the other way. Or it may be that I love my wine and have a hard time accepting research showing that wine causes cancer. 

A common cause of knowledge resistance is identity protection. This happens when we hold a belief that is central to our cultural or ideological identity.

More here.