Arnold Kling  

Confirming Arnold's and Bryan's Biases

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The Edukators... Trust Cues Understood...

Michael Shermer writes,


During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, while undergoing an fMRI bran scan, 30 men--half self-described as "strong" Republicans and half as "strong" Democrats--were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.

The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning--the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex--was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and--once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable--the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.


This study supports one of my hobby-horses, confirmatory bias. It also supports the Myth of the Rational Voter.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
RogerM writes:

This is further confirmation of the research in public relations that we all, even "objective" scientists and economists, make decisions for emotional reasons first, then search for a rationale to defend those emotional decisions. The ability to be objective and discern truth requires neutralizing the emotions by putting yourself in such a state of mind that you do not care about the what the results or implications of the truth that you discover might be. In other words, you face the consequences of one set of facts being true, verses the consequences of their not being true, and you decide you care more about the truth than the consequences. That's tough to do!

I have actually read some scientists who have considered the claims of creation science and rejected them not on scinetific grounds, but because they thought the consequences were to awful to imagine.

Matthew Cromer writes:

This is further confirmation of the research in public relations that we all, even "objective" scientists and economists, make decisions for emotional reasons first, then search for a rationale to defend those emotional decisions.

Yep, for example.

Robert Speirs writes:

I think this whole theory sprang from emotion, not reason, and probably after the fact. I am especially suspicious of the assignment of tendentious functions to particular brain regions. Shermer no doubt strongly wanted this experiment to come out one particular way.

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