Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds


Stop Making Sense

Elizabeth Kolbert writes for The New Yorker:

The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.

1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were…

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About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at http://www.sambaman.org.uk
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