GOP’s non-white problem in one photo

As seen at Daily Kos.  I’m going to assume that this is actually the panel in session, rather than something to make conservatives look bad.

Empty ballroom at CPAC for panel on

What’s that they say about pictures worth 1,000 words? Try 10,000.
Big problem for GOP. Most important #CPAC2014 panel. Topic: minority outreach. View: largely empty room.…
— @JohnJHudak

Photo of the day

Among the cooler fireworks photos I’ve seen– from National Geographic Tumblr:

Fireworks erupt in honor of the coronation of Iran’s Shah, March 1968.


Don’t tell people they’re wrong

Political Scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have taken on the vaccine deniers.  And given their other research on people rejecting facts they just don’t want to believe, the results are not surprising, but certainly depressing given the stakes.   Nice summary from Amanda Marcotte:

As Chris Mooney reports for Mother Jones, the results are utterly demoralizing: Nothing made anti-vaccination parents more amendable to vaccinating their kids. At best, the messages didn’t move the needle one way or another, but it seems the harder you try to persuade a vaccination denialist to see the light, the more stubborn they get about not vaccinating their kids…

In other words, learning that they were wrong to believe that vaccines were dangerous to their kids made vaccine-hostile parents more, not less likely to reject vaccination. Mooney calls this the “backfire effect,” but feel free to regard it as stubborn, childish defensiveness, if you’d rather. If you produce evidence that vaccination fears about autism are misplaced, anti-vaccination parents don’t apologize and slink off to get their kids vaccinated. No, according to this study, they tend to double down.

This reaction, where people become more assured of their stupid opinions when confronted with factual or scientific evidence proving them wrong, has been demonstrated in similar studies time and time again. (This is why arguing with your Facebook friends who watch Fox News will only bring you migraines.) Mooney suggests that state governments should respond by making it harder to opt out of vaccinations.

Also reported by NPR’s Shankar Vedantam:

VEDANTAM: Well, I think, David, what Nyhan seems to be finding is that when you’re confronted by information that you don’t like, at a certain level you accept that the information might be true, but it damages your sense of self-esteem. It damages something about your identity. And so what you do is you fight back against the new information. You try and martial other kinds of information that would counter the new information coming in. In the political realm, Nyhan is exploring the possibility that if you boost people’s self-esteem before you give them this disconfirming information, it might help them take in the new information because they don’t feel as threatened as they might have been otherwise.

GREENE: This is a matter of people not wanting to acknowledge that they may have been wrong about something for many years.

VEDANTAM: That’s right. And also that if they were to acknowledge that they have been wrong, it might mean large changes in, not just their behavior, but their sense of who they are and their sense of identity…

I think the big take-away from this study is that it’s a really dangerous idea to trust our intuition about these public health messages. It’s really important to test them to see whether they work, because our common sense about how effective these messages might be might actually turn out to be wrong.

When you get down to it, people hate to admit to being wrong.  I was actually having a lunch-time discussion about this yesterday regarding an NCSU administrator who had made a rather sizeable error, but rather than admitting it and moving on, was refusing to do so and ultimately just compounding things.

I suggested that we need some sort of aphorism about how you can judge a person’s character by how the respond when they learn they are wrong about something.  (Feel free to come up with one).  I honestly feel like that is a very real test of integrity and maturity.  Especially, since it seems that this is test that, at least when it comes to deeply-held political or health beliefs, most people fail.

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