Backfire Effect & Reality

Backfire Effect & Reality

A forty-nine year old cancer patient named Julie Boonstra was featured last month in a political ad paid for by Americans for Prosperity (AKA The Koch Brothers’ Puppets) heart-wrenchingly accusing Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act as an attempt on her life because the ACA had rendered her cancer meds “unaffordable”. Now, Julie Boonstra just happens to be the ex-wife of Mark Boonstra, a man who (coincidently I’m sure) happens to be a former chair of the Washtenaw County Republican Party.

Sadly, this poor woman has been lied to by the Far Right Propaganda Fear-Mongers. The fact of the matter is that, “Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year … That didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses. By contrast, [her new ACA] Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100 for in-network doctors and hospitals, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.”

Thus, Boonstra saves AT MINIMUM $ 1,248.00 this year thanks to the ACA. That’s not including the money she’ll save on co-pays and all that jazz.

Why do I say that this woman was lied to rather than calling her a liar? It’s obvious she was duped. When she was told the reality of her monetary savings, “Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.” … “I personally do not believe that”.

Moreover, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out that the Koch brothers are clearly trying to buy elections via their deep pockets with “untrue” ads like the one Boonstra was featured in, a remark clearly aimed at the more than $30 million the Koch brothers have spent attacking Democrats with bullshit lies about Obamacare, Boonstra said she was “outraged” and that Reid “owed her an apology”.

What makes a person so fokking invested in their worldview that facts don’t alter their opinions one iota? Well, everyone – Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Oblivious – resists changing their mind when faced with the evil of facts because of something called the backfire effect. “Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you.”

Worse, for many people the facts contradicting their opinions just make them believe their erroneous opinion more. By many people, I mean mostly conservatives. The scientists who did the research, Nyhan and Reifler, “found this [stronger] "backfire" effect only among conservatives. Refutations had little effect on liberals, but it didn't cause them to actively believe the misleading information even more strongly”.

Liberals are as human as the next guy in being suspicious of, and reluctant to accept, new information. However, our fall back position isn’t we-are-as-right-as-God-and-as-infallible. As a liberal Aspy who left the GOP in the 90s because FACTS, this drives me bonkers.

Of course, this does not mean that liberals are axiomatically not going to double-down on a belief we hold strongly enough. I’m sure as individuals we have weak spots. Especially if someone hands us those facts in a sneering, self-righteous tone. Or outright states we were dumb to have those opinions in the first place. You know, like the way I frequently write when discussing poverty and child hunger. *mea culpa*

Why do conservatives backfire harder than liberals? Most of them are not stupid, even if more people with low IQs are conservatives. (It’s one of those ‘all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs’ things) No, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that people who are conservative, no matter how intelligent, have more “ridged” thinking patterns and if you look at their brains in an MRI you’ll see it. Conversely, people having “stronger liberalism is associated with increased sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern and with brain activity in anterior cingulate cortex.” Furthermore, conservatives have very, VERY strong views about what is physically and morally “unclean”. Notice that the definition of what is “clean” or not is made by the conservative who is judging that “dirty slut/liberal/hippie/scoundrel”. Liberal views aren’t just wrong; for the average conservative they are vile. Naturally people are going to resist information that suggests they become like the unclean.

There is some common ground though. It may be that in general “conservatives tended to be more rigid and dogmatic than liberals, but it was the extreme political view—far right or far left—that led people to believe that their ideas were better and “more correct.” … there were certain “hot button” issues for liberals and conservatives. Extreme conservatives believed that their views about three topics were more superior: (1) the need to require voters to show identification when voting; (2) taxes, and (3) and affirmative action. Extreme liberals, on the other hand, believed that their views were superior on (1) government aid for the needy; (2) the use of torture on terrorists, and (3) not basing laws on religion. The fact that extreme liberals and conservatives focus on different political issues is interesting because it suggests that they are oriented toward different political topics, rather than extreme liberals and conservatives debating the same, core issues.”

Good to know.


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