The Backfire Effect - No-one's Immune

The Backfire Effect - No-one's Immune

Are we as open-minded as we'd like to think we are?


Tim Minchin exhorts, “Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and hit them with a cricket bat.  Be intellectually rigorous.”  

But some of the most powerful people in the world are as resistant to having their beliefs contradicted as some of the stupidest; which perhaps brings into question what is meant by ‘clever’ and ‘stupid’.  Confronted with facts, however concrete, that really contradict their views, they respond like they’re being chased by a tiger.  They fight or flee, argue or deny.

It’s the ‘backfire effect’. We’re all susceptible.  Faced with contradictory evidence we dig in and actually strengthen our current beliefs!   So, that accounts for global-warming denial, creationism and ‘flat earth’ theory...  

We need reasoning and tolerance and to borrow Tim Minchin’s cricket bat on a regular basis.  It takes courage to admit you’re wrong; mental discipline to inhibit the ‘backfire response’ and truly consider other possibilities. I have the greatest admiration for people who are prepared to change their views. 

A changed point of view is, as F.M. Alexander wrote in about 1910, “the royal road to reformation.”

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