10 July 2016
Do people moderate their views when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Not necessarily, writes Matthew Syed.
We like to think that we apportion our beliefs to the evidence. After all, isn’t this the hallmark of rationality? When information comes along which reveals we should change our minds, we do.
Or do we?
Consider an experiment, where two groups were recruited. One group was adamantly in favour of capital punishment. They had strong feelings on the issue, and had publicly backed the policy. The other group were adamantly against, horrified by “state-sanctioned murder”.
These groups were then showed two dossiers. Each of these dossiers were impressive. They marshalled well-researched evidence. But here’s the thing. The first dossier collated all the evidence in favour of capital punishment. The second collated all the evidence against.