Do Political Beliefs Affect Mathematical Ability?

Can our political beliefs actually make us bad at math?

Can our political beliefs actually make us bad at math?


A group of researchers asked this question and designed an experiment to answer it. They presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. They explain:

As expected, subjects highest in Numeracy — a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information — did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin-rash treatment. 

But then the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun-control ban. Even the subjects with the highest Numeracy used their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. 

In the video below, the Numberphile breaks the study down.

Watch here:

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