Why Do We Make Unproven Assertions When Our Beliefs Contradict with the Facts?

Why are there so many climate change deniers when there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that prove its existence? Researchers have looked into the psychology of this thought process and found our need for security will always trump the facts.

People don't like being contradicted. When we are faced with facts that may threaten our beliefs, we counter them by making unproven assertions or excuses. But why do we do this when the facts are, well, the facts? Tom Jacobs of the Pacific Standard writes on a new study that has found if the facts threaten our psychological need for security, we'll shift our thoughts to rely on untested statements.

People were up in arms after Edward Snowden leaked the information about NSA spying. But when faced with the daunting task of how to protect ourselves, many people would rather claim, “I've got nothing to hide,” than dealing with securing their own rights. It's the same thinking with climate change, as well, some will deny until they're blue in the face.

Researchers took a group of 174 participants, 124 of whom support same-sex marriage and 50 who were against it. They were chosen at random to read one of two newspaper articles. One that stated the outcome of children raised by same-sex couples is no different than that of opposite-sex couples. The other article claimed that children raised under the roof of a same-sex couple fared more poorly in life.

The participants were then asked to respond to the following two statements: “Whether same sex-marriage should be legal is a matter of fact or opinion,” and “Whether same-sex couples raise children as well as man-woman couples is a matter of fact or opinion.” Researchers had them evaluate the statements based on a four-point scale, ranging from “completely a matter of fact” to “completely a matter of opinion.”

“When faced with threatening information, both proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage reported that the political issues of same-sex marriage and parenting were less about ‘facts’ and more matters of moral opinion.”

The researchers went on to speculate a grim future for the state of facts versus beliefs on a broader scale--one that can be seen when looking at the argument for climate change, today:

“If including unfalsifiability is one defensive response to threat, popular belief systems may evolve to include more aspects of unfalsifiability over time, such as by marginalizing the relevance of science if they suspect that science does not support their beliefs.”

Read more at Pacific Standard

Photo Credit: pio3/Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less