The Backfire Effect — It's why you can't change a Christian's or Trump follower's mind...and they can't change yours

Have you ever argued anyone out of their Christianity or their support of The Trumpster?

Neither have I.

The backfire effect occurs when, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger. The effect has been demonstrated experimentally in psychological tests, where subjects are given data that either reinforces or goes against their existing biases - and in most cases people can be shown to increase their confidence in their prior position regardless of the evidence they were faced with.

In a pessimistic sense, this makes most refutations useless. (source)

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Interestingly there was a difference in response to the first two examples (Iraq and Obama) where the question is a rather easy one with easily obtained, explained and verified information as compared with climate change (which in general can be explained and understood by most for the most part though still a more complicated problem). Also, self-identified republicans tended to resist dissonant information when the question wasn't as simple as say, where Obama was born (not because of the difficulty in understanding the information presented but in the complexity of the problem). For this test they compared the likelyhood of resisting dissonant information with how much the subject identified with the GOP.

I think some people don't see contrary information about Obama's birthplace or climate change AS information because of the sourcing. If it were coming from Fox News, Breitbart, or Drudge, they'd be more likely to believe it, but they have decided (or been propagandized not to believe liberal sources, which includes "sciency" sources because those scientists work at or graduated from those universities, which are always liberal (according to Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, et al).

Yes. The research did point to "cues" that some people recieve from sources like news or what their respected politicians say. It say indeed...this misinforms them a lot. But when they are presented during a study with a certified copy of a totally legitamate birth certificate...are theyunwilling to take it as a real one while at the same time taking a blow to their "self-integrity" (especially if they were willing to accept it as a real one with just about any other case).

Sorry about the delay, yeah, Lewandowsky et al. (2012) confirm that in their lit review.  I think you will like it:

I think we should have that focus on identity rather than worldview though, and we can use that to help ideas get through better.

Ironically, a method advocated by Paul in the Biblical text, about approaching people from their worldview to be able to have an impact was what got me really moving away from religion, and there is good science to back up the approach now. I even recently used that passage to overcome that effect lol in a debate with street preachers at a pride festival.

I think it is a lot easier when we get people out of that adversarial mode.  I think the adversarial approach to differences really gets in the way of a lot of progress.

Hi John!  Long time no see.

I agree that getting people to question their own beliefs, rather than by trying to get them to accept yours, is a much more effective way of changing minds - on both sides. 

Question everything.
Why Why?

people do chnage their mind. most of us though do turn out like our parents. i had a clear change of views a few years back from left to right. i think all our view points on certain topics tend to stem from some core belief - and for me it was the shift from an absolutist view of the world to a relative one. the realization that ideals are un-attainable but rather can only be aspired to can quicky turn you from a "criticazer to the point of hater" of your own country or community - into a full blown patriot. i've heard this as well from friends, who traveled the world- leaving as fierce criticizres of their country- only to return with perspective that life at home is actually amazing to what most people on this planet live by.

Switching from left to right and from absolutist to relativist seems nonsensical. Conservatives (the right wing) tend to be absolutists who decry relativism.

I think belief itself is fundamental to being human. Yuval Harari articulates it quite well by saying humans evolved "above" other animals by becoming capable of thinking about, talking about and acting on things that don't exist. Arguing someone out of their religious belief is probably no more difficult than convincing a Red Sox fan the meaningless of a game or a Greatful Dead fan the meaningless of sounds.

We can't live without belief. Anything you think you know well enough to act on is a belief. Take something as simple as going to the refrigerator to get a drink. You either go there wondering if there's a drink there or you believe there's a drink there, perhaps because you just put away the groceries, including some drinks.

I guess I'm talking about, for lack of a better description, "purpose." There are beliefs in things like physical phenomena, such as what you describe. But I mean something more along the lines of believing in ideas--things like brand names, historic significance, skin color, social media, money, etc. So, I think it's incredibly difficult to convince a sports fan, who invests their emotions and financial resources into following a team, that it's as meaningless as watching raindrops race each other down a window. We humans seem to latch on to these things and we throw away the intelligence key. I took about 10 years to go from being a born again Christian to where I am now. I'm a functioning atheist, meaning, atheism is a moral position because it doesn't demand a position be taken. I don't know if god exists but I don't think it matters to answer the question. There are more important things to deal with. I don't think anyone could have argued me into it. Funny thing, too, because I used to be a rabid sports fan and now I see sports, except for the beauty of physical play itself, to be pointless. Both happened together.


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