Archives for posts with tag: conclusion

Nicholas D. Kristof writes for the New York Times. In an article entitled “Media should try to fight, not spread, fear and lies,” he had an interesting observation about fake news and biased reporting.

Often information is passed on by the media and everyday people without verifying its truthfulness. Fact checking can be time consuming and tedious but Kristof adds an interesting angle on the way we process information.

According to this journalist, social psychology experiments have found that when people are presented with factual corrections that contradict their beliefs, they may cling to mistaken beliefs more strongly than ever. This is called the “backfire effect.” I had never heard this term before so I decided to check it out.

In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first.

They repeated the experiment with several “hot button” issues like stem cell research and tax reform. Again they found corrections tended to increase the strength of the participants’ misconceptions. This was consistent even when people on opposing sides of the issue read the same articles and then the same corrections. When new evidence was interpreted as threatening to their beliefs, the corrections backfired. Instead of changing what people believed, their beliefs were strengthened.

This is nothing new. Hundreds of years ago Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate.”

Psychologist Thomas Gilovich, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University concludes, “When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude.”

I do not intend to suggest that a person should be open to just anything. I am not suggesting that we discard our understanding or position on any issue. I believe there are some absolutes in life. All things are not negotiable. Strong convictions and firm beliefs are desirable but we need to be open to the possibility that there is a different perspective that we have not yet seen. We could be mistaken. Our opinions (beliefs) might be subject to correction. There could be more than one way to look at a particular topic.  

God, help us to be open to truth!

Jamie Jenkins

 

Often I am confronted with difficult issues and people are expressing drastically different opinions. Sometimes I agree with one perspective and disagree with others. What should I do? What do you do?

Do you just concede, give in? Does it seem like too much trouble and not worth it to fight/argue? No matter how much the issue is discussed or debated, nothing is going to change. No one will gain new understanding. Don’t fight it.

Another possible response is to determine that you are going to prove your position is the right one. Win this argument. Conquer! After all, in everything there are winners and losers and you are not going to be defeated. Your opinion will prevail.

Do you listen to all perspectives to see if there are some points that make sense, even if others do not. Are you willing to make an effort to understand where the other persons are coming from and learn from them. Compromise is an acceptable option.

Is it wise to simply accept or at least fail to object to anything that people throw at you? It has been said that silence speaks consent so is your reluctance to pose questions or objections a good alternative?

If you refuse to give in and are insist on winning, what is the collateral damage? Is it necessary to have victors and vanquished on every matter?

Is compromise is an alternative to conceding and conquering? Is it possible that no one has all of the right answers? Can anyone see all sides of an issue at one time? Can you moderate your views and opinions and still maintain personal integrity? Is it possible to have a win-win conclusion?

I believe there are absolutes. Issues on which there is no debate. Practices and perspectives that are essential to orderly and ethical living. But I believe most of what we argue about and are divided over are secondary issues for which there is more than one “right” answer. Even when we cannot agree, it seems the right thing to do is at least be civil and respectful of the other person.

If you know anything about the Bible you probably are aware that the leaders of the church in Corinth were not always of one mind. The Apostle Paul counseled them to “be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11 CEB). He did not instruct them to be in agreement on everything but to value one another enough to work to “harmonize” their attitudes and actions. They did not have to all sing the same note but to blend their various voices.

We can make beautiful music together but that means each of us sings our note. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins