16 July 2010

On dissonance by any other name

The linked blog post is in turn based on this article (Nyhan and Reifler, 2010), which discusses why attempts to change people's political misperceptions and misunderstandings often don't work, and can in some cases backfire. The blog post relates the same processes to the teaching of science.

There is a certain sense of reinventing the wheel, here, and I'm interested that there is no reference to a vast and venerable literature on cognitive dissonance (here is a page of mine on that) which goes back to the 1950's. On the other hand, it is worthy of note that if you follow up the first external link from my page you come to a .pdf file of a textbook chapter on cognitive dissonance, with a note to say that it is on the web because it is no longer included in the latest versions of the textbook, so the whole thing may be a matter of fashion.

Incidentally, the epigraph to the substantive article is attributed to Mark Twain, as such things often are; I think the correct ascription is to Henry Wheeler Shaw writing as Josh Billings:
The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.
(Josh Billings' Encyclopedia of Wit and Wisdom, 1874)

Nyhan B & Reifler J (2010). "When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions" Political Behavior, 32 (2), 303-330 DOI: 10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2

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