Contrary to assertions by leftists that George W. Bush created the illusion that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 supporters of Bush's invasion of Iraq who decided Saddam was linked to the 9/11 attack did so of their own volition in order to avoid reaching the conclusion that the war was a huge mistake.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.
The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.
The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.
No need for propaganda. Just get people convinced to support something and once they've crossed an intellectual Rubicon they'll actively develop explanations that support their decision. This doesn't just apply to Republicans who continued to support the Iraq war. One can see this mechanism at work in many things. People on the Left continue to support increased spending as a way to improve educational outcomes because they are invested in the idea that education has to be the solution. If it isn' then they have to reexamine assumptions that they do not want to look at.
Motivated reasoning. Avoid it.
Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.
"The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.
Got any beliefs you are too attached to?
While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information.
"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.
"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."
Hey, we couldn't have engaged in a pointless war, lost thousands of American lives, left tens of thousands more Americans physically and mentally damaged for life, and threw away trillions of dollars for nothing, could we?
This reminds me of Bryan Caplan's book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Yet another reason why we get bad government.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2009 August 23 05:24 PM Human Nature|