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The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don't Always Change Minds

Why the backfire effect appears

People experience  as a result of the process that they go through when they encounter information that contradicts their preexisting beliefs.

When people argue strongly enough against unwelcome information, they end up, in their mind, with more arguments that support their original stance.

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The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don't Always Change Minds

The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don't Always Change Minds

https://effectiviology.com/backfire-effect-facts-dont-change-minds/

effectiviology.com

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Key Ideas

The backfire effect

Is a cognitive bias and it means that showing people evidence which proves that they are wrong is often ineffective, and can actually end up backfiring, by causing them to support their original stance more strongly than they previously did.

Reducing other people’s backfire effect

If you’re trying to explain to someone the issues with their stance, you can mitigate the backfire effect by presenting new information in a way that encourages the other person to consider and internalize that information, instead of rejecting it outright.

Reducing your own backfire effect

Be aware of how you react when you encounter information that contradicts your beliefs.

You should not ignore it outright or immediately try to explain why it’s wrong. Instead, you should first try and look at it with fresh eyes, and assess it based on its own merit, without comparing it to your preexisting theory on the topic.

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Cherry picking

It is a logical fallacy and it happens when we choose and focus only on evidence that supports our views and arguments while ignoring anything that may contradict us.

The problem with cherry picking
  • It fails to take into consideration all the available information
  • It presents information in a misleading way.
  • It might lead to improper analysis and might cause someone to paint a misleading picture of a certain outcome.
The principle of total evidence

Also referred to as Bernoulli’s maxim, it states that, when assessing the probability that a certain hypothesis is true, we must take into account all the available information.

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The bandwagon effect

It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause...

Examples of the bandwagon effect
  • The bandwagon effect can influence people’s political choices.
  • It can influence consumers’ decisions regarding which products to buy.
  • It can influence users’ decisions regarding how to rate stories or comments.
  • It can influence investors’ financial choices.
  • It can influence doctors’ medical decisions.
  • It can influence organizations’ implementation of new technologies.
Why the bandwagon effect happens

It serves as a mental shortcut that people instinctively use in order to make a decision quickly.

Specifically, bandwagon cues, which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, can trigger the thought that “if other people like this, then I should too”.

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Power of belief over evidence
Power of belief over evidence
It's the result of two factors: 
  • cognitive dissonance: the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts simultaneously.
  •  the backf...
How to convince someone when facts fail
  • keep emotions out of the exchange;
  • discuss, don't attack;
  • listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately;
  • show respect'
  • acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion;
  • try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews.