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How Identity—Not Ignorance—Leads to Science Denial

Our aversion to cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a negative, tensed emotional state that is caused by holding beliefs or behaviors that are inconsistent with one another.

Because cognitive dissonance brings discomfort, we try to escape it. There are 2 options to get rid of it: to change a behavior or to change a belief. Most people choose the second option.

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How Identity—Not Ignorance—Leads to Science Denial

How Identity—Not Ignorance—Leads to Science Denial

https://elemental.medium.com/how-identity-not-ignorance-leads-to-science-denial-533686e718fa

elemental.medium.com

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Key Ideas

The role of identity in denial

Some psychologists state that the denial of facts is frequently based on identity and belonging, not on ignorance and. If this is the case, changing minds would require more than proper reasoning.

The persons that denies scientific facts is most likely trying to confirm and defend their membership in something that they find meaningful. And once a group adopts an idea into its collective viewpoint, rejecting that idea becomes the equivalent to rejecting the entire community.

Denial: Rejecting the evidence

Denial refers to the rejection or diminution of a phenomenon that has a large and even overwhelming body of supporting evidence.

Our aversion to cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a negative, tensed emotional state that is caused by holding beliefs or behaviors that are inconsistent with one another.

Because cognitive dissonance brings discomfort, we try to escape it. There are 2 options to get rid of it: to change a behavior or to change a belief. Most people choose the second option.

Changing a behavior or changing a belief

  • Changing a behavior is in most cases hard because most behaviors are rewarding.
  • Changing a belief is often easierand that’s why some elements of denial appear: this could mean trivializing the source of the dissonance, adding a new belief or element that supports your choice.

Reactance

This refers to the negative feelings that people experience when they feel their freedom is threatened in some way (for example, the government stating that they can’t shop, travel, or meet in large gathering as normal.)

If people find a belief or idea to be alarming, and even scary, that fear is a powerful motivator of denial.

The self-determination theory

It states that people have 3 main psychological needs that support their motivation to engage in any behavior.

  1. The need for autonomy, or the belief that an action came from the self.
  2. The need for competence. Its important for someone to just believe that they and able to achieve their goals.
  3. The need for relatedness: a sense of belonging and the need of being useful, of people valuing your input.

The social groups that people identify with tend to satisfy all these basic psychological needs

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