Studies Say Facts Don't Change Beliefs, Debunking May Make Them Worse; Trust, Explanations Are Key

#1
Skeptiko being the premier forum on science-meets-spirituality, AFAIK, I thought these three articles would do much good for both sides, showing that when we lack trust in a source, it doesn't matter how many facts or evidence it gives us, we won't believe them; dismissing people as being ignorant ironically makes them more so, while presenting an alternative plausible explanation might be better; and asking the other guy to explain how he reached his beliefs (but not asking for his reasons-- not sure how that differs, hoping someone can explain that to me) can soften their views.

Anyway, I thought these would be useful when being confronted by an aggressive opponent, whether on here, on Twitter, etc.

(These can apply both ways, it should go without saying)

Article on lack of trust and presenting just facts, influences on beliefs:
http://theconversation.com/throwing-science-at-anti-vaxxers-just-makes-them-more-hardline-37721

Article on backfire effect and benefits of presenting alternative explanations:
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141113-the-best-way-to-debunk-myths

Article on how to win an argument by asking the other guy to explain how he reached his beliefs (I think, I'm somewhat confused by what it says):
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140521-the-best-way-to-win-an-argument
 
#2
Study Suggests More People Willing to Believe in ESP When Told It's Been Scientifically Disproven
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/05/study-suggests-more-people-willing-to.html



Article on how to win an argument by asking the other guy to explain how he reached his beliefs (I think, I'm somewhat confused by what it says):
The illusion of explanatory depth is when you think you understand something but if you are asked to explain it and can't, you realize you don't understand it well at all. It has the effect of weakening strongly held beliefs. Particularly beliefs that are based on ideology and not on a logical understanding. I think this was first studied in the realm of politics, when people were asked to explain why a certain policy would work and they found they were unable to, they were found to be less extreme in their political views and more open to other ideas.
 
#3


There are few, if any, "facts." Every conclusion is influenced by - and based - on beliefs. That's so even for gathering data. There's always what is gathered, how it is gathered and what the motivation is for doing so.

What I find interesting is that so many people continue to delude themselves that there is some sort of near-pure objectivity that provides access to absolute truth.
 
#4
Skeptiko being the premier forum on science-meets-spirituality, AFAIK, I thought these three articles would do much good for both sides, showing that when we lack trust in a source, it doesn't matter how many facts or evidence it gives us, we won't believe them; dismissing people as being ignorant ironically makes them more so, while presenting an alternative plausible explanation might be better; and asking the other guy to explain how he reached his beliefs (but not asking for his reasons-- not sure how that differs, hoping someone can explain that to me) can soften their views.

Anyway, I thought these would be useful when being confronted by an aggressive opponent, whether on here, on Twitter, etc.

(These can apply both ways, it should go without saying)

Article on lack of trust and presenting just facts, influences on beliefs:
http://theconversation.com/throwing-science-at-anti-vaxxers-just-makes-them-more-hardline-37721

Article on backfire effect and benefits of presenting alternative explanations:
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141113-the-best-way-to-debunk-myths

Article on how to win an argument by asking the other guy to explain how he reached his beliefs (I think, I'm somewhat confused by what it says):
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140521-the-best-way-to-win-an-argument
In the first article particularly you can almost hear the wheels turning in the author's head before they seize up. The most undecided people know the most about the controversial subjects and when they don't trust a source, no amount of additional information from that source will convince them. This is correct, and then the author just doesn't take the next step and think "well, maybe they have a point."
 
#5
Study Suggests More People Willing to Believe in ESP When Told It's Been Scientifically Disproven
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/05/study-suggests-more-people-willing-to.html
Here is the actual study.

http://www.uiowa.edu/crisp/files/crisp/files/15.3.pdf

The study did not show that belief increased when science rejected the idea. The effect of science was not significant. There was a significant effect with public opinion, and an interaction effect between public opinion where beliefs went down when an unpopular idea was accepted by science.

However, I'm guessing that pointing this out won't change anyone's opinion on what the study showed (since it didn't do so last time the study was discussed). :)

Linda
 
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#8
Interesting how climate change and evolution appear in this context. The things the NCSE have focused on in "correcting" in the name of science. Things I ultimately changed my views on Btw.

This is as simple as how habits, indoctrination, fears etc... are formed and influence all of our decisions. Especially including of those who have undergone cultural indoctrination and even academic like the members of NCSE, they are also slaves to their conditioning, because it certainly is not about the actual scientific evidence, it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics, religion and ideology. There is a fear element there that is very clear to me. Their psychological profiles would be very consistent I would expect and perhaps even upbringing, parents and social status as well.

I have a vested interested in this sort of thing as realized through the use of ayahuasca, it coordinates higher level analytical parts of the brain with parts that relate to deep seated emotional memories. Trauma or indoctrination can form nuerological pathways associated with the event or events, like scar tissue it remains and can be reinfoced even. Related stimuli can trigger the ingrained patterns. Post traumatic stress disorder as an extreme example. Experience lays down the foundations for how future experiences are processed. I believe it is exactly the same when it comes to beliefs of any type, how our past shapes our future.

Ayahuasca gives the ability to see and heal deep psychological issues, even subconscious ones. To not only physically purge toxins but to mentally purge the psyche as well. It allows new pathways to form so the old scar tissue is no longer dominate. It shatters the self illusion. You cannot kid youself or hide from the things that influence your thoughts. Thing is you can't really change someone, you can influence but the real change has to come from within the person. This is ayahuasca's gift. This is how it is used to change lives. How trauma and addiction can be cured, how self realisation can transform your every waking thought and see the world in new light.
 
#10
Study Suggests More People Willing to Believe in ESP When Told It's Been Scientifically Disproven
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/05/study-suggests-more-people-willing-to.html




The illusion of explanatory depth is when you think you understand something but if you are asked to explain it and can't, you realize you don't understand it well at all. It has the effect of weakening strongly held beliefs. Particularly beliefs that are based on ideology and not on a logical understanding. I think this was first studied in the realm of politics, when people were asked to explain why a certain policy would work and they found they were unable to, they were found to be less extreme in their political views and more open to other ideas.
Interesting, thank you, that makes sense. So is the last article then saying that, using a minimal example, if you were telling me Beyonce should've won the Grammy, instead of me asking you to list the reasons why, I should ask you to explain how the Academy's voting process would've chosen her? See, this is where the article lost me, because the writer said we should ask for an explanation from an opponent instead of reasons, and I don't get the difference.
 
#11
In the first article particularly you can almost hear the wheels turning in the author's head before they seize up. The most undecided people know the most about the controversial subjects and when they don't trust a source, no amount of additional information from that source will convince them. This is correct, and then the author just doesn't take the next step and think "well, maybe they have a point."
He may not have wanted to step into that quagmire, having to confront his own biases after writing about the biases of others. Best to see himself as just the messenger and not the subject, thereby getting to bypass that.
 
#12
Interesting, thank you, that makes sense. So is the last article then saying that, using a minimal example, if you were telling me Beyonce should've won the Grammy, instead of me asking you to list the reasons why, I should ask you to explain how the Academy's voting process would've chosen her? See, this is where the article lost me, because the writer said we should ask for an explanation from an opponent instead of reasons, and I don't get the difference.
Reasons could mean a lot of things other than an explanation. I might believe the government should subsidize diesel trucks and tax gasoline trucks because my father owns a diesel repair shop, or because barney the dinosaur said diesel fuel is good for mother earth, or because I like the smell of diesel exhaust. But if you ask me to explain why diesel is better for the environment, I might not be able to and then I wouldn't be so ready to say diesel deniers should be put in jail. If you ask me my reasons, it reinforces my opinion, if you ask me to explain something and I can't, it weakens my justification for that opinion and weakens my opinion.
 
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#13
Here is the actual study.

http://www.uiowa.edu/crisp/files/crisp/files/15.3.pdf

The study did not show that belief increased when science rejected the idea. The effect of science was not significant. There was a significant effect with public opinion, and an interaction effect between public opinion where beliefs went down when an unpopular idea was accepted by science.

However, I'm guessing that pointing this out won't change anyone's opinion on what the study showed (since it didn't do so last time the study was discussed). :)

Linda
The study showed people are more likely to accept a claim as true if they think many others accept it, whether science accepts it or not-- in fact, science rejecting a claim pushes people towards accepting the claim-- but when they think few others accept it, are less likely to accept a claim even if science leans toward accepting it.

So the study showed public popularity heavily influences belief, and also that there's a general distrust towards science. Is that what you mean?
 
#14
Interesting how climate change and evolution appear in this context. The things the NCSE have focused on in "correcting" in the name of science. Things I ultimately changed my views on Btw.

This is as simple as how habits, indoctrination, fears etc... are formed and influence all of our decisions. Especially including of those who have undergone cultural indoctrination and even academic like the members of NCSE, they are also slaves to their conditioning, because it certainly is not about the actual scientific evidence, it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics, religion and ideology. There is a fear element there that is very clear to me. Their psychological profiles would be very consistent I would expect and perhaps even upbringing, parents and social status as well.

I have a vested interested in this sort of thing as realized through the use of ayahuasca, it coordinates higher level analytical parts of the brain with parts that relate to deep seated emotional memories. Trauma or indoctrination can form nuerological pathways associated with the event or events, like scar tissue it remains and can be reinfoced even. Related stimuli can trigger the ingrained patterns. Post traumatic stress disorder as an extreme example. Experience lays down the foundations for how future experiences are processed. I believe it is exactly the same when it comes to beliefs of any type, how our past shapes our future.

Ayahuasca gives the ability to see and heal deep psychological issues, even subconscious ones. To not only physically purge toxins but to mentally purge the psyche as well. It allows new pathways to form so the old scar tissue is no longer dominate. It shatters the self illusion. You cannot kid youself or hide from the things that influence your thoughts. Thing is you can't really change someone, you can influence but the real change has to come from within the person. This is ayahuasca's gift. This is how it is used to change lives. How trauma and addiction can be cured, how self realisation can transform your every waking thought and see the world in new light.
Wow. Nice. One day, someone's going to make a killing inventing cherry-flavored ayahuasca, and when they do, I hope your last paragraph is on the back of the box.

You know, next to the nutritional facts and the cartoon shaman mascot.
 
#15
Reasons could mean a lot of things other than an explanation. I might believe the government should subsidize diesel trucks and tax gasoline trucks because my father owns a diesel repair shop, or because barney the dinosaur said diesel fuel is good for mother earth, or because I like the smell of diesel exhaust. But if you ask me to explain why diesel is better for the environment, I might not be able to and then I wouldn't be so ready to say diesel deniers should be put in jail. If you ask me my reasons, it reinforces my opinion, if you ask me to explain something and I can't, it weakens my justification for that opinion and weakens my opinion.
Okay, I think I get it. I'd love to see this implemented to debates on the paranormal. Instead of asking the guy on Twitter why he thinks post-materialism is bollocks, I could ask him to explain how scientific research has falsified telepathy and remote viewing, yeah?
 
#16
The study showed people are more likely to accept a claim as true if they think many others accept it, whether science accepts it or not--
Yes.

in fact, science rejecting a claim pushes people towards accepting the claim--
It also showed that science accepting a claim pushed people towards accepting the claim. So where are you getting the idea that scientific rejection is what makes a difference?

but when they think few others accept it, are less likely to accept a claim even if science leans toward accepting it.

So the study showed public popularity heavily influences belief, and also that there's a general distrust towards science. Is that what you mean?
Not really. As you say, there was a statistically significant effect from popularity. But there was no significant effect from science, so it wouldn't be reasonable to conclude that there was a distrust or trust towards science. Scientific acceptance led to an increase in belief and a decrease in belief. You can't cherry pick one finding and ignore the rest in order to claim your prejudices are substantiated. The only significant difference in belief came about when science accepted an unpopular belief. There was also a discordance in popular opinion, where a decrease in popular opinion led to an increase in belief when science rejected an idea, yet nobody was inclined to pick up on the idea that people distrust popular opinion.

I suspect that people had difficulty with trust when the sources (science and popularity) were discordant, rather than concordant. The belief levels were highest when the opinions were concordant (regardless of acceptance) and lowest when discordant (regardless of acceptance), which makes no sense if it has anything to do with trusting the sources. If it was about which source you trust, then belief levels should have been highest when trusted source levels were higher, not when they were both lower. When both sources (science and popularity) were at their lowest rate of acceptance, belief in the idea was still higher than it was when either of those sources offered a high rate of acceptance.

Linda
 
#17
Okay, I think I get it. I'd love to see this implemented to debates on the paranormal. Instead of asking the guy on Twitter why he thinks post-materialism is bollocks, I could ask him to explain how scientific research has falsified telepathy and remote viewing, yeah?
Well, to be fair, I've done that a lot - going through the scientific research in great detail - and it doesn't make any sort of difference. I think that in order for this to work, there should be a knowledge gap. You have to know more than the guy on Twitter.

Linda
 
#18
One provides alternative hypothesis, one proposes evidence in support of the existing null hypothesis.

I hate that debunking term. Falsification is more appropiate. Entirely different to proposing an alternative.
I'm not sure about that. An alternative hypothesis seems to be implicit in falsification. If I am falsifying the idea that you can read my mind, cheating/guessing/chance seems to be implied when I suggest ways in which trickery could be used or I refer to stacking effects.

Linda
 
#19
I'm not sure about that. An alternative hypothesis seems to be implicit in falsification. If I am falsifying the idea that you can read my mind, cheating/guessing/chance seems to be implied when I suggest ways in which trickery could be used or I refer to stacking effects.

Linda
It can by way of a much stronger hypothesis. But strictly speaking that is not falsification. Falsification does not require an altermative hypothesis and multi hypothesis can fit, so having an alternative does not automatically imply falsification.
 
#20
It can by way of a much stronger hypothesis. But strictly speaking that is not falsification. Falsification does not require an altermative hypothesis and multi hypothesis can fit, so having an alternative does not automatically imply falsification.
I don't disagree. But in the case of paranormal, the claims are more like "this couldn't be a guess" or "I don't see how it can be fraud". Examples of how guessing can lead to the appearance of accuracy, or ways in which fraud could have produced the results - what proponents often refer to as "debunking" - could be considered falsification of those claims through presenting alternative hypotheses.

Anyways, if we go back to my original question, it still isn't clear what the difference is between "presenting alternative explanations' and "debunking", if what is presented are examples of how to produce the results using non-anomalous effects.

Linda
 
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