[ExI] The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Fri Jun 17 07:40:10 UTC 2011

On Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 1:19 AM, Gordon  wrote:
> ATR seems to me unique in that it explains cognitive biases as adaptive traits.
> If ATR is true (whatever that might mean) when we should expect humans to have cognitive biases,
> in particular the confirmation bias. We should not consider the confirmation bias as a shortcoming.
> It allows for an efficient division of labor: each member of the group will see the pros of his own position
> (while remaining mostly blind to the cons) even while weighing the pros and cons of those contradictory
> positions argued by others. This is easier and less expensive for the group than for each member to
> weigh both the pros and cons of his own position and the pros and cons of the positions of each of
> the others. Or says the theory, if I understand it correctly.

It is even worse than that.

When people encounter contrary evidence, it usually makes their
original belief *stronger*.
It is called the Backfire Effect.


The Backfire Effect
June 10, 2011 by David McRaney

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you
alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by
contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it
from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted
with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias
shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect
defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you.
Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning
them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your
misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time,
the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things
which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true
and proper.


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