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Sun Sep 30, 2012, 10:28 PM

"The Republican Brain: Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science — and Reality"

The Republican Brain: Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science — and Reality

By Chris Mooney at Open Salon



Indeed, the rapidly growing social scientific literature on the resistance to global warming (see for examples here and here) says so pretty unequivocally. Again and again, Republicans or conservatives who say they know more about the topic, or are more educated, are shown to be more in denial, and often more sure of themselves as well—and are confident they don’t need any more information on the issue.

Tea Party members appear to be the worst of all. In a recent survey by Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, they rejected the science of global warming even more strongly than average Republicans did. For instance, considerably more Tea Party members than Republicans incorrectly thought there was a lot of scientific disagreement about global warming (69 percent to 56 percent). Most strikingly, the Tea Party members were very sure of themselves—they considered themselves “very well-informed” about global warming and were more likely than other groups to say they “do not need any more information” to make up their minds on the issue.

But it’s not just global warming where the “smart idiot” effect occurs. It also emerges on nonscientific but factually contested issues, like the claim that President Obama is a Muslim. Belief in this falsehood actually increased more among better-educated Republicans from 2009 to 2010 than it did among less-educated Republicans, according to research by George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

The same effect has also been captured in relation to the myth that the healthcare reform bill empowered government “death panels.” According to research by Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan, Republicans who thought they knew more about the Obama healthcare plan were “paradoxically more likely to endorse the misperception than those who did not.” Well-informed Democrats were the opposite—quite certain there were no “death panels” in the bill.


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Reply "The Republican Brain: Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science — and Reality" (Original post)
applegrove Sep 2012 OP
Odin2005 Oct 2012 #1
caraher Oct 2012 #2
Shagman Oct 2012 #3

Response to applegrove (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 07:18 AM

1. This confirms what I've suspected for a while.

IMO Educated RW Authoritarians are better able to rationalize away information that conflicts with their worldview.

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Response to applegrove (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 11:59 AM

2. What frustrates me is this...

Writers like Mooney have so little to offer by way of suggestions regarding how to handle this problem. Mooney gives us the bland reassurance, "A more scientific understanding of persuasion, then, should not be seen as threatening. It’s actually an opportunity to do better—to be more effective and politically successful," but there's not much of a roadmap to how we might put this into practice.

I've tried to do some things the research suggests in my teaching relatively conservative college students (I line up lots of Republican voices affirming climate change, for instance). I'm not sure it works as well as it needs to.

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Response to applegrove (Original post)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 08:11 AM

3. missing the point

What these "smart idiots" believe aren't random delusions. There are groups, like Faux News, who craft and deliver this disinformation, i.e., propaganda. It's designed to reinforce the subject's prejudices, including religious beliefs; to encourage irrational thinking; and to produce specific results. The messages are repeated so often that the subjects never really have a chance to consider their validity, even if they wanted to.

In effect, these people are brainwashed. Maybe Mooney goes into that later on in the book.

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