Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Liar, Liar... or Why We Believe Political Lies

I've come across an article that explains a bit more why we have a tendency to believe political lies.

One reason is that it takes more cognitive effort to reject false information that just to accept it as true. People are lazy and if something sounds possible to us, we'll just accept it more often than not.  Why take further effort to check it out?

Another factor may be the source of the statement.  In other words, as an Obama supporter, I am more likely to accept what the President says as true.  If Romney says something that doesn't sound right to me, I'm more likely to check it out.  

Another thing to consider is how much effort we put into considering the truthfulness of a statement or claim. We might not put too much effort into this if the statement seems to fit with things we've already decided were true. For example, if I already distrust Obama, I might believe the latest Romney ad in Ohio stating that he sold Chrysler to the Italians and that the now foreign owned company is planning to move production of Jeeps to China. (Please don't believe this.  Politifact has given this a Pants on Fire rating, it's so misleading!)

Attempts to correct false information might backfire, as well.  The article sites an example that happened back in September.  The Romney campaign had previously stated that unemployment wasn't going to drop below 8 percent.  Then it dropped to 7.8 percent. The administration, of course, mentioned that it had dropped in September as proof that their efforts are working.  Then the GOP decided that the figures were falsified by the administration to make the President look better.  It seems that no amount of facts to the contrary could make certain people believe that they were accurate. They had decided their own truth ahead of time so they wouldn't believe otherwise. As a result, undecided and unaffiliated voters may not have known what to believe with all the conspiracy theories being touted so they may have not believed the drop in unemployment was accurate.

Misinformation tends to be persistent - as history will tell us. Remember all those people - aided by members of the administration at the time - who believed that there were WMDs in Iraq even after we realized that there weren't.  Same thing with believing that Barack Obama is Muslim when he obviously is not. According to a Pew report back in July, 17% of Americans believe the absurd and unfounded claim that he is a Muslim.

I find it odd, personally, that more Americans don't have a problem with Romney's actual religion than Obama's perceived religion. Hint: Mormons aren't actually Christians. But I digress...

So, there are multiple reasons why we might believe political untruths.  I'm sure there are some I've fallen for over the years if I wasn't paying attention or it sounded like something that would be true.  We're only human.  What I take away from this article is that we need to pay attention and check out claims when possible.  The article also lists some different sites to fact-check statements made by the campaigns.  It's always good to have multiple places to check when a statement is made and, as always, don't believe everything you hear.

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