Do You Have the Courage to Doubt?

Do you have the courage to question your own understanding of the world, doubting a cherished belief that may not be supported by evidence? Would you be a better leader, team member and citizen if you did? Researcher Brendan Nyhan seems to have this kind of courage.

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Nyhan was one of the researchers whose work evolved into the popular backfire effect, a widely reported behavior where once a person forms a belief, then offering objective evidence to the contrary causes the person to dig in their heels and defend the belief even more firmly. Now, Nyhan is considering new research that may refute the backfire effect.

The newer research considered claims regarding violent crime bantered about during the 2016 Presidential election and people’s perception/beliefs. Providing corrective information reportedly led people to adjust their opinion about their original belief on crime trends – but not necessarily related beliefs; for example, their support for a particular candidate who may have promoted non-factual claims. So while people may agree that the facts upon which they placed their belief need to be adjusted, they don’t necessarily adjust their larger position/support.

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