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Information Versus Confirmation

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COMMENT: Over the years, we  have noted peoples’ reluctance and/or inability to adjust their views and perspectives in light of new information that would mandate such a correction.

We have conceptualized that dynamic as “Information versus Confirmation.”

Rather than having their views governed by information, many people’s outlooks are inclined in the direction of input that confirms their prejudices or views.

Information presented in The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer frames this dynamic in the context of contemporary cognitive and social psychological theory.

The Cold War itself saw the tactics and behavior of the Axis projected onto the former Soviet Union–a manifestation of what psychologists call “stimulus generalization.”

1.  The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer; St. Martin’s Griffin [SC]; Copyright 2013 by Stephen Kinzer; ISBN 978-0-8050-9497-9; p. 327.

 . . . . Americans were only a few years past the trauma of World War II, which taught them the horrors of global conflict. Urged on by Foster, Allen, and others in Washington and beyond, they projected the crimes of their World War II enemies onto the Soviet Union. Since Japan had attacked  the United States without warning, they  presumed the Soviets were liable to do the same; Hitler had used negotiation as a tactic to give him room for war, they scorned diplomacy. . . .

2.  The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer; St. Martin’s Griffin [SC]; Copyright 2013 by Stephen Kinzer; ISBN 978-0-8050-9497-9; pp.320-321.

 . . . . In the twenty-first century, discoveries about how the brain works set off a mini-boom of books seeking to convey these discoveries to lay readers. They comprise a leap in understanding—not simply of psychology and human behavior, but of a force that, at times, influences world history. The Cold War was one of those times. All of these observations, made by scientists and researchers, are strongly applicable to the Dulles brothers.

  •  People are motivated to accept accounts that fit with their preexisting convictions; acceptance of those accounts makes them feel better, and acceptance of competing claims makes them feel worse.

  • Moral hypocrisy is a deep part of our nature: the tendency to judge others more harshly for some moral infraction than we judge ourselves.

  • Groupthink leads to many problems of defective decision making, including incomplete survey of alternatives and objectives, failure to examine the risks of the preferred choice, poor information search, selective bias in processing information, and failure to assess alternatives.

  • We are often confident even when we are wrong . . . . Declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.

  • Certain beliefs are so important for a society or group that they become part of how you prove your identity. . . . The truth is that our minds just aren’t set up to be changed by mere evidence. . . .


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