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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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