Liberals Are Just As Irrational and Close-Minded As Conservatives

Liberals pride themselves on being members of the “fact-based community”.

But New Scientist notes:

New research … shows that [liberals are] just as deluded as everybody else.

One study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, concluded that conservatives and liberals were equally averse to listening to opposing viewpoints on hot-button issues, such as same-sex marriage. In fact, they were willing to give up the chance to win money just to avoid the unpleasantness of  of hearing an opinion they disliked.

A meta-analysis of 41 studies recently published on the Social Science Research Network reached a similar conclusion: there was no difference in partisanship between liberals and conservatives. As it turns out, “open-minded” liberals are plagued by confirmation bias to the same extent as “closed-minded” conservatives.


That may explain the current US phenomenon of the “Regressive Left,” as University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne called them, believing that – as he put it – “some positions aren’t just wrong, but [are] taboo to mention”.

See this and this.

This is not really new …

Specifically, we noted in 2011:

  • Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
  • “For the most part people completely ignore contrary information.”
  • “The study demonstrates voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information”
  • People get deeply attached to their beliefs, and form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter ….

Alternet pointed out in June:

When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.


In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first. For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second. These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.

They repeated the experiment with other wedge issues like stem cell research and tax reform, and once again, they found corrections tended to increase the strength of the participants’ misconceptions if those corrections contradicted their ideologies. People on opposing sides of the political spectrum read the same articles and then the same corrections, and when new evidence was interpreted as threatening to their beliefs, they doubled down. The corrections backfired.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.


Psychologists call stories like these narrative scripts, stories that tell you what you want to hear, stories which confirm your beliefs and give you permission to continue feeling as you already do.


As the psychologist Thomas Gilovich said, “”When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude…for desired conclusions, we ask ourselves, ‘Can I believe this?,’ but for unpalatable conclusions we ask, ‘Must I believe this?’”


What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.


The backfire effect is constantly shaping your beliefs and memory, keeping you consistently leaning one way or the other through a process psychologists call biased assimilation. Decades of research into a variety of cognitive biases shows you tend to see the world through thick, horn-rimmed glasses forged of belief and smudged with attitudes and ideologies.


Flash forward to 2011, and you have Fox News and MSNBC battling for cable journalism territory, both promising a viewpoint which will never challenge the beliefs of a certain portion of the audience. Biased assimilation guaranteed.


The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate

– Francis Bacon

It is very difficult for anyone to really listen to evidence which contradicts our beliefs.  But unless we learn how to grit our teeth and do so, we will forever be victims to the divide-and-conquer game which ensures that we have politicians who will ignore our demands, we will be so wedded to one investment strategy that we will forever lose money on our investments, and we will generally be weak and disempowered people.


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  • Dr Mindbender

    They are all living in a delusional world to avoid the unpleasant realities of reality. Most people are not in their right minds. This should be obvious. It really makes me laugh when people tell me I am negative. They must have failed in math, because negatives are at least half, or more, of Reality! I do not use drugs or delude my personality. Sadly, there are not enough “realists” to do JACK about anything! I only need to measure a Mans Anger and I know where he stands and whom He serves! I have no friends and it is a Badge of Honor to me.

    • wunsacon

      Same here. I have zero interest in socializing with “human bots” — humans unaware of their factory-compiled programming and satisfied within its confines. What are “homo sapiens” without independent sapience?



      • Dr Mindbender

        I have tried and tried only to realize it is impossible! Therefore, why chase the wind. People are so horribly programmed by materialistic garbage (weak minded) that you cannot even have a decent conversation with them. They even love their slavery! Who can relate with such, I don`t know, but I feel sorry for all the Happy People. Simply, only FOOLS can be happy in such a world. I really get tired of people not understanding “negatives,” life is not happy!

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      It is better to be alone than in bad company–Spanish proverb

      • Dr Mindbender

        Agree. Wise Proverb.



    The liberal/conservative dichotomy keeps us from recognizing our real enemies

    • Jason Calley

      Hey collette! Yes, the liberal/conservative distinction is more harmful than helpful. Personally, I tend to look at things from a more libertarian point of view. Some people are willing to let other people run their own lives, and some people want to control what everyone else does. Of course that is just a broad description and we still have to include caveats such as “run your own life but not directly harming others” etc., but you understand that part, I am sure. Maybe we should call it “liberty vs tyranny”. Every law is a threat to kidnap or kill those who disobey. Every freedom is a way of saying “run your own life”.

  • BDub

    ‘When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

    Imagine how strong they must get when supported by evidence!


    “Republican-governed states have adopted cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations while slashing education budgets as a standard policy. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal created a budget hole through tax cuts for the wealthy that nearly wrecked the state’s university system. Cuts to public education are usually one of the first orders of business undertaken by newly elected Republican governors.

    In a broader context, the Republican Party has transitioned into the party of belief. Republicans have stopped relying on facts to support their policies. There is a definite distrust of the public education system. Republicans run their states based on a belief in conservative ideology, so it isn’t surprising that states that support a political party that has decided to create its own reality, have lower education rates.”

    – quotes from a site that ranks the education status between red states and blue states.

    To me the above article is garbage and only serves as an irrational argument point to support those who do not know and understand the difference between scientifically proven and educative based facts… and ‘hocus pocus’ beliefs. And this is a topic that the free press of today WON’T discuss, debate or even approach. Because why? Money baby…money (I. E. advertising dollars). And right now that is exactly what is wrong with this country. A GOP that constantly panders to the dumbed down of those red states and how we got a total moron for a POTUS. And another huge reason? Gerrymandering and redistricting – engineered by wealthy 1%r’s – that also pander to that ‘dumbed down belief systems’ of those people.

    Hey…it isn’t much different than what occurred in Great Britain with the Brexit vote. And the sick part? Most of those voters won’t even exist in the next decade or two. Populism coupled with unintelligence and ignorance? Never good for any country that wants to remain a free and progressive civilization.

  • Liberals Are Just As Irrational and Close-Minded As Conservatives” I respectfully disagree. Who is blocking highways and rioting?

    • Dr Mindbender

      The Bankers who You ( and fools like you) allowed 20-Trillion, or so, in Welfare, Bailouts and QE. The US Bankers have pulled off the largest theft in history!

      People should be Rioting, only the clinically brain-dead would think we have a Capitalist Thing going here in USSA! Awww … but you, poor boy, you, are worried about a few protests! You know, kid, you gave (and those like you) 30-Trillion to the US government for “illegal and abusive” wars over the last couple decades. You will all be held accountable for your “voluntary tax privilege.” You will be held accountable for everything your government does. And, you will be held accountable for not even protesting it! You are so much in love with your government that you cannot stand the idea of protest …. ” YOU BETTER NOT BE A CHRISTIAN.”

  • You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you:

  • desertspeaks

    brought to you by the same people that claimed in the 1970’s that an ice age was approaching, who then changed their ideology to global warming which was such an epic failure they had to change the meme to climate change.. Yeah lets believe proven pathological lying psychopaths who create studies based on a predetermined outcome..

    • wunsacon

      >> brought to you by the same people that claimed in the 1970’s that an ice age was approaching

      No, not the same people. Not at all. There were like “two” scientists in the 70’s who speculated about global cooling. And they had less computing power at their disposal than your microwave.

      To provide an analogy here for you, this is how your statement sounds to me: “brought to you by the same people that claimed in the 1600’s that the sun revolved around the earth”. Yes, times and opinions flip-flopped. Does anyone care about outdated speculation based on a billionth of the data that we have today? Not me. Are you saying you do — for realz or just to smear a field of scientists as some kind of mega-“character assassination”?

      • desertspeaks

        field of scientists? that’s hilarious! these supposed scientists you speak of hid data, skewed data, faked/created data.. real scientists don’t do such things!
        but hey, you keep that fantasy alive!