This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

Why you can’t handle the truth: the psychology of belief

The political sharks and their remora-like pundits are already circling in anticipation of next year’s elections. Some observers complain that modern campaign speeches, advertising and debates have little substance — lots of big teeth barred in smiles or grimaces, but very little bite. But it may be that substance doesn’t matter as much as we’d like to think.A recent study in the Journal of Risk Research indicates that facts aren’t likely to sways us towards one viewpoint or another — instead, we humans go with our gut and rationalize around contradictory evidence. If the researchers are right, then the winning candidates will be the ones who speak to people’s emotions and not their brains.

In the current issue of Mother Jones, author and science journalist Chris Mooney looks at why charts and graphs are less persuasive than old fashioned charisma. Need to Know sat down with Mooney to discuss how our emotions are influencing our politics.

  • thumb
    Memorial Day every day
    Beyond the backyard BBQ: Honor and aid those who have served.
  • Fast and too furious?
    Can accuracy and the demand for instant information coexist in the media?
  • thumb
      Steinbeck's Salinas Valley
    John Steinbeck's hometown came to worldwide notice through the Grapes of Wrath. Not all city fathers were pleased by the portrait. Explore what has changed and what remains the same in Salinas.


  • hector


  • cgp

    Sick arrogance

  • Magistrate Apeman

    Brilliant segment.

  • Anonymous

    Could explain the DIVORCE RATE!

  • Jefazos

    right on! Can reasoning be motivated by some ideal and “pure” FACT? Let’s imagine Star Trek’s Spock (no, I’m not a trekky). Is his motivated reasoning flawed? In the real world, I think we could use that kind of belief system. Evidence, uh … (duh?) counts.

  • Anonymous

    The end of the 13th bak’tun and the various doomsday cults are like apples and discarded shoes. This “report” refuses to disclose #thetruth. Additionally I have yet to see any notes that have been downloaded from anyone’s blogs.

    Too soon, guys. Too soon.

  • Mike Mathwig

    Americans Anonymous Steps:
    The first two; 1. we admited we were powerless over our place of birth– and that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to belive that a power greater than a corportion could restore us to sanity.