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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.

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