Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Value of Facts

In today's installment of "But You Already Knew That," NPR brings us a story of research that "suggests that facts may not be as important as one's beliefs" when it come to taking in new information. While the idea that people's receptiveness to new information correlates very strongly with how well that information fit in with what they already believe is about as shocking as the idea that water is wet, the idea that people tend to filter information through their value structure does lead one to wonder why.

Personally, I suspect that it's because people tend to want to see their values as being based on facts - therefore giving them both license and incentive to disregard facts that would contradict it. In other words, once a value structure comes to presume certain facts, those presumed facts become evidence that contradictory purported facts must be incorrect. Which leads me to my own Theory of How to Be Open Minded: keep one's values and one's facts separate. Which, by the way, is today's installment of "Easier Said Than Done." But you already knew that.

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