Study on defensive beliefs

In the U.S., for example, staunch Democrats and hard-core Republicans hear the same data but, predisposed to interpreting them differently, they walk away with opposing conclusions. In an fMRI study conducted at Emory University prior to the 2004 presidential election, Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they were asked to evaluate damaging information about their own candidate. Notably absent among the subjects involved in this study was any activation of the neural circuitry implicated in conscious reasoning once they were confronted with the damaging evidence. The researchers concluded that emotionally biased reasoning leads to the “stamping in” or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associated with the participants “revisionist” account of the data with positive emotion or relief and the elimination of distress. The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and persons can learn very little from new data. (p. 119)

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