The Science of Spin

How do partisans fool themselves into believing their own spin? Well, science shows that we often allow our moral judgment to overshadow factual arguments.

Brain_MRI_SmallThis month’s presidential election was between two fairly centrist candidates. And yet political discourse between ordinary Republicans and Democrats is more contentious and hostile than it’s been in decades. I bet you strongly agree with one of these statements:

  • If you’re a Democrat: The Obama campaign for reelection was run largely based on telling the truth. The Romney campaign was laregely based on lies.
  • If you’re a Republican: All political campaigns stretch the facts from time to time to make a point. Romney and Obama both did.

I’d like to suggest that both these statements are false.

We weigh facts and lines of reasoning far more strongly when they favor our own side, and we minimize the importance and validity of the opposition’s arguments. That may be appropriate behavior in a formal debate, or when we’re trying to sway the opinion of a third party. But to the extent that we internalize these tendencies, they injure our ability to think and see clearly. And if we bring them into the sort of open and honest one-on-one political debates that we’d like to think Americans have with each other, we strain our own credibility and undermine the possibility of reaching an understanding.

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Source: Alesh Houdek | The Atlantic