This kind of material - this is what can happen when an expert can actually write and communicate WELL. Read the entire Backfire Effect entry here, or simply sample my cherrypicked quotes (and FYI, I use ellipses - ... - to indicate skips in the original text):
The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.As a part-time conspiracy theorist (some days), I had to admit that I too do the following. I am not a birther, but just try to talk to me about the moon landing. Go ahead.
The Truth: When your beliefs are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger...
.... Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.
... This is why the one in four Americans who now believes Barack Obama was not born in the United States will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence put forth suggesting otherwise. When the Obama administration released his long-form birth certificate in April of 2011, the reaction from birthers was as the backfire effect predicts. They scrutinized the timing, the appearance, the format – they gathered together online and mocked it. They became even more certain of their beliefs than before. The same has been and will forever be true for any conspiracy theory or fringe belief. Contradictory evidence strengthens the position of the believer. It as seen as part of the conspiracy, and missing evidence is dismissed as part of the cover-up.And then, my favorite - especially as a former climate change educator (much like a sex educator, but worse. At least in Kansas).
What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.Before ANYONE starts feeling superior, think a second - you too probably do this. This is basic human wiring. Politics - all kinds of politics - is just a surface affect of the backfire effect. Yeah. And I do believe I used those words correctly.
Here is where it gets a little (more) morose and dystopic:
As social media and advertising progresses, confirmation bias and the backfire effect will become more and more difficult to overcome. You will have more opportunities to pick and choose the kind of information which gets into your head along with the kinds of outlets you trust to give you that information. In addition, advertisers will continue to adapt, not only generating ads based on what they know about you, but creating advertising strategies on the fly based on what has and has not worked on you so far. The media of the future may be delivered based not only on your preferences, but on how you vote, where you grew up, your mood, the time of day or year – every element of you which can be quantified. In a world where everything comes to you on demand, your beliefs may never be challenged.And if I spent all my time online, I would indeed worry about that. However, social media seems for many people to be a substitute for human contact - and whether virtual or in person, most folks tend to prefer to hang out with people who see the world as they do, anyway. So while I see the potential here, I'm not overcome.
Still, to sum up:
As information technology progresses, the behaviors you are most likely to engage in when it comes to belief, dogma, politics and ideology seem to remain fixed. In a world blossoming with new knowledge, burgeoning with scientific insights into every element of the human experience, like most people, you still pick and choose what to accept even when it comes out of a lab and is based on 100 years of research.Isn't this stuff cool? Don't you love it? At the same time you kind of want to bang your head against a wall?