Advice you didn't ask for

On Politics

February 08, 2023

If the last 10 years have taught us anything, it’s that people do not think rationally. We don’t. I don’t. You don’t. Especially not when it comes to politics and other things like it. 

We like to think we do, of course. We imagine that we look at all the information, weigh it carefully, and then make logical, rational decisions about what it means and what to do about it. Other people who come to different conclusions are uninformed, confused, deluded, or stupid. But not us.

Sadly, that’s just not the case. When a particular issue becomes connected to your identity as a member of a group, your brain cooks the books behind the scenes to make sure you reach the conclusions you need to remain in good standing. You won’t even notice it’s happening. And that’s true for the rest of us, as well.

You might think that more education and knowledge would protect you from this phenomenon, but in fact research shows that when it comes to politics and similar things, your expertise just makes you better at justifying your viewpoint.

In other words, if your tribe (the group to which you belong and whose opinion of you matters most to you) is organized around a particular belief, you are going to have a hard time weighing the evidence fairly.

None of that is to say that this is a lost cause. It’s certainly better to try to keep yourself on the road toward objectivity than to not bother and get stuck in the intellectual equivalent of a drainage ditch. 

So here's my advice for doing that: