A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Does Politics Ruin Your Math Skills?

from the Huffington Post:
Does partisanship poison the brain? Not quite, but an ingenious new study suggests that having strong political views can compromise one's ability to make sense of the mathematical underpinnings of complex and politically charged issues like gun control and global warming.

For the study, researchers led in part by Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale University, recruited more than 1,000 people and gave them the raw statistics needed to gauge the effectiveness of a politically neutral product (a skin cream for rashes) and another "product" that was politically charged (a gun control law).

Many of the subjects lacked the basic math skills needed to arrive at accurate answers-- no surprise there. But what about the people who did have strong math skills?

When it came to evaluating the effectiveness of the gun control law, it all seemed to hinge on their political leanings: when the statistics pointed to a conclusion that was aligned with their political leanings-- for example, pro-gun laws or anti-gun laws-- they did just as well on the gun control problem as on the skin cream problem. But when the numbers supported a conclusion that went against their belief, they fared much worse.

The discrepancy suggests that even intelligent people allow their biases to cloud their quantitative decision-making skills when dealing with politically charged information.

And it doesn't seem to matter when one is a bleeding heart or a rabid reactionary-- the same math-compromising effect is believed to affect people on both ends of the political spectrum and everyone in between.
The rest of the story can be found here.


Oloryn said...

I am....not at all surprised.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Neither am I, though I suspect that partisans on both sides are trying to redo the math in this study.