Darkness falls across the land


In 2009, a nine year-old Brazilian girl became pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. With advice from doctors, her mother opted for her to have an abortion. After pleading with Brazil, which outlaws abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger or when she has been raped, her daughter was granted one. Then things got really ugly. When the Archbishop of the city of Recife heard the news he invoked Canon law and excommunicated the mother and daughter and the members of the medical team who performed the abortion; the stepfather, meanwhile, remained a loyal and accepted member of the church. (…)

The question is: why do humans remain so steadfast to their beliefs, sometimes even in the face of overwhelming opposing evidence?

The answer rests in a few psychological tendencies that when mixed together form a potent recipe for ignorance. The first is confirmation bias – the propensity for people to look for what confirms their beliefs and ignore what contradicts their beliefs while not being concerned for the truth. (…)

Then there’s cognitive dissonance, which describes a “state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions that are psychologically inconsistent.” (…)

Finally, there’s motivated reasoning, which describes our tendency to accept what we want to believe with much more ease and much less analysis than what we don’t want to believe.

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