YANSS 144 – The Backfire Effect – Part Four (rebroadcast)

In 2017, You Are Not So Smart produced three episodes about the backfire effect, and by far, those episodes were the most popular the show has ever done.

In fact, the famous web comic The Oatmeal turned them into a sort of special feature, and that comic of those episodes was shared on Facebook a gazillion times, which lead to a stories about the comic in popular media, and then more people listened to the shows, on and on it went. You can go see it at The Oatmeal right now at the top of their page. It’s titled, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you.

The popularity of the backfire effect extends into academia. The original paper has been cited hundreds of times, and there have been more than 300 articles written about it since it first came out.

The backfire effect has his special allure to it, because, on the surface, it seems to explain something we’ve all experienced — when we argue with people who believe differently than us, who see the world through a different ideological lens — they often resist our views, refuse to accept our way of seeing things, and it often seems like we do more harm than good, because they walk away seemingly more entrenched in their beliefs than before the argument began.

But…since those shows, researchers have produced a series of new studies into the backfire effect that complicate things. Yes, we are observing something here, and yes we are calling it the backfire effect, but everything is not exactly as it seems, and so I thought we should invite these new researchers on the show and add a fourth episode to the backfire effect series based on what they’ve found. And this is that episode.

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Tom Wood is a political scientist at Ohio State University where he studies political behavior, campaigns, vote choice, and elections. He also studies how conspiratorial and magical thinking influence attitudes and votes, especially when voters experience anxiety and uncertainty. He tweets @thomasjwood.

Ethan Porter is a political scientist at George Washington University where he studies where he studies public opinion, political communication, political psychology, and experimental design. He is working on a book, The Consumer Citizen, which explores how consumer decision-making affects political attitudes and behavior.He tweets at @ethanvporter

Brendan Nyhan is a political scientist at Dartmouth College.  He is a contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times and served as media critic for Columbia Journalism Review. He was co-editor of Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of political spin, and co-authored All the President’s Spin. He is currently research “fake news,” and he tweets @BrendanNyhan

Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

When Corrections Fail (the original research)

The Elusive Backfire Effect (the new research)

Why We Fight