Weird Science bases all of its political positions on ignorance

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-05-04

Sorry kid, the donkey has a point.

Moderation through explanation. Alternately, this section could be called Where Dunning-Kreuger meets politics. Four researchers at three different institutions joined forces to ask a simple question: why is it that people have such extreme positions on subjects that are rather complicated and nuanced? "We hypothesized that people typically know less about such policies than they think they do," the authors write, going on to discuss their experimental method: asking people with extreme opinions to explain the issue. That brought an end to their subjects' belief that they actually understood the issue they were otherwise willing to argue passionately about (or, as the authors put it, "undermined the illusion of explanatory depth"). Once people recognized their ignorance, positions tended to moderate.

In contrast, simply asking people to explain why they like their preferred policy kept the illusion intact. "The evidence suggests that people’s mistaken sense that they understand the causal processes underlying policies contributes to political polarization," they conclude.

Today's youth really are selfish and lazy. At least relatively so. Between 1976 and 2007, over 350,000 high school seniors took a survey that, among other things, asked a bit about their material desires and willingness to work for them. One has gone up, the other down—can you guess which is which? The desire for money and material well being hit a new high in the late 1980s, and has stayed there ever since. But, at the same time, people felt that the money should come easily: "When materialistic values increased, work centrality steadily declined, suggesting a growing discrepancy between the desire for material rewards and the willingness to do the work usually required to earn them."

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