Sunday, September 21, 2008

Take That Back!

Does spreading lies and then taking them back give their untruths validation? On the September 19th On the Media segment “Uncorrectable,” Shankar Vedantam puts forward the claim that refuting a previously-made supposed fact can leave members of the public with lingering negative feelings. He suggests, however, that among conservatives, a taken-back claim can cause people to vigorously defend the refuted information (he cites a certain WMD-related example). Conservatives tend historically to be more stubborn and ardent about their beliefs, so does this dark revelation predict a future where change will never be possible because lie after lie will effect a need for preservation of current values? Will this idea influence the upcoming election, with Obama and Palin at the center of vicious character and experience attacks? While NYU may rally wholeheartedly for Obama, all the doubts about Palin seem far less likely to hurt her when this mindset is applied.


Rhea A said...

There are some interesting studies on persuasion and credibility. Conservatives may be experiencing what psychologists would call cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two conflicting ideas. Conservatives can be accused not only of being stubborn about their beliefs but also being trigger-happy to tout them publicly showing vehement support or disapproval. Conflicting information causes a drop in self-esteem compounded by the strength of the original belief. (And if theres one thing we know about conservatives it is that the hold really strong beliefs.) To prevent this, people tend to defend the original idea.
This is a scary thought for the media. It says, journalists better get it right the first time. A slightly unbalanced viewpoint may cause a domino effect of false beliefs.
Or are we just not giving our readers enough credit?

M. Dery said...

Really intriguing post, Abe, and a thoughtful response from Rhea. But unsupported assertions are flying thick and fast, here. Where's the corroborating evidence, Abe, for your statement that NYU is universally behind Obama? My gut tells me you're right, but my Inner Skeptical Inquirer wants to see the evidence. Show Me The Money. And Rhea, how do you know to a certainty that conservatives hold their ideological positions with more white-knuckled tenacity than liberals or leftists do? Read Alexander Coburn or some of the raging lefties over at IN THESE TIMES. Their unshakable conviction seems to belie your implication that liberal/left ideas are more lightly held.
Abe, convoluted language in this post sometimes muddies your interesting argument. For example, not sure what you mean by: "Does spreading lies and then taking them back give their untruths validation?" Do you mean: by disingenously issuing what she knows to be a lie, fully cognizant of the likelihood that you'll be forced to retract it, you can have your lie and it, too---plant a seed in peoples' minds that, once it takes root, can't really be pulled up? Sentence structure is confusing.