When we have invested too much in our beliefs to dump them.
By JOHN LEAKE
I just arrived on Maui to visit my brother and to conduct a couple of in person interviews. My brother is a general contractor, and this morning he told me a remarkable story about a client—an extremely successful, intelligent, honest, and polite man—who had, until recently, enjoyed perfect health.
A while back, during a meeting with my brother, he complained of being unwell. For months he’d felt constantly fatigued and compelled to take frequent naps, which he’d never experienced before. His doctors on the mainland had initially suspected a blood disorder, perhaps even leukemia, but had been unable to detect any disease. And so his symptoms remained idiopathic.
Knowing the man had fervently embraced the COVID-19 vaccine, my brother asked him: “Would you consider opening your mind to the possibility that your condition was caused by the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters you have received?”
“Let me tell you something,” he replied. “Where I come from, we trust our doctors, and my doctor told me the vaccine is safe and effective.”
“Yes, but your doctor didn’t create the vaccine,” my brother replied. “The gangsters at Pfizer their cronies did.”
The man was so appalled by this that he abruptly ended the meeting and hasn’t contacted my brother ever since.
Hearing this story reminded me of snippets I’d read about the so-called “Backfire Bias.” The term is used to describe a cognitive affliction that sometimes happens to people who are heavily INVESTED in a proposition—that is, their belief in something is bound with their identity and self-esteem as intelligent and educated adults.
The saying (often attributed to Mark Twain), ”It’s easier to fool a man than to convince him he’s been fooled,” refers to something akin to Backfire Bias.
Researching this bias was a strange experience for me, because one of the first papers I found was Nyhan B., Reifler J. When corrections fail: The persistence of political misperceptions. Political Behavior. 2010.