Biases in Processing Political Information

In a post last year, Eliezer discussed a useful paper exploring the many biases that affect how people process political information. 

Via this blog, here’s comedian Lenny Bruce making a similar point:

I would be with a bunch of Kennedy fans watching the debate and their comment would be, “He’s really slaughtering Nixon.” Then we would all go to another apartment, and the Nixon fans would say, “How do you like the shellacking he gave Kennedy?” And then I realized that each group loved their candidate so that a guy would have to be this blatant — he would have to look into the camera and say: “I am a thief, a crook, do you hear me, I am the worst choice you could ever make for the Presidency!” And even then his following would say, “Now there’s an honest man for you. It takes a big guy to admit that. There’s the kind of guy we need for President.”

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  • Stuart, Bruce himself is succumbing to a form of motivated skepticism here, what you might call a relativist bias, or what I sometimes like to think of as the “Independent-Mindedness” bias (those are scare quotes, not designative markings). Example: Two groups of people look at the biological and paleontological data as it pertains to life’s diversity. One group says, “Evolution by natural selection, genetic drift and gene flow. Obviously.” The other group says, “Creation by an intelligent designer. Obviously.” From which disagreement the relativist concludes (so as to appear Above the Fray), “Obviously, both groups are driven merely by the love of their pet theory.”

    On the other hand, I would never advocate for bias-free comedy…

  • To quote David Mamet:

    I found not only that I didn’t trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

    Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.