Paul Krugman discusses the striking lack of carnage in the U.S.
Paul Krugman has a blog post: the American carnage so visible to our new president does not show up in carnage-related statistics:
Apparently if you tell people falsehoods long enough, they will start to believe it. His whole post is worth reading.
In the meantime, California is fighting another large outbreak of measles, apparently from an Orthodox Jewish community that does not protect their children with immunizations. No deaths reported as yet, worldwide measles kills 15 people per day. The Center for Disease Control (not yet defunded) has a good page on measles, and it includes the effects:
Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. From 2001-2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.
For some children, measles can lead to:
- Pneumonia (a serious lung infection)
- Lifelong brain damage
In this connection, psychologists at their convention in San Antonio are addressing an important problem: what causes people to reject scientific findings that are based on mountains of evidence? Melissa Healy writes in the LA Times:
In Washington, D.C., revelers and protesters are marking the ascendance of a new president and the populist movement he says he has mobilized.
Some 1,600 miles away in San Antonio, thousands of psychologists from around the world are also marking the dawn of the Trump era by focusing their attention on the thought processes that prompt some people to resist and reject science. Matters for which there is a broad scientific consensus — including man-made climate change, the safety of childhood vaccines and Darwin’s theory of evolution — have been attacked as hoaxes and lies by senior members of the new administration.
Psychologists have come up with a name for this trend: the “anti-enlightenment movement.”
To better understand it, these professional observers of human behavior will draw from a recent election campaign in which fake news exploded, conspiracy theories flourished and derision was heaped on elites of all kinds.
“We were motivated by anxiety,” said social psychologist Matthew Hornsey, who organized a symposium on the issue for this weekend’s annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
The popular rejection of scientific thinking — and sometimes of facts that are plainly evident — didn’t begin with the campaign that brought forth Donald Trump’s presidency, Hornsey and others said. But if anyone doubted its existence before, they could do so no longer.
”We’re asking, ‘What are these biases leading people to resist science? Where do they come from? How do they operate and what can be done about them?’” said University of Oregon social psychologist Troy H. Campbell, who will be speaking at the symposium.
Those questions won’t be easy to answer. Psychologists will have to delve into the guts of human decision-making. They will dissect the ways in which we discount information — however well evidenced — that conflicts with what we want to believe about ourselves and the ways things work. They will examine the role of our social networks, and the cognitive shortcuts we take to interpret scientific conclusions we don’t really understand. They will consider the role that declining trust plays in people’s decision to believe what they’re told.
“People don’t act like scientists, weighing up evidence in an even-handed way,” said Hornsey, a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia. “When someone wants to believe something — for whatever reason — then they act more like lawyers trying to prosecute what they already want to be true. And they selectively attend to and critique the evidence to be able to do that.” . . .