Why we stick to false beliefs: Feedback trumps hard evidence

on 07 September 2018
We have to think outside of the potato

New research uncovers the reason why we ignore evidence to the contrary and hold onto our beliefs. When I read this piece, I thought ah, confirmation bias, apparently not; maybe it's her twin . . .

Can we forgive ourselves for believing fake news?

While this research doesn't mention anything to do with anxiety disorders, it got me thinking about a possible connection. Anxiety disorders are progressive in nature, the progression is towards avoidance strategies, which is more realistically an oppressive behavioural strategy because we are placing a very high level of burden upon ourselves. Of course, the subconscious theory is, if I don't do that, this won't happen and we essentially end up believing an illusion, the illusion of having resolved the problem, when in fact all we are really doing, is avoiding it.

The one thing I am consistently aware of is that clients who have anxiety disorders, mostly know very little about them (in terms of their cause, development and progression). This potentially, according to this research, presents me with a difficulty that I was totally unaware of. For if they know little about their condition, and it is progressive, then what little they do know must be the very stuff they are using to ignore everything I am attempting to introduce. But, very oddly, I do not seem to have experienced this difficulty; maybe it's because I didn't know?? However, it appears to me that this may be the result of the research subjects being, by default, consciously participating, while my clients are subconsciously doing so?

In this context, the Daxxy is our threat detection system (fear response) and while what little we know actually appears to aid the progression of the disorder in the first instance (the 19 things we do, wrongly, that intensify our anxiety), it is the additional 4 or 5 things we become aware of, in the later stages (not the myriad of information in between), that helpt to intensify the severity of the condition; now we know we have anxiety! However, when it comes to unravelling the cause of this condition, it is the peculiar way in which hypnosis rewires our brain that saves the day. Clients usually go into an extreme phase of mental relaxation and it is in this state, replete with the most empowering levels of brainwave activity, that the brain/mind reorganises itself. The research, I feel, clearly demonstrates the irrational ways we potentially find to solve problems (even if the solution itself is a bigger problem) and the tools that we have, for the most part, are conscious skills, analysis, logic, reasoning etc. Hypnosis is illogical, perhaps that's why it works?

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

Ever wonder why flat-earthers, birthers, climate change and Holocaust deniers stick to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

New findings from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that feedback, rather than hard evidence, boosts people's sense of certainty when learning new things or trying to tell right from wrong. Developmental psychologists have found that people's beliefs are more likely to be reinforced by the positive or negative reactions they receive in response to an opinion, task or interaction than by logic, reasoning and scientific data. Their findings, published today in the online issue of the journal Open Mind, shed new light on how people handle information that challenges their worldview, and how certain learning habits can limit one's intellectual horizons.

"If you think you know a lot about something, even though you don't, you're less likely to be curious enough to explore the topic further, and will fail to learn how little you know," said study lead author Louis Marti, a PhD student in psychology at UC Berkeley. This cognitive dynamic can play out in all walks of actual and virtual life, including social media and cable-news echo chambers, and may explain why some people are easily duped by charlatans. "If you use a crazy theory to make a correct prediction a couple of times, you can get stuck in that belief and may not be as interested in gathering more information," said study senior author Celeste Kidd, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.

Specifically, the study examined what influences people's certainty while learning. It found that study participants' confidence was based on their most recent performance rather than long-term cumulative results. The experiments were conducted at the University of Rochester. For the study, more than 500 adults, recruited online through Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, looked at different combinations of coloured shapes on their computer screens. They were asked to identify which coloured shapes qualified as a "Daxxy," a make-believe object invented by the researchers for the purpose of the experiment.

With no clues about the defining characteristics of a Daxxy, study participants had to guess blindly which items constituted a Daxxy as they viewed 24 different coloured shapes and received feedback on whether they had guessed right or wrong. After each guess, they reported on whether or not they were certain of their answer. The final results showed that participants consistently based their certainty on whether they had correctly identified a Daxxy during the last four or five guesses instead of all the information they had gathered throughout.

"What we found interesting is that they could get the first 19 guesses in a row wrong, but if they got the last five right, they felt very confident," Marti said. "It's not that they weren't paying attention, they were learning what a Daxxy was, but they weren't using most of what they learned to inform their certainty." An ideal learner's certainty would be based on the observations amassed over time as well as the feedback, Marti said.

"If your goal is to arrive at the truth, the strategy of using your most recent feedback, rather than all of the data you've accumulated, is not a great tactic," he said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of California - Berkeley. Originally written by Yasmin Anwar. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Louis Martí, Francis Mollica, Steven Piantadosi, Celeste Kidd. Certainty Is Primarily Determined by Past Performance During Concept LearningOpen Mind, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1162/opmi_a_00017