Political Beliefs and Self-Deception
By Arnold Kling
Just about everyone thinks that their political views are better than the views of smarter or better trained others. On economic issues, few voters defer to the opinions of economists. Nor does this appear to be a well-grounded suspicion of experts. Many citizens are deliberately dismissive, stubborn and irrational. At the same time these individuals maintain a passionate self-righteousness. They are keener to talk than to listen, the opposite of what an information-gathering model would suggest. Individuals tend to believe that their private self-interest coincides with the national self-interest. Debates and exchange of information tend to polarize opinion rather than producing convergence.
He argued that these observations can be explained by the hypothesis that we have a strong preference for self-deception, or confirmation bias. We throw out information that disconfirms our beliefs, while keeping information that supports our beliefs.
The paper is from 2003, but I just read it after following a link from Alex Tabarrok. Also, let me put in another plug for Overcoming Bias as the deepest intellectual blog that I have found. And also for Critical Review, which has a current “triple issue” on the implications of the public policy ignorance of both masses and elites. I have just started to work through the book-length issue.