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New research about self-delusion

Feb 09, 2006 12:56 PM
by kpauljohnson

What this research about political bias demonstrates is that people
actually reward themselves for discounting negative information about
political figures they like:

When presented with negative information about the candidates they
liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen
said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the
brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats --
the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were
activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects
dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug
addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
(end quote)

Surely the same mechanism works to the detriment of intellectual
honesty about religion at least as much as about politics.  Probably
more so because for many their emotional attachment to a positive
view of a religious figure is stronger than their political
attachments.  What this tells me is that true believers aren't just
*indifferent* to the truth; they actually *enjoy* deceiving
themselves.  Presumably there is some evolutionary advantage to 
explaining away unpleasant truths about those we admire.  This might 
justify what HPB said, that we should start from the premise that we 

It would be interesting to see parallel research showing whether 
people get thrills of pleasure from ignoring positive information 
about those they don't admire.  I doubt that the effect would be as 


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