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Does evidence and expert opinion change your view? 
Cass R. Sunstein, S. Bobadilla-Suarez, S. Lazzaro, and Tali Sharot,

“How People Update Beliefs About Climate Change: Good News and Bad News,”


The experiment:

  • Climate Change Believers and Deniers were divided into 2 groups:

    • Group A were told that after recent evidence, scientists and experts have assessed that climate change is much more serious than previously thought​

    • Group B were told the opposite, that recent evidence shows climate change is much less serious than previously thought

  • Did people change their beliefs in light of the new expert assessments? Yes and No.


The results:​

  • People accepted the evidence only if it fits their original worldview

    • Deniers in group A questioned the validity of the new evidence, while Believers became more disheartened and fearful.

    • Deniers in group B felt triumphant that they were right, while Believers questioned the validity of the new evidence.

  • When presented with new information, we tend to quickly accept evidence that confirms our existing notions (prior beliefs) and cast a critical eye on counter-evidence, trying to find faults with it.

  • In fact, presenting people with information that contradicts their opinion can cause them to come up with altogether new counterarguments that further strengthen their original view - this is known as the “boomerang effect.”  Curiously enough, the more intelligent people are (admittedly by traditional measures like IQ tests), the more and capable they are to rationalize and interpret information at will, and to creatively twist data to fit their opinions. Ironically, intelligence is used not to draw more accurate conclusions, but to find fault in data they are unhappy with.

  • Have you ever argued with someone, or seen online debates where the more evidence is produced, the more resistant people are? Sometimes it becomes pretty ridiculous, as Mr Bean will attest. 


That's not Mr Bean!

Video is 1 min 18s long

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