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Social Psych in the Philosophy Classroom

Daily Nous

Normally, self-affirmation is reserved for instances in which identity is threatened in direct ways: race, gender, age, weight, and the like. Here, Nyhan decided to apply it in an unrelated context: Could recalling a time when you felt good about yourself make you more broad-minded about highly politicized issues, like the Iraq surge or global warming? As it turns out, it would. On all issues, attitudes became more accurate with self-affirmation, and remained just as inaccurate without. That effect held even when no additional information was presented—that is, when people were simply asked the same questions twice, before and after the self-affirmation.

The question of why people persistently hold onto false beliefs has long been of interest to philosophers, and has received increased attention in the social sciences. An article in the New Yorker summarizes some recent experimental work on correcting false beliefs. As it turns out, providing correct information to…

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