Why Is It So Hard To Admit When You’re Wrong?

People who make a felony. intentional murder—and only those people—should be executed. This is a position I have held almost all my adult lives.

It has been a long debate on the death penalty. It has been my profession over the years reading the various contradicting research on the effectiveness of the penalty. It didn’t matter if executions of murderers have a deterrent effect. Capital punishment is what I support because I believe in justice.

Since my teens, I’ve been a peaceful man by nature. I have never slapped anyone with anger. My conception of justice is based on what I would do to someone who willfully murdered my spouse, a family member or close friend. This is called barbarous atonement. The main purpose of state-sanctioned execution was to keep social peace and avoid blood feuds.

My support for death penalty for murderers was not unique. Gallup indicates that an average of 66% of Americans, and a majority in both of these parties, supported death sentences for those convicted of murder during the first ten decades of this century. However, this number has fallen to 55% by 2020. Gallup documented a growing gap between Republicans and Democrats on this issue over the last two decades. A solid 80 percent of Republicans support the death penalty, while Democratic support is down to below 40 percent.

However, the recent change in the numbers has not led to any partisan strife over the death penalty. This is in contrast to the increasing estrangement on issues like guns, affirmative, climate, or vaccinations. According to research, Americans are more likely to align their views on hot-button topics along party lines.

If you’re a member one of two American major political parties today, it is statistically more likely that you will dislike or distrust the members of the other party. Your dislike for the other party is growing, even though your love for it hasn’t grown over recent years. The news media preferred by one side are not trustworthy.  Your suspicions of its supporters are growing. They seem more alien than you realize. In some ways, you may consider them subhuman.

Also, you’re likely to be It is wrong about the characteristics of members of the other party, about what they actually believe, and even about their views of you. You are still trapped by confirmation bias’ psychological effects and you find yourself in a partisan prison. Confronting facts that are contrary to your beliefs does not alter them. In fact, it can even strengthen them. In a perverse way, partisans who are vilified by the opposing party will behave exactly in the same norm-violating or game-rigging manner as their rivals. This is a vicious circle that’s getting worse and more dangerous.

They also keep people stuck in preexisting worldviews. I am a libertarian and don’t find the traditional left/right splits on many issues of public policy relevant. My unease over the death penalty grew, but I felt an immense reluctance in my own self to publicly alter my opinion and give up on previous commitments. Is it difficult to admit that you are wrong?

The phenomenon above is called “social science” by social scientists. affective polarization. That refers to Democrats and Republicans growing dislike for and distrust of each other in the U.S.

Eli Finkel, a Northwestern University psychologist and his co-workers have attempted to measure this phenomenon since 1978 using a thermometer. They asked Americans to rate their feelings of co-partisanship on a temperature scale from 0 degrees to 100 degrees. The results were consistent between 70 to 75 degrees. Opposition partisan feelings have plunged from 48°C in 1970s to 20°C today. This is an emotional cold snap. “Since 2012—and for the first time on record—out-party hate has been stronger than in-party love,” they write in the October 30, 2020, issue of Science.

Other studies show the consequences of this chill, including those of Nathan Kalmoe from Louisiana State University and Lilliana Mason at the University of Maryland. One of their more striking results is that 60 percent to 70 percent of both parties in a 2017–18 survey said they thought the other party was a “serious threat to the United States and its people”; 40 percent of respondents in both parties thought the other party was “downright evil.” A second poll showed that 15% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats agree with the sentiment that the country will be more successful if the number of opposed partisans living today is small. A total of 18% and 13 percent, respectively, of Republicans and Democrats said violence would not be tolerated if their party was elected president in 2020.

These studies show that something is significantly different in the intensity of partisan sentiment over the past years, and that it isn’t changing.

Americans seem to be more critical of their political adversaries. People may take their cues form political elites to some degree. The rise in partisanship has been evident since the 1970s, according to the rolls of votes cast by Republican and Democratic legislators. The 2018 Congress Electoral Studies article on how party elite polarization affects voters, the Texas Tech political scientist Kevin K. Banda and the University of Massachusetts Lowell political scientist John Cluverius find that “partisans respond to increasing levels of elite polarization by expressing higher levels of affective polarization, i.e. The opposing party is rated less negatively than the one they support.

Steven Webster and Alan Abramowitz from Emory University have observed the mutual dislike between Democratic and Republican party partisans. They believe that increasing ideological distance between Republican Party elites and Democratic Party elites might be contributing towards broader partisan polarization.

Additionally, the correlation between partisan affiliation and other political or social divisions was much lower in past decades. Nicholas Davis, a Louisiana State University political scientist and Mason have examined survey data from YouGov/Polimetrix as well as the American National Election Studies. They have done so between 1948 and 2012. The two researchers report in a working paper that the stronger and more aligned their religious, racial and partisan identities, the closer our political parties are to our ideologies. This increases in ideological consistency is correlated with a rise in intolerance and partisan bias across the electorate.

The growing ideologic divide has led to partisans grossly overestimating the substantive differences among members of both parties.

According to a YouGov 2015 survey, 32 percent of Democrats identified themselves as LGBT. 29 percent were atheists, agnostics and members of unions. In reality, the correct numbers are actually 6, 9, and 11, respectively. They also estimated that 38% of Republicans make more than $250,000 per annum, that 39 percent have reached 65 years old, that 42% are members of unions, and that 21% earn less. However, the truth is that only 2 percent actually earn this much. 21 percent earn as seniors and that 34 percent are Christians.

Democrats and Republicans often underestimate how hateful their enemies are. The humanity score of Republicans was around 85, while that of Democrats was 62. This is a difference of 23 points. The opposite was true for Democrats, who gave only 62 points of their political friends, and 83 to Republicans. This is a 21-point gap. It is even more remarkable that Democrats thought that Republicans would only award them 36 points, which was 26 points lower than the actual number. Republicans however estimated that Democrats would grant them only 28 points, 34 points below the real number.

Samantha Moore-Berg, University of Pennsylvania political scientist and coauthor of a 2020 study that was published in The Guardian: “Democrats and Republicans alike dislike and dehumanize one another.” Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesBut, think about the fact that prejudices and dehumanization are twice as high as those reported by Republicans and Democrats.

One of the more dire consequences of this exaggerated meta-perception—the perception partisans have of the other side’s perception of them—is that it seems to make people more willing to support illiberal and antidemocratic policies, such as curbs on free speech and political participation.

Moore-Berg’s results were basically replicated by Alexander Landry (University of California Santa Barbara) and colleagues in 2021. This study found that “despite the traditionally liberal and egalitarian approach to liberalism, Democrats who are most liberal actually dehumanize Republicans more than any other.” Democrats were also more hostile to outgroups than Republicans.

Milan Svolik, a Yale political scientist, and Matthew Graham were asked by partisans whether they would continue to support the party’s standard-bearers if these policies violated democratic norms. One of the proposed policies was a redistricting program that would allow their own party to gain two more seats in spite of a drop at the polls. Another proposal is to cut the number polling stations located near strong opposition parties. Researchers found that only a very small number of voters will withhold support for politicians who break such norms. They conclude that, in the majority of U.S. House Districts, the majority-party candidate can openly and without any consequences, according to their estimates.

Kalmoe, Mason and 20 percent respectively of Republicans and Democrats agree that it doesn’t matter if the opposing party breaks a few rules, as long as it does so for the benefit of the country.

These views are often incorrect. Could more information about the other party help to solve this problem? Research has consistently shown that political parties tend to believe what they see, regardless of the costs.

A 2012 experiment showed the same protest video to partisan viewers. The video was interpreted by participants as showing liberal-minded protesters. Republicans were more supportive of police intervention than Democrats when the video was shown as a protest by conservatives. Jay J. from New York University observed, “Opposing an Abortion Clinic,” Jay J. In a 2018, Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira, the Leiden University psychologist. Cognitive Science Trends article. “From the same visual information people can see different things, draw different conclusions and come up with different results depending on political affiliation.

However, are they really seeing the same things as partisans? They may be cheerleading for the team, rather than being true to their beliefs. Michael Hannon, University of Nottingham philosopher, has explored this idea in a 2020 paper. Political epistemology. A survey of almost 1,400 Americans was conducted by him in January 2017. The researchers showed photos of half the respondents, with only one label.  and B, of the crowds on the National Mall during Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. They were asked which photo depicted the crowd for each president. Forty-one percent of Trump voters said the photo with the larger crowd depicted the Trump inauguration, which was actually the one from the Obama inauguration. Only 8 percent of Hillary Clinton voters picked the wrong photo. The researchers argue that it is likely that Trump voters picked the photo with the larger crowd as a way to express their partisan loyalties and show their support for him.

More tellingly, the researchers asked the other half of the respondents which photo depicted the larger crowd. One answer was clearly correct. But Trump voters were seven times more likely (15%) than Clinton voters (2%) to claim that Trump’s more populous photo was more popular. Surprisingly, only 26 percent of Trump voters who have a college degree answered the question incorrectly. A Republican who claims that Trump’s Inauguration photo had more people does not disagree with the ones who say otherwise. Hannon argues that they are just cheerleading. People are simply making assertions about facts to show their loyalty to one particular ideology community.

Partisan cheerleading sounds harmless—not much different from fans rooting for a local football team, right? Nope. Hannon says that if disagreements do not stem from genuine arguments or reasons, we can’t engage in a dialogue with one another. Hannon claims that team loyalty is what is important. Hannon also believes “polarization cannot be reduced by rational debate.”

An analysis of 2015 in Quarterly Journal of Political Science sought to distinguish partisan cheerleading from sincere partisan divergence. John Bullock, a Northwestern University political scientist and his associates found that small amounts of money were offered to participants for correct or “don’t understand” answers to politically relevant questions. This reduced the gap between Republicans and Democrats around 80 percent.

Paying partisans for correct answers should not impact their factual responses, “to the extent factual beliefs can be determined by partisanship.” It does, however,” they point out. We find that modest payments significantly reduce differences between Democrats and Republicans. This suggests that Democrats are not held to fundamentally different views about important facts. The researchers recommend that analysts of public opinion consider whether the apparent polarization of American politics may be an effect of poll measurement or evidence of deep-rooted differences in the assessment of facts.

On the other hand is a series of experiments conducted by the Texas A&M political scientist Erik Peterson and the Stanford political scientist Shanto Iyengar. They report on their findings in an article for 2021. American Journal of Political Science they asked Republican and Democratic partisans to evaluate the truth of claims about several hot-button issues, such as “illegal immigrants commit violent crime at a significantly higher rate than legal American citizens” and “40 percent of firearm sales in the U.S. occur without a background check.” In both instances, the right answer was They don’t.) Researchers found that 97% of Democrats had the correct answer to immigrant crimes compared with 45 percent for Republicans. On gun sales however, only 22% of Democrats had the correct answer, while 56% of Republicans did.

Peterson, Iyengar provided access to news sources for respondents so they could confirm their belief. They provided access to sources that could be identified with conservative and liberal partisan loyalties. These sources included so-called mainstream news sources as well as expert sources from peer reviewed journals. 26% to expert sources; 38% to mainstream sources and 7% to outside-party sources. 29 percent of respondents turned to copartisan sources.

Researchers offered another group of respondents an incentive to provide accurate answers and access to various news sources. The researchers found that the original partisan disagreements remained at “roughly 60-70 percent” even with the incentive. This is not only evidence of cheerleading but also indicates that many partisans believe inaccurate and erroneous claims.

Peterson and Iyengar argued that unincentivized political partisans would be more inclined to cheerleading than actual news. Therefore, they suggested that the reliance on unincentivized sources of partisan information should decrease if paid for their accurate responses. However, financial incentives would have no effect on partisans’ preference for biased news if they were confident their responses will be correct. Peterson and Iyengar reported that financial incentives do not have any effect on news selection.

Peterson and Iyengar had nearly 900 respondents to their experimental surveys. They also consented that their daily media intakes would be tracked via an app on their computers. These wild participants also tended to trust news sources that supported their political views.

Political sectarians have plenty of information to choose from. They can find news that supports their ideology and discredits those of their opposition on the internet, which is why there are so many partisan media outlets like Fox News and MSNBC. 2019 will be a year of partisan broadcast media, such as Fox and MSNBC. Psychological Science Perspectives review of 51 studies testing for political bias found that “both liberals and conservatives were biased in favor of information that confirmed their political beliefs, and the two groups were biased to very similar degrees.”

Peterson, Iyengar conclude that “Our surveys indicate that partisans genuinely believe the incorrect beliefs they reported in surveys.” This is confirmation bias at its lowest point.

This may be the only way to escape this impasse.

Hrishikesh Joshuai is a Bowling Green State University philosopher. He did this in 2020 with a paper called “What are the Chances That You’re Right about Everything?” In his 2020 paper, Hrishikesh Joshi lists nine controversial propositions. He states that abortion is illegal; there should be a carbon tax on global warming; gay couples should be permitted to wed; federal minimum wages should rise; gun control should be tightened; it is inappropriate to use racial affirmative actions in college admissions; African Americans have been unfairly targeted; and U.S. business regulations are excessive.

Joshi contends that these propositions are orthogonal—that is, your position on one doesn’t necessarily commit you to any particular position with respect to the others. As a matter of logic, your stance regarding abortion rights shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication about how you view climate change. We all know from experience that asking people their opinions on hot-button issues can help us determine where they stand with Joshi’s other nine. People who support gun control are most likely to be in favor of affirmative actions. They are more likely to believe that business is too regulated if they do not support gun control.

Joshi said that because the sides differ on a number of issues, it means one side gets things right and the other is consistently getting them wrong. Each side’s political adversaries “consistently get the wrong answer in relation to large areas of rationally separate political questions!” Joshi argues that if this were true, then those opposition would not only be unreliable, but also dangerous. anti-reliableThey’d choose the wrong answer for each issue. He asks partisans to identify the psychological differences that exist between conservatives or liberals so they can explain why one side is not reliable with respect to issues of political disagreement.

Joshi explores different ways this might happen. There is a possibility that they could be wrong because they hold a fundamental false belief.

Joshi is an example of a libertarian who believes in the existence of a small-government state-run night-watchman. Proponents of a large social welfare state believe that such a libertarian is unreliable in funding universal healthcare, generous unemployment insurance and subsidised housing for those with low income. But as Joshi points out, these issues are related to the libertarian’s core belief and so are not orthogonal—that is, they are rationally related to one another.

Joshi considers the possibility of other explanations for the antitrustworthiness of partisan opposition. Does one partisan group have a higher average intelligence than the other? It’s not true. Joshi refers to a 2019 study entitled “(IdeoLogical Reasoning): Ideology Impairs sound Reasoning” that showed that both liberals and conservatives had a tendency to disregard the validity of classically-structured logical syllogisms, in order to draw conclusions that were supportive of their political beliefs. (He mentions also that a 2018 study by Danish psychologists found that higher cognitive ability is associated with more social liberalism and less economic conservatism. A combination which may seem familiar to libertarians.

Joshi says that neither conservatives nor liberals have shown greater distrust in scientific knowledge. However, greater science literacy correlates to more extreme beliefs about topics like climate change or stem cell research. Also, higher scientific knowledge could help defend positions that are not motivated by science.

A second possibility is that your political opponents may be consistently wrong because of their obsession with perverse morals. A 2018 study found that the majority of respondents were not aware. Psychology in PoliticsAccording to the study “Deep alignment with Country or Political Party Shrinks The Gap between Conservatives’ and Liberals’ Moral Values”, conservatives and liberals have broadly the same moral foundations.

Fundamentally, conservatives and liberals don’t form their opinions in completely different ways. Joshi asserts that this suggests that political partisans can’t account for the anti-reliable nature of their opponents.

Michael Huemer from the University of Colorado says, “It’s not possible to assume that some people are in general drawn towards falsity.” Even if some people aren’t very adept at finding the truth (stupid, irrational etc.), it is still possible to get there.At worst, their beliefs should not be. Unrelated To the truth, they shouldn’t be systematically directed Go away This is not the truth. While there may be one true cluster of political beliefs, this analysis strongly suggests that it is not the case.

Joshi admits that the arguments about opponents’ anti-reliability do not apply libertarians or Marxists. As it turns out, five of the nine points Joshi emphasizes are my own. He instead applies his analysis to partisans who are able to hold almost all of the views on the right or left spectrum. Joshi says that it is more than disagreement with someone who causes problems for a partisan. It is because political beliefs are dispersed across the country in such an a way that it makes it extremely unlikely that partisans believe all of them are correct. Partisans must be less sure of their beliefs.

Joshi recommends that partisans engage in dialogue with those who have the most persuasive arguments to support their opponent’s convictions. He is emulating John Stuart Mill’s advice. Liberty“He who only knows his side of the story, doesn’t know much about it.” Although his reasons might be valid, no one could refute them. He cannot refute those on the other side, but he doesn’t even know the facts. This is why he can’t choose one.

An intriguing study from 2020 in the Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyAccording to a Duke psychology team, Americans have become more inclined to hate, distrust, or denigrate ideological enemies on current political and social issues. Why? Maybe partisans believe that opponents don’t have strong reasons to support their opinions, which leads them to assume their opponents are intellectually and morally weak. Researchers at Duke wondered what might happen if we gave partisans arguments from their opposition on issues like concealed gun carrying, mandatory body-worn surveillance on police and universal healthcare.

Good news: partisans reported less often that they believed their opponent lacked moral or intellectual character when given reasons in support of their view. Researchers conclude, “Our findings show that reason serves a unique function apart from persuasion or decision change or acquiring information.” Our results suggest that even though the presentation of different reasons may not cause a person to change their position, it might make them less likely view others negatively. This could lead to more people listening to others and being willing to discuss their points. These results might be good for compromise and fruitful deliberation as well as the pursuit of common goals.

All that said, let us now return to the bitter partisan division over the death penalty. I was a capital punishment advocate for many years, including arguments with my colleagues, friends, patients, and strangers that I had met at bars. Although I can’t say that I convinced anyone, it is possible, because I was giving. There are many reasons for my position, at least some of my interlocutors concluded that I was not entirely lacking in intellect and morals.

Many of my adversaries’ desires to abolish capital punishment stemmed from their hatred of state-sponsored executions. These modern-day civilized individuals, they claimed, cannot accept such cruelty. They knew that this was not my view. Then they would point to studies that claimed the death penalty didn’t deter murderers. I, of course, sought to persuade them using the same sort of evidence—that is, contrary research showing that the death penalty did deter would-be murderers.

These arguments and back-and-forth discussions did not deter me for many years from wanting to bring justice to those who have killed people before I thought of it.

My opponents made one objection to the death penalty, and it pierced my heart: The possibility that someone innocent might be wrongfully executed because he/she did not murder. As evidence, they would point to the rising number—the count currently stands at 186—of people exonerated after being confined to death row. It was troubling. I will respond that none of the 1,500 executed people were found guilty after 1976’s Supreme Court reinstated death penalty.

In 2021, DNA testing on the genetic material of Ledell Lee’s murder weapon revealed that it was a later date. This led to the discovery of an unidentified person. Four years ago, Lee was sentenced to death by Arkansas for his crime of murder. Although he may have been guilty of the crime, I believe the evidence to the contrary that Lee was executed by the Arkansas government for his innocence is quite convincing.

I have never stopped wanting retribution. The arguments that I heard from my colleagues, friends, bar patrons and even my wife over the years convinced me that the death sentence cannot be applied justly. It was wrong of me to back it.

Changing my mind on this topic was wrenchingly difficult—and this despite the fact that I was joining my fellow libertarians, who for the most part oppose the death penalty administered by the state, meaning that I had little at stake in terms of my other prior commitments.

Both everyday experience and scientific data confirm the growing affective polarization of partisans in America. This political divide continues to grow and is exacerbated by Americans’ tendency to search for information and arguments to support their beliefs and ignore contradictory evidence.

Joshi refutes the belief that only one wing of the right/left conventional political spectrum can be right on all issues. He advises that partisans should be more skeptical about their opinions and seek out the most compelling arguments from their adversaries. Other recent research shows that even partisans who are presented with arguments in favor of their opponent’s views think better about them. It begs the question: Is it possible that today’s partisans won’t shout past each other long enough to see that their opponents may actually have something to say?

The fact that it took decades for my friends and colleagues to persuade me that I was wrong about the death penalty—even in the absence of strong affective polarization—is not a good omen.