C&B Notes

The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence

We came across this academic paper from the late ‘70’s from a recent post on FarnamStreet.com.  To summarize the paper’s findings, Farnam used a Sir Francis Bacon quote that we have long appreciated:

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.”

It is worth highlighting the final sentence from the paper’s abstract, which has interesting meaning for the current stateside political climate:

“The net effect of such evaluations and opinion shifts was the postulated increase in attitude polarization.”