A Ignorância dos Eleitores

Jonah Lehrer publicou um interessante texto no seu blog The Frontal Cortex, sobre a ignorância dos eleitores, ou, mais correctamente, sobre a tendência que os seres humanos têm em filtrar a informação a que têm acesso sobre determinado tema de forma a que apenas os dados que confirmam as suas posições iniciais sejam assimilados, enquanto que as informações contrárias – que causariam estados de dissonância cognitiva – acabem por ser ignoradas ou relativizadas. Uma leitura obrigatória, sobretudo para quem quer compreender o actual clima político português:

[T]he difference between rational voters (what we think we are) and rationalizing voters (what we really are). It turns out that the human mind is a marvelous information filter, adept at blocking out those facts that contradict what we’d like to believe. (…) We silence the cognitive dissonance through self-imposed ignorance.

Unfortunately, the same process also applies to our political beliefs. It doesn’t matter if we’re holding forth on birth certificates or tax policy – we can’t help but discount and disregard facts that contradict what we’d like to believe. The Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels analyzed survey data from the 1990’s to prove this point. During the first term of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the budget deficit declined by more than 90 percent. However, when Republican voters were asked in 1996 what happened to the deficit under Clinton, more than 55 percent said that it had increased. What’s interesting about this data is that so-called “high-information” voters – these are the Republicans who read the newspaper, watch cable news and can probably identify their representatives in Congress – weren’t better informed than “low-information” voters. According to Bartels, the reason knowing more about politics doesn’t erase partisan bias is that voters tend to only assimilate those facts that confirm what they already believe. If a piece of information doesn’t follow Republican talking points – and Clinton’s deficit reduction didn’t fit the “tax and spend liberal” stereotype – then the information is conveniently ignored. “Voters think that they’re thinking,” Bartels writes, “but what they’re really doing is inventing facts or ignoring facts so that they can rationalize decisions they’ve already made.”

Link para o artigo: The Frontal Cortex – The Ignorance of Voters

Imagem: voting instructions, by Muffet

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