Category Archive 'Identity-Protective Cognition Syndrome'

08 Apr 2014

Ezra Klein and the Identity-Protective Cognition Syndrome

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Little Ezra Klein published on Sunday, in Vox, a must-read article making the intelligent point that political arguments are commonly not decided on the basis of facts and evidence, and that even intelligent people, when faced with information contrary to their preferred beliefs, tend to use their intellectual skills to manipulate or evade in favor of preserving their positions, rather than revising their own opinions on the basis of better arguments or the facts.

[T]here are some kinds of debates where people don’t want to find the right answer so much as they want to win the argument. Perhaps humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth — purposes like increasing their standing in their community, or ensuring they don’t piss off the leaders of their tribe. If this hypothesis proved true, then a smarter, better-educated citizenry wouldn’t put an end to these disagreements. It would just mean the participants are better equipped to argue for their own side.

Quite amusingly, Ezra then proceeds, quite unconsciously, to demonstrate the truth of all of this in the real world by selecting as examples of “identity-protective cognition” classic current left-right controversies like “climate change.” Ezra then proceeds to treat the left’s side of the argument as factual and decisive, diagnosing people on the other side, like Justice Antonin Scalia, as afflicted with delusional infatuation with identity precluding perception of the force and authority of the other side’s arguments.

Poor Ezra is hilariously oblivious to his own delusion-inducing investment in his identity as an elite member of the enlightened community of fashion, which his own belief system supposes inevitably knows the truth about matters of fact like Anthropogenic Climate Change and every issue of public policy.

Hat tip to Bull Dog.


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