In ordinary conversations, we question and evaluate the things we’re told. When it comes to the latest science headlines, people don’t behave the same way.
A few days ago, a friend shared a news report declaring that drinking is healthy for most people. She was a person I’d normally describe as inquisitive, one who carefully scrutinizes political arguments, and whose work calls for careful inquiry into customer needs and wants. But she didn’t express any doubts about the claim in the headline.
Now, some would point to this as an example of confirmation bias. That is, the reader already believes that drinking alcohol is healthy, or wants to believe so, and therefore accepts the claim at face value. But there’s more to it than that.
I have recently heard some arguments that we only believe science because it says things we like. That idea seems bizarre to me. Nobody likes to think that delicious foods might be unhealthy, or that things we enjoy might threaten our environment, yet millions of people accept scientific conclusions that these things are true.
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