Motivated reasoning

In 1973, Richard Nixon was sitting at 67% approval rating just after his inauguration.

Not much later after the trials of the Pentagon Papers began and after the story of Watergate had broken through, his approval rating plummeted to 25%.

The question is, who was the 25% that was still approving how things were done?

It turns out, not only do we sort people, we sort through ideas and beliefs.

Motivated reasoning is this idea that we “tend to find arguments in favor of conclusions we want to believe to be stronger than arguments for conclusions we do not want to believe.”

In other words, we pick a person or position and then we are likely to stick with it. Any information is then sorted to fit the narrative. Over time, as we sort and sort, we create a louder echo chamber.

During this struggle of Coronavirus, an event that has clearly been fueled by fear and politics, there have been clear lines drawn. Do you stand with Republicans or Democrats? Science or faith? Are you more worried about the economy or epidemiology? Do you trust the government or not?

The problem with this or that is this is no longer dissecting the information to find a conclusion. No, this has turned into why someone has chosen something different from me.

We are not data-driven (even if we think so), we are emotionally charged.

Yet, it’s possible to be following the science and find a way to open things up. It’s possible to practice social distancing and to protect our liberties. It’s possible to suspend normal behavior and collect more data.

There is a third choice in this mess. We can toe the line of this and that.

Once we pick a side, we often give that narrative the benefit of the doubt. You are not choosing between right or wrong here. We are all on the same team regardless of what side of the line you choose to stand.

HT Ezra Klien