Partisan Politics: Dems and Reps Both Say It's OK For Their Politicians to Lie to Get Elected

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What I feel like watching campaign ads

That's what Duke University psychologist Dan Ariely said this morning on NPR's Morning Edition about a survey he recently conducted:

Dan Ariely: We recently did a study on this. We just asked a few hundred people online to what extent they think that their candidates could be dishonest if it promoted their political agenda.

Ari Shapiro: He found that people were totally comfortable with politicians of their own party being dishonest to get elected.

Dan Ariely: By the way, for Democrats this was a slightly more endorsed position than for Republicans. The Democrats were more willing for their politicians to lie to a higher degree than Republicans.

The NPR segment goes on to talk about the pervasiveness of confirmation bias. Ariely's survey backs recent research that argues that human brains are not designed to find out facts, but to persuade people to do what we want them to do. As the New York Times reported:

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we'll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists, some of whom say it offers profound insight into the way people think and behave. The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its April issue to debates over the theory, with participants challenging everything from the definition of reason to the origins of verbal communication.

"Reasoning doesn't have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions," said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. "It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us." Truth and accuracy were beside the point.

I live in a "swing state" so we've been inundated with plain dishonest campaign ads by both Obama and Romney. So far no heavy objects have yet been hurled at the screen, but….

I have been fascinated with research on confirmation bias for a long time. For more background see my columns, Everyone Who Knows What They Are Talking About Agrees With Me, Climate Change and Confirmation Bias, and More Information Confirms What You Already Know.

NEXT: Progressives Try to Purge Libertarians from Occupy New Hampshire

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  1. I’ll contribute the token Rand comment for the thread and say that it’s pretty obvious we’re talking about two different adaptations:

    One group of human beings evolved to be able to use reason to figure out that if you plant seeds in the spring you can harvest in the fall.

    A different, and unfortunately probably larger, group of humans evolved the ability to use reason to be parasites who figure out how to sponge off the first group.

    Mr. Mercier unfortunately is completely unable to even see the first group. To him, the second group is the whole of the world.

    1. Or we could discard Rand’s egoist Nietzsche-lite bullshit and acknowledge that all humans have the capacity and potential motivation to be in either group.

      1. I think I’ve seen living proof that that’s patently untrue. I might be seeing it right now.

        1. Dude, ignore the sockpuppet. Just walk away. It’s entire purpose it to get you to respond to it. Don’t be its porn.

          1. quit lying mary

        2. I have personally known several individuals that even though they may have the capacity to be in the productive group vs. the parasite group, they certainly do not have the will, so even if they have the capacity, it is a moot point. Once they have figured out they can just mooch off the rest of us, it is game over.

          This pretty much sums it up:

          “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
          ? Alexis de Tocqueville

          We are totally screwed.

          1. Once they have figured out they can just mooch off the rest of us, it is game over.

            Which, if you think about it, is the more rational course of action for a large number of people.

            Should I bust my ass for a lower middle class lifestyle … or should I sit on my ass and take gubmints money

            1. Should I bust my ass for a lower middle class lifestyle … or should I sit on my ass and take gubmints money

              I have this feeling, we are going to be seeing a whole lot more of that in the near future…

              1. I have this feeling, we are going to be seeing a whole lot more of that in the near future…

                My version: I decided three years ago to emulate Atlas Shrugged writ small. I may never have been a giant of industry, but I quit. I have arranged my life to need as little income as possible.

      2. “…that all humans have the capacity and potential motivation to be in either group.”

        That’s what Rand would say. Tony defending Ayn Rand. I’d never thought I’d see the day.

        1. The motivation part is the issue. Probably 50+% of those on welfare and food stamps could get off if they just had the motivation to get off their ass and do it. But that is why they are there in the first place, they don’t have the motivation and they are not motivated to get it.

          And the government is doing all they can to keep it that way, can’t have those dem voters looking at a paycheck and figuring out they are getting taxed to death to pay for those who remained unmotivated.

      3. Choney, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who think there are two kinds of people in this world, and those who don’t.

        And a person can’t be both – it’s one or the other.

        Thus endeth the lesson.

        1. People can change. And people can be rational in some respects and irrational in others.

          1. Ah – I see you have a broken sarc detector. Good to know.

            1. Fluffy’s comment broke it.

        2. There are 1.9999…. kinds of people in this world, those that understand limits and those that don’t.

      4. “…that all humans have the capacity and potential motivation to be in either group.”

        This is fair.

        But it would still be two different adaptations.

        BTW, only a complete ignoramus would see any similarity whatsoever between Rand and Nietzsche. As soon as you link them, it becomes patently clear that you don’t know the first thing about either of them.

        1. Ever read the original We the Living? Rand (rightly) rejected nearly all of Nietzsche’s ethics, but to say she wasn’t influenced by him is disingenuous.

          1. Tony and other dipshits use Nietzsche as shorthand for aggressive social Darwinism. They know nothing and yet insist on proving it over and over again.

            1. Not understanding Nietzsche is the classic hallmark of the idiot.

              1. Idiots don’t read Nietzsche.

            2. Nobody understands Nietzsche, which is to say there is not a coherent philosophy to be found in Nietzsche. Not that it isn’t worth one’s time to read him.

              1. BTW, I totally understand Nietzsche.

                I am probably the only one.

                But that’s just because I’m so damn good.

        2. You’re right, Rand didn’t understand Nietzsche at all.

          The point is hers is a prescientific argument, and the notion that there are producers vs. looters, separating humans into all-good vs. all-evil, is garden variety fascism and the objective of all propaganda. Any human being, no matter how dourly moral, becomes something quite different from the civilized world-creating master genius–if he’s starving.

          1. It’s true that morals suffer when you’re starving, but I challenge you to name one person in this country who is starving. Just one. Or name one who has died in living memory from starvation (not brought on by imprisonment or child abuse). You can’t because they don’t exist. There hasn’t been a truly desperate person in the US in decades.

            So, we have created a society where each person’s core morals are on display, unencumbered by desperation.

            1. “the objective of *all* propaganda”

              Of course, you really didn’t mean that, did you? You leave out Team Blue propaganda, right?

            2. There is widespread nutritional deficiency in this country, but if there is universal access to food it’s due in large part to government subsidies for such. But that’s beside the point, which is that Ayn Rand’s moral universe is in fact morally bankrupt. There were certainly plenty of starving people in her fictional US. And she seemed to think the vast majority deserved it.

              1. government agricultural policy has sought to increase the scarcity of food.
                Programs actually pay farmers to not grow wheat. Marketing orders limit the production of foods such as oranges and peanuts (how Jimmy Carter got rich). Sugar protection makes sugar in the U.S. six times the world price. Farmers are getting subsidized profits to grow corn for ethanol. Dairy programs prop up the price of dairy while tax dollars are spent storing government cheese in ware houses.

                It goes on and on.

                Yeah, it makes sense that government has to give money to the poor to buy food at inflated prices.

              2. I’m sure many of them deserved a cleaner, quicker death.

              3. That food on your plate? You didn’t put that there. Someone else made that happen.

                I’m Barack Obama and I approve this ad.

              4. I’ve never been a fan of Rand, so it’s a moot point as far as I’m concerned.

                Why you keep bringing up morality when discussing politics, though, is most intriguing.

              5. “There is widespread nutritional deficiency in this country despite all the money spent on welfare

                FIFY’d. No charge, as usual. I do it as a free public service. Voluntarily.

          2. No, dude.

            YOU don’t understand Nietzsche at all.

            You can say that there’s no identifiable or coherent philosophy to identify in Nietzsche, but we DEFINITELY can identify what Nietzsche is NOT.

            And if Rand’s philosophy can be summarized as:

            1. The world perceived by our senses is the only reality;

            2. Our reason is competent to identify the reality described in 1;

            3. Moral facts are included in the set of things reason is competent to identify in #2, above;

            – it is safe that say that Nietzsche explicitly denied all 3 of these. It would be difficult to find two philosophers who are more fundamentally and diametrically opposed.

            separating humans into all-good vs. all-evil

            Actually, she did this in her creative work, for certain precise aesthetic reasons she made explicit in The Romantic Manifesto, but she did not do this “in real life”.

            In fact, one of the chief reasons Objectivism fell apart as a movement was the way in which self-identified Objectivists were encouraged to scrutinize their own lives for ever-smaller trace elements of “wrong” thinking. Like many totalizing ideologies, Objectivism tends to toxicity when its adherents aggressively turn its system of value judgments inward.

          3. Tony, I can see why anyone with a fair acquaintance with Ayn Rand’s work would conclude that you haven’t grasped its essentials, because it’s obvious to me that you haven’t.

          4. Any human being, no matter how dourly moral, becomes something quite different from the civilized world-creating master genius–if he’s starving.

            My experience is the reverse. Truly moral, creative, productive people are the ones who find a way through hard times. Immoral people get crushed into revealing the bug-like parodies they truly are.

      5. The problem with that line of reasoning is that the development of the skills needed to succeed as part of the second group undermines the ability to function as part of the first. Spending time trying focusing one’s thoughts on playing to others’ perceptions inevitably causes those perceptions to be the sum of one’s reality.

      6. Or we could discard Rand’s egoist Nietzsche-lite bullshit and acknowledge that all humans have the capacity and potential motivation to be in either group.

        Yes, reason is a useful tool when dealing with

        1. non human forces and conditions. While rationalizing is the useful tool for dealing with other humans.

    2. Uh, I think Mr. Mercier is just reporting that a large portion of humans can’t even see the first group. By my reading he seems pretty objective, he’s just saying what we do.

      He seems like a fairly righteous dude, for a Frenchman.

      1. My reading is that he straightforwardly is saying that ‘reason’ only exists so we can attempt to deceive one another, and that its function as a tool of cognition and practical analysis either doesn’t exist or is a mere side effect.

        1. If reason is going to make you a good bullshitter then it is reasonable to expect it would also make you a good bullshit detector.

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  2. People expect, based on a considerable body of supporting evidence, politicians to lie. Since there seems to be no way of changing this, we have adapted, and now just assume that when their mouths are open, they are lying.

    1. the will rodgers school of thought – politics is the last refuge of scoundrals.

  3. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet.

  4. The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists…

    Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

  5. This article simply confirms what I’ve know to be true for a long time.

      1. Well your negation of Almanian’s confirmation confirms what I’ve known to be true for a long time.

  6. It’s a natural result of being social animals. The tribe takes precedence. This is why proclaiming the primacy of the individual is a true revolution. It goes against our nature and requires truly rational thought to justify and express.

  7. From the Reason archives:

    UC Irvine neuroscientist James Fallon had already been studying the brains of psychopathic killers for years when his mother told him that he comes from a long line of murderers

    Killer Neuroscientists:

    Amy Bishop and James Holmes are just the tip of the iceberg. What are we going to do about the menace of neuroscience?

    1. What are we going to do about the menace of neuroscience?

      Ban it! Of course. We have to ban something, and damnit, we are running out of things to ban!

      1. I’d settle for defunding but burning at the stake is always an option.

  8. While this is interesting, it seems to completely ignore all the extreme benefits that come from rationality. Sure, within a social group, rationality may only be mostly useful as a tool to affect others’ behavior, but in general rationality is extremely useful for success in life when it comes to decision-making.

    1. I’m a rational man, and yet I am overcome with irrational lust for your fat momma. How do you explain that, Immanuel Cunt?

      1. You’re a towel!

  9. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

    1. but what happens at midnite in the garden of good n evil?

    2. Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

  10. [F]or Democrats this was a slightly more endorsed position than for Republicans. The Democrats were more willing for their politicians to lie to a higher degree than Republicans.

    Hey, it’s for the greater good and all. Ends justify the means, haven’t you heard?

  11. Whew, thank god for this article. I knew I was right all along.

    1. you lie!11!!11

  12. Dems and Reps Both Say It’s OK For Their Politicians to Lie to Get Elected.

    When a majority of voters think of elections the same way they think of sporting events, our team vs. their team, this makes perfect sense.

  13. Amazing how the Sheeple fall for the lies year after year lol.

    http://www.Anon-Tips.tk

  14. Confirmation bias? Pshaw! I knew this all along, I’m just glad researchers are finally agreeing that I was right.

  15. Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena.

    Jesus, aristotle, et al really wasted their fucking time 3000yrs ago. Sophists win! Dr. French Social Scientist says so.

    Having a classical education is a real drag sometimes.

  16. Reason developed because it increased reproductive fitness. The trait helped our smarter ancestors breed with more nublie women. This could be achieved in two ways: Reason enabled some to amass wealth/resources that could be exchanged for sex. Reason enabled some men to seduce/con women into giving it up for free. I would not be surprised to learn that many people have a strong inclination toward one path or the other. But I know some of us utilize both.

    1. So how did women develop reason then?

      Oh, wait.

      1. Tulpa has achieved enlightenment.

  17. Bush lied, people died! Isn’t that the mantra?

  18. He found that people were totally comfortable with politicians of their own party being dishonest to get elected.

    Yay democracy! Isn’t democracy the most totally awesome thing ever? In fact, we need more democracy so we can have more political tribalism! Let the kids vote! Let the dogs vote! Let the dead vote! Hell, vote twice!

    No matter what OUR TEAM must prevail!

  19. Those lies I told to get elected? I didn’t tell them. Someone else made that happen.

  20. I propose that any politician – in office, or aspiring to be – go immediately to prison if they lie to the public.

    That includes campaign ads.

    Nope… no trial. Straight to the hoosegow. Because trials are for people, and politicians are merely carbon-based simulations of humans.

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