THE BACKFIRE EFFECT
Why didn’t people become more moderate when they were exposed to opposing political views?
Previous research shows that people who are exposed to messages that conflict with their worldview experience cognitive dissonance that can lead to fear or even anger. These emotions typically provoke a process known as “motivated reasoning” where people begin to counter-argue information that conflicts with their worldview, selectively identifying even more reasons to disagree with the message than they might have had if they had not encountered it in the first place.
Recent research indicates this process can even be observed within fMRI scans of the brains of people whose political identities are threatened by unfamiliar messages. Together, the growing body of evidence indicates our identities act as filters that prevent us from listening to the other side.