|INCONTINENT CORPORATIVE CORPULANCE|
|Tuesday, 12 June 2012 06:00|
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Though few would admit it, both of our opposing political parties are essentially in agreement about what needs to happen: the deficit needs reducing, alternative energy sources need finding, and the budget needs balancing. If one pays attention to what's really being said on both sides of the line-- amazingly-- it's pretty much the same thing. Republicans and Democrats mostly agree on what needs fixing and the best ways to fix it. Until it's time to vote for new legislation. Then the same people who say they want to cut government spending OPPOSE specific cuts, everyone declares they want to reduce the size of government but refuses to accept cuts in social services, the military, or anywhere in, you know, "the whole budget." Everybody demands cuts-- but nobody will take the necessary action to actually make it happen, because no one dares give an inch to the opposing party-- not even if it means bringing the whole shebang to an ugly, grinding halt. Why does this happen?
Blame it on The Law of Group Polaration. That's a psychological tendency of people to gain enhanced certainty that their beliefs must be correct based on how many other people tell them they are right, until it becomes a circuitous train of thought. This can happen even if the original "belief" is completely incorrect.
When any group provides internal supports for a shared belief, the whole group tends to grow more extreme about that view. The longer they consider evidence on the issue, the more extreme they will become. It's a form of Confirmation Bias: the tendency of people to search for and purposely interpret evidence selectively, just to reinforce what they already believe. This situation can be extremely ironic when people with opposing beliefs encounter ambiguous evidence and each side interprets it-- the same evidence--as proof of their OWN correctness, in defiance of logic.
This often happens with controversial beliefs and political "hot button" issues. Not all such issues produce polarization, but when polarization is present, merely thinking about the issue-- even without contemplating any new evidence-- can deepen the polarized belief and make it more extreme. The effect is enhanced when people meet in close contact groups, where they repeat and validate each other's statements of the belief over and over. This phenomenon helps explain political polarization, extremism, and radicalization, and also gives insight into feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism.
Of course "the media" fuels it all... but do they? Another example of weird partisan mental hopscotch can be seen in The Hostile Media Effect, an odd tendency for people with strong beliefs or bias toward an issue to automatically perceive all media coverage as biased against their opinions, regardless of reality. Strangely enough, when supporters of opposing beliefs or causes are exposed to the same (neutral) media coverage, they will often rate that coverage as biased against their side and biased in favor of the opposing side... no matter what it says.