The Backfire Effect

The Oatmeal Cartoon By Matt Ingram On The Backfire Effect 600x1087px Mq.Jpg
An excerpt from Matthew Inman published May 3, 2017 of The Oatmeal on the backfire effect (full cartoon) inspired by author and podcaster David McRaney’s three-part podcast series on The Backfire Effect.

The Backfire Effect

It’s getting harder to find factual information these days. But even when you do get the facts, you’re far from out of the woods. If the new facts challenge your deepest convictions, your brain can double-down on your existing beliefs and reject the facts. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect.

When we come across things on social media and the web these days, we’re all on high alert for propaganda, manipulation, “fake news,” and outright lies. It’s easy to fall into a blanket rejection of alternative viewpoints. And that’s a failure. We owe it to ourselves to deal with reality, even when it’s inconvenient and makes us uncomfortable.

If you’re interested in learning more about the backfire effect, listen to the podcast series linked below from David McRaney, of the You Are Not So Smart podcast.

Here’s more on the backfire effect from David McRaney.

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

Matthew Inman recently published one of his trademark Oatmeal cartoons on the backfire effect. As I was laughing my way through Matthew’s cartoon I was thinking about the aforementioned You Are Not So Smart (YANSS) blog, book, and podcast series, from David McRaney. McRaney’s work is where I first learned about the backfire effect. After finishing the cartoon, I noticed that Matt credited David’s work as inspiration for his cartoon.

Matthew’s cartoon on the backfire effect is up to his normal high standards and well worth the three minutes it will take you to scroll through it while you lie to yourself about when you’re going to finish your next project.

McRaney’s reporting on the backfire effect (along with his other work on bias and fallacies) is approachable and provides insight into the latest understanding and research on psychology and neuroscience. His journalistic roots ensure that his citations and the experts he interviews are first-class.

McRaney recorded a three-part series on The Backfire Effect that built on his excellent article on the topic. The podcast series is a great listen.

  1. Podcast 093 – The Backfire Effect – Part One
  2. Podcast 094 – The Backfire Effect – Part Two
  3. Podcast 095 – The Backfire Effect – Part Three

If you want to get right to the point about how you can best compensate for the backfire effect listen to his third episode, How to fight back against the backfire effect.

And good luck, we’re all going to need luck, more fact checking, and a healthy dose of self-awareness if we’re going to make it through the next few years.

~ julian

Skilled Optimism

What is the central skill of optimism? It may not be what you think.

Does positive self talk make you want to puke?

Yeah, me too. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying to summon my inner Stuart Smalley on many occasions. Each one has left me feeling ill.

But there’s good news here for you regardless of whether you’re a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person.

Dr. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association and author of Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism writes that positive thinking and self talk is best used to quiet your inner critic.

“We have found over the years that positive statements you make to yourself have little if any effect. What is crucial is what you think when you fail, using the power of non-negative thinking. Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.”

A few months back I did a mental inventory on my own thinking and practices and found that my negative self talk had seized the bully pulpit! Since they I’ve enjoyed greater peace of mind by quieting my inner critic and stopping what Seligman refers to as catastropic thinking. I’ve also been able to acknowledge in my own way the things I’ve done right. What’s amazed me the most about the difference this has made is the striking speed of change that these internal shifts are having.

What say you? Are you optimistic by nature or have you found certain ways to embrace optimism?

Seek. Practice. Integrate. Share.

Excuse me, while I interrupt myself

Shannon and I have written some posts about interruption science, a fascinating new field of study where the work we perform on computers, and specifically how we react when we’re interrupted while using a computer is analyzed in an effort to better understand how to become more productive. IM’s, e-mails, phone calls, people showing up in your office, and kids trying to get your attention, the dog whining at the door are all examples of interruptions that can get you off track from the task at hand.

Key in the articles we’ve read is the element of interruptions that we inflict on ourselves, and the ones we go seeking. Experts point out that there are more and more interruption junkies emerging in our information society and that a certain amount of that is natural and healthy. One of the joys of smoking is the smoking break – a structured mind break that helps clear the mind and separate one mental stream from the next. When I still smoked cigars I found that taking my smoke break allowed me to put things in perspective and better see the big picture. The key of studying all this I guess is to sort out what we think of as useful interruptions and avoidable and unproductive interruptions.

Why am I writing this? Mostly because I’m trying to pay attention to my own work style. In a typical day I find myself jumping around between watching the kids, writing stories for our blogs, researching, making lists of things I need to do, running errands, exercising, eating, thinking about myriad topics, and interacting with my family and friends. But what about when I’m just working alone (not that this happens very often). I find that when I’m just working alone with NO ONE to interrupt me, that I move pretty quickly between vastly different subjects and activities on my computer. The good side is that I gain a sense of perspective and possibility. On the other hand I don’t complete tasks very efficiently because I’m just taking in bits of data and letting that lead me to the next think that I read, write or act on. I started out working on my computer at 6AM this morning and it’s now 8:20AM. Over two hours of largely uninterrupted quality time with myself. What have I accomplished? I’ve begun writing a hypothetical forward thinking article for EXCELER8ion. I have no idea how long it will take to finish but it has the potential to be good. I have researched a lot of information because of that article such as The Semantic Web, also known as web 3.0. Just now, I remembered that I had to find a way to tape record my phone interview for by blog about hurricane protection. I also had that thought 10 minutes ago because Shannon called me to let me know that she arrived safely in Tampa. She was thinking about how I could work around watching the kids and interviewing an engineer tomorrow morning for a hurricane post I’m writing. This reminded me that I have a task on my to-do list to find the method or tool I’ll use tomorrow to record that interview. During our call this caused me to open up a browser tab and type in a key word search about recording phone calls but I just left the browser tab open as a reminder. This caused me to want to document a story about interruption science on my personal blog When Shannon’s call came in, the source of my original interruption, I was writing that EXCELER8ion article on the future of web recruiting. Now John just woke up. He’s eating last night’s popcorn at 8:26AM because if I argue with him about eating a proper breakfast at this very moment I won’t get this post done and I’ll be further behind on all the ‘stuff’ that I need to do today.

I want to find the best way to work efficiently because like everyone else in this information society I have just so much time in each day. I need to be able to research and write way more content than I currently produce in a shorter period of time and it can’t just be junk. I can’t loose quality. I need to improve how I care for the kids at the same time. I need to keep this house in order because it comes apart at the seems in less than one hour.  I really need to improve my writing quality while also dramatically reducing the time it takes to produce stories. I have eight blogs to produce content for and if I use a best practice of publishing 2-3 posts a day on each blog that’s 24-36 posts a day. I’m currently able to produce 1-2 on average. That’s a big delta. That means I’m going to keep studying how to be more efficient and how to ACT more productively. Wish me luck. It’s a laugher eh?

Go with the flow

I was doing some business blogging research for a project I’m doing right now and bumped into something unexpectedly that was quite interesting. It’s called flow. Apparently this goes back about a decade and seems right up my alley and I have no idea how I missed it. Apparently I was under a rock that year.

Here’s a couple of good articles to give you the idea:

Fast Company Article: The art of work

A post on Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders productivity/life hacks site