PJ Noonan wrote:
> The research on belief vs fact that was described in a recent news
> release from University of Buffalo (New York, USA) might be useful,
> though it doesn't deal specifically with EBM -- they used a political
> topic to explore "motivated reasoning" -- but I feel this key statement
> from the news release applies equally well to the application of EBM:
> "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as
> reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for
> information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief,
> people actually seek out information that confirms what they already
> "In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore
> contrary information.
The classic reference in this area is a survey article by Robert MacCoun.
Biases in the interpretation and use of research results. RJ MacCoun.
Annu Rev Psychol 1998: 49; 259-87.
The article is eye-opening and the bibliography is very very good. One
of the articles in the bibliography, for example, described an
experiment where someone with a strongly held belief was shown two
articles, one contradicting their belief and one supporting their
belief. Any rational person would become less certain of their belief if
they were shown evidence that is ambiguous. But the respondents became
stronger in their beliefs afterwards: One article supported what they
knew and the other was probably flawed in some way.
In another example, dealing with issues like nuclear power, people who
read about a "close call" (an accident that almost happened) feel less
secure about the technology if they opposed it (look at what almost
happened) and more secure about the technology if they supported it
(see, the system works).
You can find the full text of this article on the web at
and a pdf at
This article should be required reading for anyone in EBM.
Steve Simon, Standard Disclaimer
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