Episode 47: The Backfire Effect

16 Oct

Did you guys hear the latest Nontheology episode? No, and furthermore you’d really rather not? Well, too bad, you’re about to.


Listeners can now contact us and leave a voicemail! Feel free to call in at (260) 245-3846. That’s 260-24-KEVIN!

Erik’s fun pamphlet (7:10)

  • Q1: Will suffering end?
  • A1: Listen guys, God is super busy and won’t be able to get back to you in a timely manner.
  • Q2: Can we trust the bible?
  • A2: Duh, the Bible says so.

The backfire effect (15:00)

  • A great summary from a great blog, “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”
  • The backfire effect hasn’t been studied for a terribly long time, but there are definitely some good papers floating around the internet, a few of which we discuss.
  • When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions (2010) by Brendan Nyhan and Dr. Jason Reifler

“In each of the four experiments, which were conducted in fall 2005 and spring 2006, ideological subgroups failed to update their beliefs when presented with corrective information that runs counter to their predispositions. Indeed, in several cases, we find that corrections actually strengthened misperceptions among the most strongly committed subjects.”

“The American public remains largely divided about how to approach climate change despite widespread scientific consensus that global climate change is largely caused by anthropogenic sources and has the potential to create substantial ecological, social, and economic harm worldwide.”

  • The Millerites and the Great Disappointment
  • What can trigger the backfire effect
  • The implications of the backfire effect
  • Science ftw!
  • The difference between confirmation bias and the backfire effect
  • Chasing Ice is Erik’s favorite documentary. Check out the trailer!

Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Cognitive Bias, New Episode, Wait What?


Tags: , , ,

8 responses to “Episode 47: The Backfire Effect

  1. Mr. Pink

    October 16, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Cow tipping is a myth. Now are you having the backfire effect? Tell us all about it.

  2. Rick K.

    October 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    The folks at “The Reality Check” covered the topic of cow-tipping recently:

    • nontheology

      October 19, 2014 at 3:16 am

      Yeah, that’s interesting. But after listening to someone explain that it is a myth, I believe it’s real even more strongly than I did before. In fact, now I’m pretty sure I’ve done it.

    • nontheology

      October 19, 2014 at 3:17 am

      Oh no, wait, that was Erik I tipped over. But he couldn’t get up because of years of his all-Wendy’s diet, rather than generations of selective breeding.

  3. Ed

    October 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I get so fucking sick of self declared “skeptics” always bashing vegans and vegetarians just because they have different dietary practices (GASP: some of them have reached that diet as the result of critical thinking!). As soon as someone mentions they are a vegan all of a sudden every fucking person becomes an expert on how much protein and vitamins a human diet should have. You have no clue what you are talking about. Just look up Billy Simmonds. There are some vegans who have any number of dietary deficiencies, but to paint the entire group with a broad brush is ignorant and immature.

    My skepticism has lead me to be both an atheist and a vegan. You can’t call yourself a skeptic if you kill animals for no reason other than hunger or convenience (which if you think about it is the only reason we even eat meat). There is no reason to torture innocent animals literally to death just to satisfy your appetite.

    • nontheology

      October 23, 2014 at 1:22 am

      If you listen again, I actually said that vegans don’t have protein or vitamin deficiencies, I was just trying to list hypothetical examples. We didn’t bash or insult them at all, so I’m not sure where this is coming from.

      I brought up vegans because, in my experience, vegans see that as being a strong part of their identity. Anything that is a strong part of ones identity will be hard to question, whether its religious, dietary, political, gender, whatever…

      I’m actually fairly on board with people’s diets being informed by concerns about animal suffering, so we might be on the same page there, but honestly I think the link you are drawing between skepticism and veganism is utterly bizarre. Even if a properly applied skepticism necessarily leads one to veganism (which I don’t for a second think it does–we’ll talk about that on the next episode), it doesn’t follow that not being a vegan means you’re not a skeptic. It would just mean that your skepticism isn’t being properly applied to your diet. Someone might still be a great skeptic in regards to religion, politics, and anything else someone can be skeptical about.

  4. Ed

    November 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I couldn’t have crafted a dumber response if I had tried. Your attitude smacks of not understanding the actual issues and not carrying enough to learn. It’s not hard guys, the internet is there, use it. I am unsubscribing from iTunes. No need to put up with this and go on supporting you baffoons.

    • nontheology

      December 4, 2014 at 4:10 am

      So if you’re still listening or end up reading this, we talk a bit about your comments in episode 49. We address the link you draw between veganism and skepticism, and I very briefly about my thoughts about veganism. Give it a listen when it’s released!


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