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Can You Convince A Birther That He's Wrong?

Okay. So President Obama recently released his long-form birth certificate to quell the Birthers' speculation that he's not a natural-born citizen of the United States. But that's not the topic of this post (indeed, I'm sure you've seen it elsewhere around the Web ad nauseam).

The topic of this post is this: even after the release of the very document they demanded, the most hardcore Birthers are still unconvinced. In fact, proving them wrong only served to strengthen their initial belief (what social psychologists call "cognitive dissonance.")

So, can you make a skeptic believe? Yes, according to Dan Kahan of Yale Cognition Project: all you need is a little justification to save the skeptic's ego.

Gregory Ferenstein of Fast Company explains:

The techniques boil down to allowing partisans to maintain their political philosophy in the midst of accepting new facts. For instance, for "small government" conservatives, or what the YCC calls "individualists," it's strategically important to highlight the power of competition and the ineptitude of government. Namely, "Obama's rightful fear of losing in the 2012 election forced him to come clean with his birth certificate, though this is just another illustration that government can't do things in the timely manner."

Regardless of your political beliefs, it's a fascinating read. And please mention bananas in the comment: Link


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@Persephone #37

The same can be said for the number of closed-minded left-wing nut-jobs on this site. The fact remain, back during his campaign, he lied and lied and lied. Count the number of things that he promised the Democrats and count the number of things the Republicans told you he would do. Seems the Republicans knew this guy was nothing but a huge liar from the get go.
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It is extremely difficult to change belief in a conspiracy theory as any evidence to the contrary is only interpreted to be part of the conspiracy. This is confirmation bias at its most extreme - evidence to support the conspiracy is acknowledged while evidence to the contrary is dismissed as part of the conspiracy or ignored entirely.
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I agree with others above who have stated that a belief in conspiracy theories is quite the opposite of skepticism. To be skeptical is to aknowledge all the evidence before coming to a conclusion. A central characteristic of skepticism is the ability to change your mind if new evidence is presented that is in contrary to your beliefs, which these apologists are clearly not capable of doing.

I also agree with Ryan S who correctly pointed out that this is not an example of cognitive dissonance (a term which is frequently misused on this site). Confirmation bias is a more appropriate cognitive bias to explain such behaviour.
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