Denying problems when we don’t like the political solutions A new study from Duke University finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don’t, then they tend to deny the problem even exists.

“Logically, the proposed solution to a problem, such as an increase in government regulation or an extension of the free market, should not influence one’s belief in the problem. However, we find it does,” said co-author Troy Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “The cure can be more immediately threatening than the problem.”

The study, “Solution Aversion: On the Relation Between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief,” appears in the November issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers conducted three experiments (with samples ranging from 120 to 188 participants) on three different issues—climate change, air pollution that harms lungs, and crime.

“The goal was to test, in a scientifically controlled manner, the question: Does the desirability of a solution affect beliefs in the existence of the associated problem? In other words, does what we call ‘solution aversion’ exist?” Campbell said.

“We found the answer is yes. And we found it occurs in response to some of the most common solutions for popularly discussed problems.”

For climate change, the researchers conducted an experiment to examine why more Republicans than Democrats seem to deny its existence, despite strong scientific evidence that supports it.

One explanation, they found, may have more to do with conservatives’ general opposition to the most popular solution—increasing government regulation—than with any difference in fear of the climate change problem itself, as some have proposed. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Denying problems when we don’t like the political solutions

  1. pabelmont

    Someone I know once said, minimizing the Palestine/Israel problems, that “if there is no solution, then there is no problem”. Your article suggests that he was not alone in such avoidance-thinking. Of course, for him and as to I/P, the sky was not falling. For us all, as to climate change, the sky is falling, falling on the rich and the poor alike (but harder, as always, on the poor).

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