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May032012

Motivated Reasoning in American Politics | Was Richard Grenell More Republican Misogyny? 

Daily French Roast

Anne is reading …

The Republican Brain

Any book entitled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality is certain to create controversy. The Atlantic publishes an informative and comparatively neutral passage from Chris Mooney’s analysis of how we’re built for bias in public life.

The idea is called ‘motivated reasoning’ — thought and argument that sounds rational and debate-worthy but actually isn’t.

Our human brains are the product of an evolutionary process. The older parts — including the subcortex and the limbic regions — operate in the nether land of survival of the fittest and fight or flight response, riddled with often involuntary, rapid-response reactions.

The more sophisticated prefrontal cortex is able to reason abstractly, learn language and generally drive decision-making with more conscious, goal-directed behavior. Comparatively-speaking, the prefrontal cortex runs slow.

Another potential liability expresses itself also in the way our old brain functions with our new one. The theory of motivated reasoning prompts us to protect our theories with “a diverse battery of cognitive defenses designed to repel attacks” on our positions, writes psychologist Paul Klaczynski of the University of Northern Colorado.

Perhaps motivated reasoning isn’t a liability but an asset. It’s possible that human reason didn’t evolve as the pursuit of the objective truth. The power of persuasion, getting members of your group to behave in a specific way, has historically been key to group survival and the development of civilization. 

Motivated reasoning inevitably leads to bias, as both Republicans and Democrats employ selective reasoning skills to reinforce our key beliefs and keep us on track.

By the same token, the theory also suggests that if you insulate yourself from belief challenge, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the worst flaws of reasoning, without deriving any of the benefits of it.

DFR Boys Club

Richard Grenell: More Republican Misogyny?

The short-lived appointment of openly gay Richard Grenell, who formerly served as an aide to John R. Bolton, United States ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush Administration, focuses on the rejection on his homosexuality and support for same-sex marriage.

Writing about Grenell’s departure before getting started, the NY Times says:

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.” Like many interviewed, this adviser insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Indeed the right responded. “If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead,” Tweeted Bryan Fischer, a Romney critic with the American Family Association.

Ironically, Grenell himself had a history on Twitter. Before dwelling on his “women issues”, it’s a fact that the Romney appointee swiped at Newt Gingrich, saying “I wonder if newt has investments in Lipitor.” Suddenly gone were 800 other Tweets, mostly targeted at women.

Examples of Grenell’s now deleted Tweets include:

Obama: No Condom Left Behind

rachel maddow needs to take a breath and put on a necklace

Hillary is starting to look liek Madeline Albright

note to children: when your mom is a grandmother DO NOT let her wear backless dresses

#FreeContraception is really Obama’s population control strategy

More Boys Club

Dolan Admits Catholics Don’s Agree With Church’s Birth Control Prohibition Think Progress

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