The
Backfire
Effect

Helen Durrant

@Goodforenergy

1: What?

2: How?

3: WHY?!

4: ANTIDOTES

1: what (is it)?

Vaccines cause autism.

There is no link between vaccines and autism.

Vaccines DEFINITELY cause autism.

1. BELIEF

2. CONFLICTING EVIDENCE

3. BELIEF strengthened

Test your beliefs

  • The Great Wall of China is the only human-made object visible from space
  • Carrots improve your night vision
  • Chameleons change colour to match their environment
  • There are people in the world with 'photographic' memories who remember everything they've ever seen
  • Ostriches stick their heads in the sand to hide from enemies
  • The daddy longlegs is the most venomous spider in the world, but it's bite can't pierce skin

Test your beliefs

  • Animal testing is necessary to develop life-saving cures and treatments
  • Marijuana has more risks than benefits, and should not be legalised
  • Welcoming immigration policies are easily exploited by terrorists​
  • Gun control saves lives

3

8

Which card(s) must be turned over to test the idea that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is pink?

2: how (does it work)?

motivated skepticism

3: why (does it happen)?

  • Threat to coherence

  • Belief held by social group

  • In defence of the truth

4: Antidotes

ANTIDOTES

  1. Abandon the "information deficit model"
  2. Use a weaker argument
  3. Encourage self-affirmation
  4. Avoid arguing
  5. Don't mention the myth
  6. Treat the behaviour instead of the belief

BONUS antidote:
fill the gap

what?

HOW?

Why?

In the face of evidence that contradicts a currently held belief, a person becomes even more convinced of their flawed belief than before.

To defend our model of reality, thereby preventing decoherence.

By expending effort recalling all the reasons you believe something, and by defending your beliefs the way you defend your physical self.

antidotes

Remember facts are not sufficient. Try using a weaker argument or self-affirmation, don't argue and don't mention the myth!

resources

thank you

Helen Durrant

@Goodforenergy

The Backfire Effect

By Helen Durrant

The Backfire Effect

A talk I'm giving at mental health in tech, summarising what David McRaney covered in his series on the Backfire Effect.

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