On December 8, The Economist published a sobering piece entitled: “THE PARTISAN BRAIN: What psychological experiments tell you about why people deny facts.” Cognitive scientists argue that reasoning did not evolve to “help individuals achieve greater knowledge and make better decisions.” Rather, they say, it evolved to “improve the ability of ancestral hunter-gatherers to cooperate in small groups.” In other words, a lot of reasoning is devoted to affirming your group’s identity and your position within it. This is where political bias comes from.
What Research Says About Our Political Bias
Sadly, this means that people are often reluctant to admit awkward facts that run contrary to political orthodoxy. This has been demonstrated in MRI brain scans with people on the right (confronted with the facts of climate change) and on the left (reacting to the statistic that 10 times more people are murdered with kitchen knives each year than with guns).
How Changing the Rules Can Help Eliminate Political Bias
Certainly, we don’t want to argue against logic and dialogue as the basic for political discourse. However, this understanding of our evolutionary heritage underscores that the leverage point for a better political system will come from – and is coming from – changing the rules of the game. In other words, it is grounded in changing the very structure of what it takes to win elections and to stay in office. The current structure fosters pseudo-competition around ideology. The new structure will promote genuine accountability for workable solutions to societal problems. These changes are already happening. Learn more at www.changetherules.org.
Don’t quit the game. Change the rules.