You’re Primed to Fail. Ok, not FAIL-FAIL, rather, you’re primed to reach false conclusions. That’s according to fivethirtyeight’s new article (here).
The short version is this: a two-part study showed that people who came to conclusions from ineffective methods were less likely to accept new information to draw new conclusions even when the data presented to them supported a more effective outcome.
The article lists causality illusion, base rate neglect, and perverse incentives all as culprits in making people more likely to reach the correct conclusion based on evidence. Each of these is worth a post, but I’ll stick with the overarching theme. The confirmation bias (CB) that leads to motivated reasoning entrenches us in deeply held beliefs that are painstakingly hard to let go.
So how do you know when you’re a victim of your own bias or whether the paranormal is God’s way of contacting you? Skeptics love to shout “CONFIRMATION BIAS” to anyone who has ever said they feel something paranormal, like a witness of the Holy Ghost. The Mormon or LDS church challenges everyone to pray for a witness of the divinity of the Book of Mormon after reading it to know if it is ‘true,’ also known as Moroni’s Promise. For those who are raised Mormon, there seems to be a higher probability of CB because of the obvious grooming.
But what about those who are not raised Mormon? What’s their likelihood of being susceptible to CB? I can see how certain Christian upbringing can prime them for a paranormal experience, but there are certainly counterarguments for how negative Mormon perception could also be a primer for disbelief.
I came across an phrase in a skeptics blog that will only jump out to Mormons, ex-Mormons, or Mormon-versed non-Mormons:
How do investigators counteract this theory of confirmation bias? The scientific method has been one avenue presented to seek understanding on the subject of paranormal phenomena. (Reference)
Translation for non-Mormon readers: “investigators” is a term commonly used in Mormon circles for those who have an interest in Mormonism and are meeting with Mormon Missionaries to learn more.
Clearly, this was not written in a Mormon context, but it very well could be. Why not conduct Pew Research level study on Moroni’s Promise? What non-LDS university will stand up and take the challenge to put their name on the research of Mormon confirmation bias? It would be greatly revealing to understand how confirmation bias plays into the role of Mormon/potential Mormon paranormal experiences.
What do you think? Would you be interested in a research study on Moroni’s Promise? What would the results look like?