You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe


Uncommon Knowledge

Facing death? Try sex

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

Fierce beliefs: built on ignorance

Do you have a strong opinion about Obamacare? Great. Now, please explain how it works. If that question gives you pause, it might also serve a purpose: A new study suggests that the intense political polarization affecting this country depends on ignorance, and that drawing our attention to how little we know could actually help us get along. Researchers asked people to indicate their position on one of several policies (e.g., cap and trade, flat tax) and then asked them to explain the mechanics of how the policy worked or didn’t work. After attempting this explanation, people reported less understanding of the issue and took a more moderate position. Asking people to come up with reasons for their position rather than a mechanistic explanation didn’t have the same moderating effect.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week