Ever wondered why people stick to their false beliefs, even after having overwhelming evidence to the contrary? It is because feedback rather than hard evidence makes them more confident that they are right, finds a study.The findings from researchers at the University of California-Berkeley, suggest that feedback, rather than hard evidence, boosts people’s sense of certainty when learning new things or trying to tell right from wrong.
People’s beliefs are more likely to be reinforced by the positive or negative reactions they receive in response to an opinion, task or interaction, than by logic, reasoning and scientific data, the researchers found. “If you think you know a lot about something, even though you don’t, you’re less likely to be curious enough to explore the topic further, and will fail to learn how little you know,” said lead author Louis Marti, a doctoral student at the varsity.
“If you use a crazy theory to make a correct prediction a couple of times, you can get stuck in that belief and may not be as interested in gathering more information,” added Celeste Kidd, Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley.
For the study, published in the journal Open Mind, more than 500 adults looked at different combinations of coloured shapes on their computer screens. They were asked to identify which coloured shapes qualified as a “Daxxy” — a make-believe object invented by the researchers for the purpose of the experiment.
The study found that people’s confidence was based on their most recent performance rather than long-term cumulative results. An ideal learner’s certainty would be based on the observations amassed over time as well as the feedback, Marti said.
“If your goal is to arrive at the truth, the strategy of using your most recent feedback, rather than all of the data you’ve accumulated, is not a great tactic,” he said.