Opposing Viewpoints: Seek out those who disagree

Speaking of totally alien mindsets, apparently I’m in the minority in that I actively seek opposing viewpoints:

Analysis of the studies shows that people are almost two times more likely to select information that is congenial to their current beliefs and behaviors than they are to pick information that opposes them. That is to say, when offered material containing views that were contrary to their beliefs (either in article or broadcast form), people had only a one-in-three chance of taking a closer look at that information.

The article uses the phrase “unsurprisingly” and “no surprise” in describing the findings of the studies, but I have to say that this does come as a bit of a surprise to me. There are reasons why it’s a good idea to expose yourself to ideas you disagree with, and while those reasons are not necessarily obvious, I think they are intuitive. Thus, one would think that these reasons would get passed around memetically, until people of average intelligence accepted and celebrated diversity in thinking. I guess I overestimated average intelligence.

The main reasons can be summarized thusly: Everyone has been wrong about at least one of their beliefs at some point in their life; it’s better to be right than to be wrong (and here, I mean “right” not as in “winning arguments” but as in “having beliefs that reflect reality”); you won’t find out that you’re wrong about some belief if the only evidence you observe regarding that belief is evidence supporting it.

This is why, as a liberal, I’m interested in hearing conservative viewpoints. As a green, I’m interested in arguments why recycling is a bad idea. I’m interested in obscure controversial ideas simply because by their very nature of being controversial, they are less well represented. I want to consume banned books, movies, videogames and other media; I want to know what concepts and ideas it is that the government does not want anyone to know. I want to watch all forms of porn; the less mainstream, the better. In the cases where one performer is portrayed as being harmed (rape, snuff, etc.) I’d prefer the porn to be fake, as my ethics are such that I think harming people is a bad thing, but I’m interested in ethics which condone harming people under certain circumstances (e.g. utilitarianism). As a utilitarianist, I’m interested in arguments that an ethical system which manages to harm no one exists or is workable.

It works in the other direction, too: Between the choices of “liberal” and “conservative”, I self-label as “liberal”, but I consider myself very apolitical, because I’m well aware that all my friends, and all the media I consume has a strong liberal bias. I’m not getting enough input from conservatives to make an informed decision. I’m not particularly interested in 9/11 nor global warming, because while the topics are controversial, they are not obscure.

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