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October 10, 2018 Wednesday 10:13:53 AM IST

False beliefs die hard

Teacher Insights

We may wonder, why even against overwhelming evidences against a flat earth, for climate change, or for holocaust, thousands of people still hang on to their false beliefs. A new study by researchers of University of California, Berkeley study concludes that feedback, rather than hard evidence, make people change their false beliefs. The results are published in the online issue of the journal Open Mind.

Developmental psychologists have found that 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. This also suggests how people handle information that challenges their worldview, and how certain learning habits can limit one's intellectual horizons.

Specifically, the study examined what influences people's certainty while learning. It found that learners’ confidence was based on their most recent performance rather than long-term cumulative results.

"What we found interesting is that they could get the first 19 guesses in a row wrong, but if they got the last five right, they felt very confident," suggests the study.


An ideal learner's certainty would be based on the observations amassed over time as well as the feedback, suggests the study."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," concludes the study.

DOI: 10.1162/opmi_a_00017


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