Backfire occurs when we feel uncomfortable or threatened by “new and provable facts” that challenge our preconceived opinions or beliefs. We are prone to push away, deny or mitigate this new information. This happens in family, community and corporate situations all the time. We are all subject to backfire.
I am interested in this new research because much of our culture views those of us who identify as evangelical (or religious) to be extremely closed minded. This trait makes us prone to defensive reaction. When we experience cognitive dissonance, our system essentially “backfires” to lower the discomfort we feel in having our viewpoint challenged.
Interestingly, the more knowledgeable people are (or think they are) on a particular topic, the less open they are to forming new opinions based on “new and provable facts.” The Globe article states that more sophisticated people “may be factually right about 90% of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10% on which they’re totally wrong.” On the opposite end of the scale, researchers found that those with a low self-image also are at high risk to backfire.
Why is this important? In my next post, we will look at some examples of how backfire plays out in this research and then you will see very clearly why this is critically important. This impacts how we reflect Jesus to the world around us. Join me.