Trump Gives a Master Class in 'Motivated Reasoning' and Its Cousins

By Black, Eric | MinnPost.com, April 3, 2018 | Go to article overview

Trump Gives a Master Class in 'Motivated Reasoning' and Its Cousins


Black, Eric, MinnPost.com


I don’t claim to have the secret to knowing the truth. But I do know one of the secrets to not knowing the truth. That would be to look at all the facts, and only believe the ones that tell you that the truth is what you wish the truth was.

This is sometimes called “motivated reasoning,” which is a method by which a person can believe that what they wish were true is actually true, basically by accepting only evidence that supports the truth of what one wishes were true, and disregarding evidence to the contrary.

Motivated reasoning is a close cousin of the twin demons of “selective perception” and “confirmation bias.” All these are enemies of clear thinking.

The current occupant of the Oval Office gave a master class in all of the above with a tweet this morning celebrating a poll result. It reads:

Thank you to Rasmussen for the honest polling. Just hit 50%, which is higher than Cheatin’ Obama at the same time in his Administration.

It’s true. The latest Rasmussen poll on approval/disapproval of President Trump’s performance of his job as president shows him with 50 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval in the three-day period ending April 1.

It’s also true that Rasmussen is the only reputable pollster who shows Trump’s approval rating that high. Gallup, by contrast, in its latest weekly result completed on Saturday, showed Trump with 55 percent disapproval and 39 percent approval.

Despite its long history and prestige, I don’t swear by Gallup. And, despite the suspicions of some liberals, I view Rasmussen as reputable, although something about their methodology seems to lead to them often reaching results that Republicans like.

Many other reputable pollsters, in fact, all reputable pollsters other than Rasmussen, show the president with a rating that is below water, meaning more disapprovers than approvers. …

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