In Decision Science there are three things:
Data are bits of information (0’s and 1’s). Facts are bits of information that happen to be “true.” And Conclusions are the actionable ideas we take from the data and facts.
The key here is that not all data are true. And completely different conclusions can come from the same facts.
For example. I am 63 years old. That is data. Whether that is a “fact” or not would have to be verified. (There are a lot of problems in trying to verifying data to become facts, but that is a too much of a tangent to go down right now).
The primary take away is: ask a 9 year old and they will tell you that 63 years old is very old, but ask a 94 year old and they will tell you that 63 is not old at all. The same fact yielded two completely opposite conclusions. And, by the way, both conclusions may be correct.
The short summary of this is; ones conclusions are more the result of ones “context,” “emotional state,” and “perspective,” than an absolute straight line from data to fact to conclusion.
This is where Decision Science and the concepts of Motivated Reasoning fit in. (If you’re interested simply search Motivated Reasoning.)
My personal belief is that you cannot prevent people from using Motivated Reasoning. Everyone does it. Rather we need to respect other’s conclusions and not dismiss their conclusions simply because they have a different perspective than ours. In fact, we need to embrace conclusions that are different than ours in the hopes of improving our own decision-making.
#2 – The value of the Cloud (Internet.)
I was able to find the original study that Kline reviews and posted it to my Learning Community website (http://www.atlantislearningcommunity.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Motivated-Numeracy-and-Enlightened-Self-Government.pdf). I was also able to find other conclusions (different than Ezra Klein) based on the study – http://thefederalist.com/2014/04/08/how-vox-makes-us-stupid/.
In the old days, I would have had to have access to an Academic Library to get the original study. And I would have had to spend hours combing through physical newspapers and magazines to find other reviews of the Study.
However, today, because of the Cloud I have access to:
Orders of magnitude more bits of information (in this case the original study, and other supporting/contradicting studies)
Many more ways of verifying the bits of information as facts
Wider range of diverse conclusions others have drawn from the same bits of information and facts.
One more thing. One important study was conducted by Drew Weston of Emory University (http://www.atlantislearningcommunity.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Neural-Bases-of-Motivated-Reasoning-Weston.pdf). Using fMRI he found that our brains actually produce a neurotransmitter that, like a narcotic, reinforces our existing beliefs when confronted with information.
The work on Motivated Reasoning is leading me to rethink the 18th-century Enlightenment world view, of Locke, Jefferson, Smith and others, that we can use our “dispassionate rational mind” to create effective public policy. Rather I am coming to the conclusion (from the information and facts) that we actually rely more upon emotion to drive our decision-making. And we have strong biological drivers that tend to lead us to conclusions that simply make us feel good and reenforce our existing conclusions.
More effective decision making, whether it is about public policy, buying a car, or deciding to launch a space shuttle in cold weather, requires that we accept that we often form our conclusions based on non-rational drivers and factor that into our conclusions.
So sorry this was so long, but it sparked an interest.