On Beliefs and Negative Advertising


Life expectancy is going up.  The air is cleaner.  Water is cleaner.  The incidence of cancer is going down.  Cell phones do not, cannot, cause cancer.  Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

These are objectively and provably true.  Yet people, many people, continue to believe alarming claims to the contrary.

This morning Bryan Caplan, over at Econlog, posts on research about belief formation. 

people initially accept as true every proposition they comprehend and then decide whether to “unbelieve” it or not

Further, and very importantly

 Because the second, verification stage requires mental effort . . . they may never move beyond the first stage of the process . . . When people’s cognitive capacity is taxed, they have difficulty rejecting false propositions.

Appropriate to this post, this claim is comprehendable and believable to me.  It also explains why negative advertising works and why so few people ever change their mind.

For the sake of emphasizing the point, I have not provided any hyperlinks to sources that could support my claims.  For you to verify them would require cognitive effort.  How many of you feel compelled to do the research?  How many of you either reject or accept my claims based on your priors?

The good news?  We know that specialization and division of labor are drivers of prosperity.  We also know that I allocate my leisure time, typically wee-early morning hours, to the verification stage, reading and seeking support or nullification for ideas of day.  It follows then that you can all get on with your lives and outsource your verification stage to me.  You need only read this blog to know what is true.

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This entry was posted in Behavioral Economics, Rationality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Beliefs and Negative Advertising

  1. Pingback: Catch and Release | But If Nots

  2. Eric says:

    I believe we’d all be much better off if everyone did, in fact, leave the verification stage to you …

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