A few years ago behavioral researchers coined a new term called choice blindness. It shows that the mind can be tricked into believing the opposite so much to the point the individual will defend their new stance.
One of the first ways researchers showed choice blindness was in a preference for different jams. Here’s an example of how it worked:
Participants were offered two types of jams, call them apricot and grape for argument’s sake. The participants rated each on scale of preference. Through some trickery the researchers switch the lids of the jams and then asked the sample the one they preferred again and explain why they liked it. Less than a third of participants realized they’d been tricked into liking the jam more that they’d originally preferred less.
Sounds like we’d be smarter than that. And maybe some of us are. But given how we vehemently defend our choices sometimes you’d think more than a third of people could remember their choices correctly.
But that’s just with jam, there are no real life ramifications for jam preference. Researchers agree. So they re-engineered the choice blindness study to test our stance on moral issues. This time there’s a video to explain how it worked:
Through this trickery participants indicated how they felt on moral issues such as government monitoring of private communications and prostitution. But when they flipped the survey over those questions disappeared and it looks like participants now took the opposing viewpoint they’d first indicated on two of the questions.
Once again, half of the participants didn’t notice they’d changed their stance on the two issues through the trick. Almost 70% didn’t notice for one of the two questions. And many of tricked participants were willing to argue in favor of their now new viewpoint.
What the researchers have shown is that we can be tricked into taking the opposite viewpoint on our opinions. However they haven’t proven that we can do that on opinions that truly matter. So if you’re passionately in support of gay marriage you can’t be tricked into opposing it.
However, if you think back to the first time that opinion formed, it was likely less important to you. The first time you thought about it might have even been on a survey in college even. So you picked one side or the other. Could you have been tricked back then? I think that’s possible.
If choice blindness is something that translates to political viewpoints then our ideologies may be nothing more than a collection of sides we’ve been asked to defend. Not the basket of true beliefs we typically accept ideology to be.
So far this research has used older methods of trickery to get people to switch their opinions. I’d like to see the results replicated using some tricky survey technology on a computer or iPad. It would be really easy to switch people’s answers that way since it isn’t recorded on paper.