The following is a guest post by Dr. Leah Windsor. Dr. Windsor is a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems at The University of Memphis where she directs the Languages Across Cultures and Languages Across Modalities labs. From 2014-2019 served as PI for a Department of Defense Minerva Initiative grant, using computational linguistics to analyze political communication in international relations.
Why are we seeing an uptick in discussions about non-mainstream theories about the origin and spread of Covid-19? In my recent social media feeds, I have noticed more skeptical discussions about the pandemic, and it’s a struggle to know how to respond. On the one hand, I know that emotions are strong – even predictive – influences on our choices. When we believe something, it is a part of us. Telling us that our facts are wrong is equivalent to telling us that we are wrong – that our reasoning, beliefs, and decision-making processes are wrong.
What we believe is a part of us, which helps explain why when confronted with contradictory evidence, people tend to double down on what they already believe rather than integrating the new information into their beliefs and thinking. So if I respond to a social media post with information that counters a friend or family member’s current beliefs, it’s more likely they will believe that I am wrong, or the outlier, than their current beliefs. It’s hard, even existentially dangerous, to question the beliefs we hold dear.Continue reading