We know that political opinions can ruin your ability to think clearly, along with dinner parties, family reunions, and damn near everything else, but there’s new research afoot that explains the extent of the problem.
Researchers at Yale asked 1,111 study participants about their political views and a few questions to gauge their numeracy—that is, their ability to reason mathematically. They were then asked to solve a fairly difficult math problem regarding a fictitious scientific study. Here’s the rub, though. Sometimes, the study was describe as assessing the effectiveness of skin rash cream, but other times it was described as measuring the effectiveness of banning concealed handguns.
As a result, people who were told that the study was about skin cream did wildly different on the math problem compared to those who were told it was about gun control. More to the point, even people highly competent at math with strong political opinions were more susceptible to screwing up the problem compared to those more neutral in their opinions.
The takeaway? If you have an opinion, chances are, nothing is changing it.