How motivated skepticism strengthens incorrect beliefs


Confirmation bias is an active, goal-oriented, effortful process. When tasked to defend your position, even if you just took it, even if you could have taken another, you tend to search for proof, pushing past a threatening, attitude-inconsistent thicket to cherry-pick the fruit of validation.

There is another process though that is just as pernicious but that runs in the background, passive, waiting to come online when challenging information is unavoidable, when it arrives in your mind uninvited. This psychological backup plan for protecting your beliefs is called motivated skepticism.


“(…) when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.” In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast, the second in a series on the The Backfire Effect, we explore how motivated skepticism fuels this bizarre phenomenon by which correcting misinformation can cause people to become even more certain in their incorrect beliefs.