This week last year, I read The 5000 Year Leap. Good book. If you haven’t read it, do so. You might learn some interesting things.
But don’t expect The 5000 Year Leap to change you. Or history. It won’t.
Now, if 70 percent of the US population read it, it might make a difference. Or maybe not. I tend to doubt it, but that’s fodder for a different post.
When tea partiers read books like Glenn Beck’s Common Sense or The 5000 Year Leap, we’re not broadening ourselves—we’re narrowing ourselves. We’re also committing Confirmation Bias: the tendency to search for information that confirms our existing beliefs while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
In a study, psychologists were exposed to a short set of symptoms and asked to give a preliminary diagnosis. Then, they were shown another set of symptoms for the same patients and asked to re-evaluate. All of the psychologists stuck with their original diagnoses—only they increased their certainty of that original diagnosis.
In other words, they believed that the additional information confirmed their original diagnoses.
1. The original list of symptoms were far too vague for a psychologist to confidently diagnose.
2. The second list contained information intended to contradict the original diagnosis in many cases.
Still, the trained, licensed PhDs saw in the second diagnoses only the information that confirmed their original guesses.
When conservatives know only the information that supports their view, they tend to look like idiots when confronted with information beyond that narrow scope. (Trust me—I’ve been the idiot.)
To avoid that embarrassing and destructive situation, learn outside of US political history. In fact, you probably could go on a US political history diet for one year and still know more about the subject than any 100 liberals combined.
In 2011, read some things beyond Glenn Beck’s reading list. Here’s eight ideas to get you started:
While some of these books might touch on politics in places, they will introduce many to new ideas that are changing the world around us.
The intention here is to broaden and build the movement, begin with ourselves. If the idea of reading outside your comfort zone scares you, then you need to start today.