These days, seeing isn’t necessarily believing when it comes to certain images.
Have you ever looked at something with your own eyes but for whatever reason just don’t trust what you’re seeing? As it turns out, it isn’t that rare. In a recent study reported in the Washington Post, two political scientists found that some people will reject certain evidence if it goes against their beliefs — even when seeing it with their own eyes.
But before we dive further into the results of this research, let’s test this out for ourselves. Which side of the photos below appears to have a larger group of people?
Yankee Stadium — New York City, New York
Eiffel Tower — Paris, France
Ocean Grove Auditorium — Ocean Grove, New Jersey
National Mall — Washington, D.C.
You’ve likely guessed all of these correctly, but Brian Schaffner from the University of Massachusetts and Samantha Luks from the polling firm YouGov got some pretty surprising results from their study on the National Mall photos above.
A few days after the 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration, the researchers gathered a panel of 1,388 Americans and showed them the two images above, only labeled as Photo A and B. Of course, they took into account that many of the participants had probably already seen the comparisons.
Half of the participants were asked which photo was from the 2017 inauguration (left) and which from the 2009 inauguration (right). Nearly 80 percent of non-voters accurately identified them. About 90 percent of people who voted for Clinton got it right, but only 60 percent of the Trump supporters picked the correct answer.
The other half were asked which image showed more people. Almost all non-voters and Clinton supporters answered correctly. But 15 percent of Trump supporters said the photo on the left had more people without being told that it was from the 2017 inauguration.
“To many political psychologists, this exercise will be familiar. A growing body of research
documents how fully Americans appear to hold biased positions about
basic political facts. But scholars also debate whether partisans
actually believe the misinformation and how many are knowingly giving
the wrong answer to support their partisan team (a process called expressive responding),” Schaffner and Luks wrote.
It’s important to mention that the study was published in the Washington Post without going through peer review first, as the results are very topical — but it’s definitely eye-opening to say the least. Be sure to SHARE this story with others to see what they make of this research.
You can read more of the study’s findings here.