Published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the report shows that people who know very little about an issue—say the economic downturn, changes in the climate or dwindling fossil fuel reserves—tend to avoid learning more about it. This insulates them in their ignorance—a pattern described by researchers as “motivated avoidance.”Read the full article here.
Before we chalk up “motivated avoidance” to some innate flaw in the human mind, consider this as well:
“Contrarian scientists, fossil-fuel corporations, conservative think tanks and various front groups have assaulted mainstream climate science and scientists for over two decades,” Dunlap and McCright [sociologists Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University and Aaron McCright of Michigan State University] write. “The blows have been struck by a well-funded, highly complex and relatively coordinated denial machine.”Full article here.
Truth is, “motivated avoidance” isn’t strictly a characteristic of the ignorant; it is a characteristic of the power elite—that “loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires” Paul Simon sang about in the mid-’80s. (See below.) The elites, of course, have no excuse: they are cynical, narcissistic liars. We’ll know there is progress being made when we hear Rupert Murdoch, for example, referred to on some Sunday talking-head-a-thon as “a cynical, narcissistic, lying media mogul.” A first step, perhaps, toward restoring the connection between language and reality: something poets may want to consider as well.*
* P.S. Some hours after I queued this to post, I was reading Haruki Murakami‘s extraordinary novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and came upon a passage that gave me pause. I realized that the passage meant I would have to add this postscript and define what I mean by “reality” in the phrase above, “the connection between language and reality.” The passage goes like this: “Everything was intertwined with the complexity of a three-dimensional puzzle—a puzzle in which truth was not necessarily fact and fact not necessarily truth.” The puzzling condition Murakami describes—our human condition—is what I mean by “reality.”