Jonah Lehrer on Voter Ignorance

Lynne Kiesling

It shouldn’t surprise you to find, given my recent working paper on Adam Smith, sympathy, and mirror neurons that I am an avid reader of neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer. His post today riffs off of President Obama’s birth certificate to muse on voter ignorance. In discussing some research on the subject, he observes

Why does more education lead to less accurate beliefs? The answer returns us to the difference between rational voters (what we think we are) and rationalizing voters (what we really are). It turns out that the human mind is a marvelous information filter, adept at blocking out those facts that contradict what we’d like to believe.

It sounds like he and Bryan Caplan should have a little blog exchange on neuroscience’s implications for the results of Bryan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter. It also sounds like yet another reason why we should strive to make as few important decisions as possible through political means.