NCBI ROFL: You are not one of us; ergo, your argument is invalid.

By ncbi rofl | March 6, 2013 1:00 pm

Have you ever witnessed a creationist and an atheist having a fight? If so, you’ve likely seen firsthand the subject of this paper: what happens when a member of a group (e.g., a creationist) is criticized by a non-member (e.g., an atheist). It has now been scientifically proven that no matter how logical the arguments of the non-group member are, they will probably be rejected. Even the authors describe their results as depressing.

Shooting the messenger: Outsiders critical of your group are rejected regardless of argument quality.

“People are more resistant to criticisms of their group when those criticisms are made by an outgroup rather than an ingroup member, a phenomenon referred to as the intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE). The current study compared four competing models of how argument quality would moderate the ISE, with a view to establishing the complex interrelationships between source and message effects in group-directed criticism. Quality of the argument affected responses to ingroup critics, but not to outgroup critics. For outsiders who wish to promote positive change and reform in a group culture, this leads to a somewhat depressing conclusion: their message is likely to be rejected regardless of whether it is objectively ‘right’, well-considered, well-justified, or well-argued.”

Photo: flickr/Ed Yourdon

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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