Read the following:
On a TV show this morning they invited a person onto the show that accused a high ranking government official of saying egregious things to the widow of a recently fallen soldier.
How do you feel about this? Do you think this is true?
Now, read this:
On “The View” this morning they invited a Democratic congresswoman onto the show that accused President Trump of saying egregious things to the widow of a recently fallen soldier. Trump purportedly said to the widow: “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
How do you feel now? Do you think this is true?
Whether or not this is true, this is a great example of how biases can get the better of us.
First off, how I worded the two examples should have evoked different feelings. The second take should have evoked a stronger reaction. That emotional reaction is what clouds your ability to judge the situation.
If you voted for, or like, President Trump then you probably believe the Democrat is a fraud.
If you dislike the President then you’ll tend to believe that he said it. That will likely lead to outrage.
If you dislike politicians you might conclude that both sides are wrong.
If you watched The View and saw the congresswoman go on a tirade about Trump’s Benghazi then you might dismiss her claims, even if she’s right!
In matters of “he said, she said” the only wise course of action is skepticism. If you didn’t hear it first hand, and the parties disagree, and there’s no verified recording of what was said then you have no basis to judge the facts.
Instead you’ll react based on your pre-existing prejudices. Thus bolstering the salience of said prejudice in similar future situations. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Also, if you didn’t hear the entire conversation including tone of voice then you don’t have enough information to conclude one way or another.
No matter how vindicated you feel, what do you gain by coming to a conclusion based on word of mouth? What do you have to lose?