Psychology has provided much evidence that our partisan identities, such as whether we are Republicans or Democrats, distort our interpretations of reality (Tweet it!). But this selective perception phenomenon is not limited to the political arena. In one classic social psychology study researchers found that college football fans from Princeton and Dartmouth had strikingly different memories about the facts of a game between the two schools. When each school’s newspaper reported its own very different version of the game, researchers hypothesized that rival fans at the game saw it differently. As it turned out, Princeton students recalled the Dartmouth team had committed many more fouls, while Dartmouth students thought both teams were equally responsible. This is an example of how a partisan lens colors memory. Additional research by Jay Van Bavel, a professor of psychology at New York University, shows that our partisan biases can even color how we taste, see, hear, feel and smell (Tweet it!).
We can’t help being partisan to some extent, but we can subject our selective perceptions to checks and balances by exposing ourselves to different worldviews, and by verifying what we think we know via fact-checking.
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