The brain is wired in ways that often lead decision-makers to act against their own interests. A 2015 article in Business Insider describes 20 cognitive biases that fool you into believing that you are behaving rationally when you are actually just responding to faulty wiring in your head:
…research suggests there are a number of cognitive stumbling blocks that affect your behavior, and they can prevent you from acting in your own best interests.
Brian Kemp may be acting on pure political opportunism, but it is also likely that he (and his followers) have hit one of these cognitive stumbling blocks. How can the Secretary of State ignore the overwhelming evidence that our election system is vulnerable? It is the Ostrich Effect at work.
The ostrich effect bias is a tendency to ignore dangerous or negative information by ignoring it or burying one’s head in the sand. Sometimes we do this when we have already made up our mind about something. It may also be an indication we only want to consider the positive aspects of something.
How does it work?
The brain receives so much data at any given moment that it has to filter out some data in order to be able to attend and make meaning of incoming sensory information. When that occurs, we delete, distort, and generalize reality.
If we know the Ostrich effect is at work, maybe there is a way to support people to more rational approaches to election security and #protectGAvote. We should be asking Brian Kemp and his pals:
What about this information is hard for you to hear?
How does this information fit with what you already know?
How might ignoring this information affect our decision in the long run?
How might we include this information in a way that is productive to our thinking?