CfGS Seminar Series: At the intersection of beliefs, values, opinions, evidence and facts

This presentation, along with my co-author CfGS Sr. Research Associate Rod Dobell, featured a discussion of our paper: “At the intersection of beliefs, values, opinions, evidence and facts: can policy informatics act as an honest traffic cop?” 

WHEN: Wednesday, August 6, 2014, 10:30-noon
ROOM: University of Victoria, Sedgewick C168 (large boardroom)

Abstract: Policy informatics is an emerging sub-discipline of policy studies built on the idea that complex public policy challenges can be effectively addressed through the leveraging of computational and communication technologies that improve data collection, enhance analysis, harness knowledge in support of decision making, facilitate informed deliberation and provide mechanisms for rational collective action. At the core of the policy informatics movement are several premises, including that: information can be efficiently and effectively mobilized to support evidence-driven analysis and policy design; the objective of evidence-based analysis should be to better inform deliberation and decision making; and a new form of open, public governance that is transparent, collaborative, participatory and perceived as legitimate can be realized.

Recent research and experience seems to indicate, however: that the evaluation of evidence is strongly influenced by ones beliefs, values and attitudes; that confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and motivated reasoning are powerful and hidden psychological forces influencing our judgment and receptivity to evidence; and that cultural identity is a strong motivator when considering evidence.

Despite the objectives of policy informatics, it appears that “facts” rarely succeed in changing the recipient’s beliefs, position or decision. If these findings are true, they would seem to undermine the founding principles of policy informatics, or at least question the relevance of policy informatics in political debate and decision making. We review the explanations of the current state of evidence-based deliberation, argumentation and decision making and propose methods for effectively informing deliberation in the context of these explanations, and suggest a recalibration of the objectives for policy informatics that better reflect the social, political and psychological underpinnings of decision making.


The slide deck for our talk is available here.

Raw video recording: 

The draft paper (to be developed further over the coming months with colleagues in the Center for Policy Informatics Lab at Arizona State University) will be available here shortly.


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