I recall when the OJ verdict came down a social worker on my unit said "Are you surprised? In America, did you really think they were going to convict a football player? Come on." I was too taken aback to even reply. Does she really think that the jury let him off because he's a football player? It struck me as an excellent example of how some of us - please dear God, not all of us - can instantly interpret any data whatsoever to fit our preconceived notions.
Even earlier, a woman was admitted to our hospital involuntarily for making suicidal statements. Drugs were involved somehow. A friend of hers showed up the next day and loudly announced "The magic checkbook solves everything. How much do I have to pay to get her out of here?" When we replied that things don't work that way at all, she waved us off contemptuously. Even absent any professionalism or honor on our part, she hadn't thought it through, really. If any doctor was minded to actually do such a thing and it all went bad, with the patient committing suicide a week or so later, and the bribe revealed, s/he could be sued for far more than whatever the women had in her account. (A psychologist friend used to kid that he did indeed have a price to lie on a report, but it was well over a million dollars, as he would never be able to work in his profession again and needed a fair bit to live on.) We did, however, agree that the patient had arrived on rather shoddy evidence, had probably not been all the suicidal the night before, but the emergency room just wanted to shift their liability to us - as some do consistently. Moreover, the woman was even less suicidal now - had supports, was forward thinking. After a half-hour meeting, we told her she could go home with her friend. The friend smiled and waved the checkbook in the air. "I knew it. The magic checkbook. Works every time." It doesn't pay to contradict such things. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.
Something similar came up yesterday. In the requisite morning universal Trump-bashing on the team I was covering, after something about Kanye West that even I could tell didn't have the facts right, there was some discussion about a hat of Melania Trump's. It was being criticised. Y'all may know more about this than I do. After three hat-or-Melania critical comments in rapid order, I mildly mentioned that I wasn't much bothered by the First Lady's hats one way or the other. I didn't see how they affected much. One woman sort of agreed, I thought at first. "That's right. We didn't elect her to anything. It doesn't matter what kind of hat she wears." We were all finishing the meeting and getting up to leave and her friend said to her sotto voce out the side of her mouth "Well we know why people have to comment, though. Misogyny." "That's what I was thinking." Said the other.
Oh sure. That was why the major networks, the NYT, WaPo, Slate, Salon, all the women's magazines...all criticised Michelle Obama's clothes so often for a decade. Yeah, that's it. They just couldn't lay off that poor woman, the misogynistic bastards, could they? It doesn't matter what the data is, it will fit the narrative. Discouraging how quickly we do this. Bethany has written over at Graph Paper Diaries, though I think quite a while ago, that hearing information contrary to our belief can often actually strengthen our commitment to it - and the longer that goes on, the more powerful that is. How much we have "paid" for something matters more than its objective value.