Study: Anti-Feminism Makes You Delusional

Conspiracy theories
Study: Anti-Feminism Makes You Delusional

People like to think they can trust their own memories to be accurate. We like to think we remember things the right way and that, for the most part, others do as well. It's why jurors place a higher degree of faith in eyewitness testimony than in other types of evidence even though it tends not to be especially reliable. The fact is, when we don't have all of the information in a situation, our brains just tend to automatically fill in that information for us based on our own experience, views and understanding of the world. And when we have a messed up view of the world, that can affect our ability to remember things correctly as well.

Two recent studies published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology have determined that those with negative ideas about feminism are more prone to say they remember fake negative stories about feminists and don't remember true, positive stories about feminists.

Via Psypost:

For Study 1, the researchers recruited a sample of 1537 adults from student email lists and social media posts. Participants were measured for strength of feminism attitudes and presented with 8 different news stories (6 true and 2 fake). The 2 fake news stories depicted either 1) statistics of rape claims or 2) a riot at a feminist protest.

The researchers created two versions of these fake news stories: one with a feminism-aligned slant (e.g., fabricated rape claims are uncommon) and one without (e.g., fabricated rape claims are more common than previously thought). Each participant read one feminism-aligned and one feminism-misaligned fake news story. All participants were asked if they remembered the events depicted in all 8 news stories and if they believed any of the 8 stories were fake.

Results show that higher negative attitudes toward feminism were associated with a lower likelihood of falsely remembering the feminism-aligned story. Conversely, higher negative feminism attitudes were associated with a greater likelihood of falsely remembering the feminism-misaligned story.

Researchers then conducted a follow-up study, in which they addressed the limitations of the first — by advertising it as a study about COVID-19 rather than feminism, making the stories less ambiguously about feminism and assessing the participants general susceptibility to false memories.

It came out with the same results.

Basically what this means is that anti-feminists are more likely to "remember" negative stories about feminists that never actually happened — which can certainly then affect their attitudes in the future.

As much as we'd all like to believe this is only true for anti-feminists and other people with whom we strongly disagree, there is a case to be made that we are all susceptible to believing things that aren't true when they confirm our own worldview. As the PsyPost article noted:

An example of this can be found in previous research conducted by Frenda and colleagues (2013) where conservative people were found to be more likely to falsely remember a fake scandal involving President Obama (compared to liberals), while liberal people were more likely to falsely remember a fake scandal involving President Bush (compared to conservatives).

What I'd like to see though is whether this is something that increases with intensity of belief, because I imagine it would — or if particular worldviews are more susceptible to this than others, as I suspect would be the case with anti-feminists. I'd also like to see to what extent this is people actually "remembering" these things and being able to add details and context, and to what extent it's just people not wanting to look stupid by saying they don't remember something. One of the most interesting parts of Elizabeth Loftus' "Lost in a Mall" experiment was the way people would add details of their own to a fake story of getting lost in a mall as a child.

Lost in the Mall (False Memory)

The human memory is freaking fascinating, especially as it concerns our ability to "remember" things that are not actually true, ie: the Mandela effect. I think that's definitely an area in which we could use more research, particularly in this age of misinformation.

I could probably go on about this forever, but I won't, because this is now your OPEN THREAD!

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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