10 July, 2009

I'm Rubber You're Glue...

Michael Jackson’s death sparked a rather heated debated in our writing pool this morning. For close to two hours we argued what rights the dead had, and whether they had any rights at all for that matter. The discussion eventually came to end with no set conclusion. After all in a country like South Africa with 11 official languages, numerous cultures and sub-cultures under those, we did not think we would.

During this debate I made various comments about death (Michael Jackson’s in particular) I would have never said under normal circumstances, probably would’ve recommended firing his coffin into the sun had I thought of it at the time. Granted I’ve always enjoyed playing devil’s advocate but during that debate I felt far more like Richard Dawkins than Keano Reeves and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why. That is till now. A study recently published in the journal Psychological Science says trying to get people to think more positively about something can actually have the opposite effect (which explains a lot).

The study's authors, Joanne Wood and John Lee of the University of Waterloo and Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick, begin with a common-sense proposition: when people hear something they don't believe, they are not only often sceptical but adhere even more strongly to their original position.

A great deal of psychological research has shown this, but really you need look no further than any late-night bar debate you've had with friends: when someone claims that Jacob Zuma’s is the best thing for South Africa, or that the Bafan Bafana’s going to win 2010, or in our case that Michael Jackson was not a freak. Others not only argue the opposing position, but do so with more conviction than they actually hold. We are an argumentative species.

By Colin Wardle

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