Popular Seattle artist and author Matthew Inman, whose past hits include "How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you," "My dog: the paradox," and "How to suck at your religion," came out with a new comic on Tuesday that hits plenty of online debaters right in the likes.
"You're not going to believe what I'm about to tell you," the strip begins. Inman goes on to explain that he doesn't care if the reader is liberal or conservative, a cat person or a dog person, he just hopes they'll read the (lengthy) strip to its end.
If they do, readers are treated to a sharp and entertaining lesson in our reaction to new information -- such as the fact that George Washington likely purchased teeth from slaves to fill out his uncomfortable dentures, or that six of the seven judges who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade were appointed by Republicans. Inman probes for an emotional reaction to the info he presents, and then asks the big question.
"Why?" Inman's comic asks. "Why do we easily soften to some ideas, but not others? Why do we gnash our teeth when presented with evidence counter to our beliefs?"
It's called the "backfire effect", Inman says, going on to discuss how the part of one's brain called amygdala "makes us biologically wired to react to threatening information the same way we'd react to being attacked by a predator."
You really need to go read the strip for yourself -- sure, it's long, but it's also laced with wry humor and entertaining Inman cartoons. And it may help explain why Uncle Frank on Facebook is so resistant to hearing other opinions about religion, or immigration, or any one of a number of hot-button topics. Or are you the Uncle Frank in this scenario?
Inman gave a nod to the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast and also credits his girlfriend, Theresea Rusinko, for "calling my attention to the backfire effect in the first place. The past year has been rough for a lot of people, and she pointed me in a direction that could actually help people," he wrote.
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