Politics Makes Your Math Skills Suffer

Your political beliefs can mess up your ability to do math.

Researchers at Yale University asked participants in their study to interpret data from a non-existent scientific study. Some subjects were told the study dealt with the efficacy of a new skin cream for rashes, while others were told the study was about a new law banning concealed handguns. They found the results varied wildly for the two groups even though they were all dealing with essentially the same problem.

Essentially, if the numbers contradicted a person’s political views, their mathematical skills declined.

From Mother Jones:

So how did people fare on the handgun version of the problem? They performed quite differently than on the skin cream version, and strong political patterns emerged in the results—especially among people who are good at mathematical reasoning. Most strikingly, highly numerate liberal Democrats did almost perfectly when the right answer was that the concealed weapons ban does indeed work to decrease crime (version C of the experiment)—an outcome that favors their pro-gun-control predilections. But they did much worse when the correct answer was that crime increases in cities that enact the ban (version D of the experiment).

The opposite was true for highly numerate conservative Republicans: They did just great when the right answer was that the ban didn’t work (version D), but poorly when the right answer was that it did (version C).