The other day I linked to an article about an unfortunate consequence uncovered by some research in cognitive psychology: some argumentation, however good (conclusive or decisive), reinforces the ignorance of the person who is wrong. Arguing with someone who is wrong, but steadfast in her wrongness, just makes everything worse.
This Onion article makes a related, and equally chilling point:
SEATTLE—As debate continues in Washington over the funding of President Obama’s health care initiative, sources confirmed Thursday that 39-year-old Daniel Seaver, a man who understands a total of 8 percent of the Affordable Care Act, offered a vehement defense of the legislation to 41-year-old Alex Crawford, who understands 5 percent of it.
“Hold on, Alex, let’s go back to the premiums for a second, because I feel like I need to drive this point home for you: they’ll get lower for most people,” said Seaver, straining the very limits of his 8 percent comprehension of the bill to the point of utter collapse. “Lower premiums, lower deductibles, and no denial of coverage to people with preexisting conditions.”
“Way lower premiums,” Seaver added.
At press time, both men’s understanding of Obamacare had dropped to 3 percent as a result of the debate.
I think this problem is undertheorized, but then again I don’t really know this literature.