Why do people cling to false health reform beliefs?

Blame motivated reasoning.

Newsweek’s Sharon Begley writes about the phenomenon, which goes a long way why the myth about “death panels” continues to persist in the health reform conversation. She cites the work of sociologist Steve Hoffman, who explains: “Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.”

And with a growing majority obtaining their news through pundit-tinged lens, such as from FOX News on the right and MSNBC on the left, there’s always fodder to confirm pre-existing beliefs.

Ms. Begley goes on to suggest that cognitive dissonance is also in play:

This theory holds that when people are presented with information that contradicts preexisting beliefs, they try to relieve the cognitive tension one way or another. They process and respond to information defensively, for instance: their belief challenged by fact, they ignore the latter. They also accept and seek out confirming information but ignore, discredit the source of, or argue against contrary information.

This is seen often in those who believe there is a link between vaccine and autism, despite convincing evidence to the contrary.

And with information freely available on the internet and on the 24-hour cable news cycle, there are endless opportunities to confirm, rather than challenge, one’s beliefs.