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During the 2012 election, one of the more amusing sidelights was that of Dean Chambers, an amateur pollster who was "unskewing" the polls that showed Obama with a significant lead. He arrived at his conclusions by looking at the raw data, deciding that it overestimated Democratic turnout and underestimated Republican turnout by a number of percentage points, and then correcting the totals to match. The source of this data was his certainty that the Republicans were going to beat the Democrats this time around.

Needless to say, that didn't happen.

At that point, everyone expected Chambers to recant his "unskewing" efforts, and at first it looked like that was going to happen. An interview with him the day after the election found him questioning Rasmussen's poll numbers. But eventually, he settled on an alternative explanation, posted at his new website: Somehow, the Democrats had used fraud to skew the vote numbers just as surely as they'd skewed the polls. The election had been stolen from the rightful winner, Mitt Romney, and only he knew it!

This might seem like a totally irrational conclusion. And in fact, it is. But psychologically speaking, it really was the only conclusion Chambers could come to, and behind the fold, I'll explain why.

The answer lies in a psychological phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance". Roughly, cognitive dissonance is the idea that we like to think of everything we say, do, experience and believe as being internally consistent. When we find something out that doesn't "fit" with what we already know, we have a tendency to reject it or modify it in order to make it fit into our internal framework of reference. If, for example, you told me you could fly, I'd probably assume you were lying. If you rose up slowly off the floor, I'd probably assume you were on wires. My brain reacts to resolve the apparent discontinuity between what I know to be true, and what I'm seeing.

This is usually a good thing. Usually, the person who says they can fly is lying. But psychologists have found out two important problems with the mind's tendency to resolve incompatibilities. One, it's a lot stronger than most people imagine. If, in the example above, you did a few barrel rolls and loop-the-loops to prove that there were no wires, my mind might try to resolve the incongruity by claiming you have hidden suction fans in the ceiling that are pulling you into the air. If you took me outside and flew me up to 5,000 feet, I might respond by insisting you spiked my drink with some sort of hallucinogen. I might even try to wriggle free, just to prove that I'm not really in the air. People who are in the throes of severe cognitive dissonance will come up with rationalizations that are far more implausible than the event they're trying to deny, and they can be a danger to themselves and others if their denial of reality reaches a critical point.

The second problem is that cognitive dissonance is much stronger when it comes to things we've said and done. When our words and actions make no sense, the mind responds by adjusting our perception of reality to make our actions conform to the model. If someone smokes, for example, and is confronted with information about the health risks of smoking, they're more likely to discount the importance and/or accuracy of the study than a non-smoker. Why? Because if they admit that smoking is dangerous, they'll have to admit that it makes no sense for them to continue smoking. But they do it. So the only logical answer is that it must not really be dangerous.

This is the situation Chambers is in. He is a textbook case of cognitive dissonance in action. For him to admit that the polls were not skewed is to have to admit that he has been quite publicly saying and doing things that make no sense whatsoever. He has to resolve the inconsistency between his words and his actions and the information that has come in, otherwise his world does not have any kind of rationality to it. The only logical way for his brain to resolve this incongruity is to come up with a way to devalue the information that contradicts his worldview. Hence, the votes must be faked. There is no other answer that allows him to function as a human being.

The most famous case of this was documented in the book, 'When Prophecy Fails', where a doomsday cult was studied in real time as their predictions failed to come true and they struggled to resolve their beliefs with the continued existence of the world. Thanks to the wealth of data that Chambers has provided with his websites and his media appearances, it could be that future generations will study him as well.

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Comment Preferences

  •  psst Don't tip him off! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunbro, happymisanthropy

    Ixnay on the lectrodes-ay that were implanted in his ain-bray.

    The most famous case of this was documented in the book, 'When Prophecy Fails', where a doomsday cult was studied in real time as their predictions failed to come true and they struggled to resolve their beliefs with the continued existence of the world. Thanks to the wealth of data that Chambers has provided with his websites and his media appearances, it could be that future generations will study him as well.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 12:37:49 PM PST

  •  our culpability (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Swig Mcjigger

    this guy is clearly an unbalanced and not very smart psycopath. However, the progressive media do NOT need to give oxygen to such idiocy. I know this is done to get eyeballs in the commercial "left" media, such as TPM and Huffpo. But Daily Kos? This guy's ideas do not deserve being treated seriously as a topic of discussion anymore than the guy near the liquor store screaming about fire-breathing dragons attacking him

    •  something's clearly wrong with the guy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sunbro

      How can he go from "Nate Silver was right" to "it's all lies, I tell you" with such a short time span with no evidence to support his new claim?

      •  because the choir pays him for it (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sunbro, whytewolf, OldDragon, Sue B

        I will not go to this reprehensible man's website, but I would venture to guess there are ways to help him pay for the expenses of this noble mission prominently displayed therein. As I recall, he made good money grading republicans on a curve in September and October.
        Even if not, he povides a cocoon of reinforcement for others deeply in the grips of CD, and that is almost automatically a paying proposition in the modern right wing.

        R-Money/R-Ayn, the ENRON Ticket, is not a campaign; it's a hostile takeover bid. UPDATE: a failed takeover bid

        by kamarvt on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 12:56:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Nate Silver was right = (0+ / 0-)

        he's a poor pollster.

        It's all lies, I tell you = RWNM super star and $$$$$$$$

        "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

        by CFAmick on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 10:05:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Does he has a conservative audience? (0+ / 0-)

      He's only important insofar as he has people willing to listen to him.  He had a pretty broad audience before the election.  He probably still has a remarkable audience now.  Having an audience gives you political power.

      Whether or not people decide to follow him into crazy is important.  If we don't address it as crazy when we have the chance, then it's more likely the crazy will be seen as legitimate and take hold.

      He's only as serious as the Republican party is willing to be.  If the Republican party distances themselves from crazy things, we won't have to look at crazy people.

      Same as the Birthers, and Trump, Young-Earthers, Pro-Lifers and aaaaaaaaall the crazy Republicans who get respect, power and attention in the right-wing for their conspiracy theories and nuttery.

  •  Your explanation may be true in this case, (0+ / 0-)

    but despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, the world may be only 5,000 years old.

    ~Marco Rubio

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 12:45:50 PM PST

  •  Careful with that website (0+ / 0-)

    Someone is having fun with his 1996 style web design by hacking it, and at first a porn link would pop up, now it's a Japanese anime video of someone puking.

  •  There are trolls everywhere. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Thinking Fella
  •  Unskewedreality.com, an explanation of RW (0+ / 0-)

    "thinking" is here.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:08:34 PM PST

  •  "I did it, and I'm glad" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Seuss

    A favorite saying of a former co-worker who spent no time trying to pretzel around any prior statement or action mistakenly taken.  It was said or done, it seemed the right thing to say or do at the time. Too bad Chambers apparently can't stomach that approach. However, then he'd have nothing to talk about, and nothing that others would pay attention to either. He got a lot of attention with his unskewing - and here he is still getting it for his more updated CT.

    "...you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem." Mitt Romney

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:11:40 PM PST

  •  U.S. News and World Report's (0+ / 0-)

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:12:27 PM PST

  •  Salon: (0+ / 0-)

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:18:56 PM PST

    •  the money quote (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sunbro
      And fraud accusations are the perfect evolution from unskewing polls. Both are based in a sort of willful cognitive dissonance that proudly asserts that the reality you want is more true than the reality that actually exists. When the polls showed Romney losing, they had to be wrong. When the election showed Romney had lost, that too must be wrong. For most who had gone along with unskewed polls, the election was enough of a shock to let the truth flow in. But for Chambers and others, perhaps it is easier to live in the fantasy.
      emphasis added

      In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. - Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain

      by Dr Seuss on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:38:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chairman and CEO? (0+ / 0-)

    Chambers likes to call himself Chairman and CEO of Qstar Group. I can't find any corporation info on that entity at all. He does own a business called Qstar Internet Solution, but still no indication it is a corporation with a Chairman and CEO.

    Other than his own 'stellar' web pages, I can only find one more he has designed, Spikemullen.com, and it doesn't even work.

    He is a legend in his own mind.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:27:43 PM PST

  •  Why He Does This (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Rogers

    It's not cognitive dissonance.  It's all about generating traffic to his website.  Admitting Obama won won't earn him a ticket on the rightwing pundit gravy train.  I expect he'll be signing his book deal shortly.

    •  There's a brief statement about this. (0+ / 0-)

      If someone's pay depends on their not understanding a thing, it's impossible to get them to understand it.

      A thingy someone said once, perhaps slightly changed from its original form.  This is an explanation for a lot of the right wing, given that their news characters are entertainers and media figures second.

  •  Given that this site had its share of people (0+ / 0-)

    claiming election fraud right before the election, we probably shouldn't kick the guy too hard.

    •  Yes we should (0+ / 0-)

      Because he isn't looking at evidence. He's engaging in willful fantasy.  And don't forget his brief acknowledgement that Silver turned out to be right. Claiming it's all fraud means he didn't mean Silver was right after all, in fact Silver was part of the fraud.

      Or he's laughing all the way to the bank, but I doubt it.  If you read his amazingly awful columns on examiner.com, you'll see he isn't smart enough to scam an earthworm.

  •  Amusing example for cognitive dissonance. (0+ / 0-)

    I wouldn't consider hallucinogens in my drink to be that far-fetched compared to being flown up to 5,000 feet.  I wouldn't think hallucinogens that made me that suggestible are likely, but it's still way more likely than superpowers.  Hallucinogens exist, and their power to muddle our perception and our thinking is extraordinary.

    Religious beliefs are a good example source for cognitive dissonance.  Young-Earthers are probably a fairly safe example to use without offending many people in the community here.

    People who believe in a soul probably are probably a more controversial example.

    There's lots of real-world examples one could use.

    •  I Thought About That... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Paul Rogers

      ...but it seemed like any real-world example had the potential to derail the comments. If I had said, for example, "If you believed in Bigfoot, and I showed you evidence of someone faking the Patterson video..." there's every possibility that the thread becomes people arguing about the evidence for Bigfoot instead of about politics. It's a sad, but true fact that cognitive dissonance cuts across party lines. I don't want to find out which crazy belief has defenders here. :)

      And are you saying you can't fly?

  •  Next CT from delusional repubs is that the only (0+ / 0-)

    way that the polls matched the vote totals they KNOW to be frauds is that Obama had the NSA route all polling calls to a center in Kenya where they skewed the results. Quick, tell Issa there is more top secret information for him to release.

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box. The TSA would put Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad on the no-fly list.

    by OHdog on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:57:37 PM PST

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