Tyler Cowen’s post about the “mood affiliation fallacy” has been in my head a lot lately. Here is how Cowen describes it:
It seems to me that people are first choosing a mood or attitude, and then finding the disparate views which match to that mood and, to themselves, justifying those views by the mood. I call this the “fallacy of mood affiliation,” and it is one of the most underreported fallacies in human reasoning. (In the context of economic growth debates, the underlying mood is often “optimism” or “pessimism” per se and then a bunch of ought-to-be-independent views fall out from the chosen mood.)
I keep coming back to this fallacy while reading the news or Twitter. Many, and perhaps most, conversations we have about policy are about status, not about the facts. We tend to evaluate arguments based on how they are expected to change the status of groups we care about and less on how they match the facts. If you hear people saying “I just feel that way” or “I just don’t believe that” without a justification for why the facts support their argument, they are likely falling prey to the fallacy of mood affiliation.