1) Poverty: the $4 problem
If you haven't noticed, the math doesn't add up, but that didn't stop 904,000 people on Facebook from liking the meme anyway. Judging from the most recent comments, a lot of people take away that math education has gone down the tubes.
I actually don't think so. I think that if the math was posed without the ideological content people wouldn't have made the mistake. Once the error is pointed out, almost anybody can figure out that each person receives a very small number. The problem is not that people couldn't do the math, but that only some were motivated to check it.
The way it works is as follows: if you favor redistribution then you like this meme, it seems right, and you don't have to exercise the least bit of skepticism towards it. You "like" and "share" it on Facebook so that the world can know that the end of poverty is one simple step away from greed and selfishness.
If you're opposed to redistribution then your first instinct is to find out what's wrong with it. Of course you double check the math, hazzah! it's wrong! now you can tell those redistributionist how stupid they all are.
If you're a redistributionist you read the comments criticizing the math of the meme. You double check it for yourself. Oh God, they're right! You conjure up a face-saving post in the comments about what it was really about.
"Clearly the lady that created this post picture was off.. But the point she was trying to make .. Spot on my people. Shed a tear like normal lol have a laugh for once ! Duhhhh the math doesn't equal out..you guys want a correction award.
Point she was attempting to make is simple.. There's enough money to feed the people... Why is the world like it is. Her math was incorrect but I get it.And then you get a few thousand Likes from others who were also caught not being careful around ideas they like. Good God that's an awful comment. Shed a tear? Feed the people? What nonsense.
2) Reasoning until we get what we want
Underlying my interpretation is an enormous amount of research on motivated reasoning. We humans are apt to take confirming evidence at face value while subjecting disconfirming evidence to critical evaluation. We give evidence that confirms our biases the benefit of the doubt, and give evidence the disconfirms the burden of proof. When we don't want to believe it we ask why, and when we want to believe it we ask why not.
In one study subjects were preselected for their attitudes toward capital punishment, and then asked to read fictitious studies on the deterrence effect of capital punishment. Of course, when fictional pro-deterrence studies were used, people who were pro-capital punishment assessed that they were persuasive, and people who weren't were critical. When the same fictional study was presented with the opposite, anti-deterrence conclusion, opposite groups thought the study was well done or had methodological errors.
Too small of sample size, nonrandom sample selection, or inadequate controls for important variables were problems only when people wanted them to be.
Man that's a really bad comment. I can't get over that.