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Eric Ferguson recording video
Eric Ferguson recording video, possibly for a blog

Conservative protesters and the marshmallow children

Conservative protesters and the marshmallow children

Does anyone else look at the conservative protests of shelter-in-place orders and think of the studies of children with marshmallows?

Those are the studies that offer children one marshmallow now, or two if they can wait until the adult tester comes back. The hypothesis was that children’s ability to wait to get two marshmallows later tested their ability to delay gratification, and this would predict their ability to do so in adulthood. Someone had the insight to realize children might have something in their life experience telling them adults were untrustworthy and they should grab what they can now, and tested that by having the tester lie to the children before the marshmallow test, like promising crayons and not coming through. Turns out the children learned not to trust the adult, and took the immediate marshmallow under the reasonable assumption the adult who lied earlier might be lying now about the second marshmallow.

Now think about the conservative base, who have spent their whole lives being told experts lie, the media lies, liberals lie, science lies, and only sources inside the conservative bubble tell the truth. I’m thinking that’s how we get this.

If you’ve had literally decades of Fox News, conservative talk radio, and Republican politicians telling you not to believe anyone else, and you engaged in confirmation bias on a massive scale, then of course being ordered to stay home makes no sense. It contrasts with your own experience of feeling fine, plays into assumptions liberals are perpetually seeking to take away your rights, and requires that you heed the expertise of virologists and epidemiologists — exactly the sort of people you’ve been told don’t really know anything and are out to undermine everything you believe in. So the logical end of this is the protests like in the photos in the embedded tweet.

I wish I could offer something besides being glad they’re a minority even among Republicans, for now. Given how many Republican politicians have seized on opposing social distancing as an election theme however, with Trump himself promoting conspiracy theories that it’s all about undermining the economy to nobble his reelection, expect adherence to the advice of public health experts to break down along partisan lines, like everything else in modern America. Actually, I guess I can offer something else: make sure they’re not in positions of power after the election. If you want public officials who heed the best advice of experts, vote blue no matter who.

One last point, if anyone thinks I’m being patronizing to these conservatives participating on anti-social-distancing protests: as photos of protests show, they’re showing up mostly without masks, but often with guns. If you want to be taken seriously, at a minimum, rectify that. Stop making yourselves ridiculous.