I'm being driven nuts right now about a discussion I'm having with my girlfriend about something we've already discussed and I thought was settled. It has to do with a difference in belief systems; I show her solid evidence and research from the West proving my position, she returns to hearsay, word-of-mouth, and ingrained beliefs she's getting from friends in the East who aren't actually informed on the matters at hand but have firm beliefs on them nonetheless.
She's normally a very logical, rational girl, but this specific matter is driving her uncharacteristically batty, and she's falling back to fears refuted by science but given weight by popular opinion. Understanding why this happens to otherwise sane, rational individuals is key to understanding how people's views of the world are built and maintained.
It's similar to the autism-vaccine "debate" that's going on in the States right now, or the electricity-cancer "debate." No matter how much research is done to show that there is absolutely, positively, no link whatsoever between vaccines and autism, or power stations and cancer, people continue to believe there are causal links anyway, because they've seen and heard sources that support their position.
The worst part is, it doesn't matter where those sources got their information from. It doesn't even matter if the sources outright say, "I just know it." The only thing that matters is that there are, indeed, sources that support the position.
Enter reference points: something I've mentioned at times on this blog but haven't devoted an actual post on (see "How to Get Real Girls" and "Social Status: Building It and Using It" for the latest posts that mentioned these). Reference points and reference experiences are what we use to define our belief systems, worldviews, and ideas about reality, and they're absolutely crucial to the way we see life on Planet Earth.