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Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection

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  • Dan M. Kahan
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    Abstract

    Decision scientists have identified various plausible sources of ideological polarization over climate change, gun violence, national security, and like issues that turn on empirical evidence. This paper describes a study of three of them: the predominance of heuristic-driven information processing by members of the public; ideologically motivated reasoning; and the cognitive-style correlates of political conservativism. The study generated both observational and experimental data inconsistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism is distinctively associated with either unreflective thinking or motivated reasoning. Conservatives did no better or worse than liberals on the Cognitive Reflection Test (Frederick, 2005), an objective measure of information-processing dispositions associated with cognitive biases. In addition, the study found that ideologically motivated reasoning is not a consequence of over-reliance on heuristic or intuitive forms of reasoning generally. On the contrary, subjects who scored highest in cognitive reflection were the most likely to display ideologically motivated cognition. These findings corroborated an alternative hypothesis, which identifies ideologically motivated cognition as a form of information processing that promotes individuals' interests in forming and maintaining beliefs that signify their loyalty to important affinity groups. The paper discusses the practical significance of these findings, including the need to develop science communication strategies that shield policy-relevant facts from the influences that turn them into divisive symbols of political identity.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

    Volume (Year): 8 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 4 (July)
    Pages: 407-424

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    Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:8:y:2013:i:4:p:407-424

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    1. Christine Jolls & Cass R. Sunstein, 2006. "Debiasing through Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 199-242, 01.
    2. Hillman, Arye L., 2010. "Expressive behavior in economics and politics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 403-418, December.
    3. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
    4. Uriel Haran & Ilana Ritov & Barbara A. Mellers, 2013. "The role of actively open-minded thinking in information acquisition, accuracy, and calibration," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 8(3), pages 188-201, May.
    5. Hoppe, Eva I. & Kusterer, David J., 2011. "Behavioral biases and cognitive reflection," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 97-100, February.
    6. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
    7. Sunstein, Cass R, 2003. " Terrorism and Probability Neglect," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 26(2-3), pages 121-36, March-May.
    8. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
    9. Adam Corner & Lorraine Whitmarsh & Dimitrios Xenias, 2012. "Uncertainty, scepticism and attitudes towards climate change: biased assimilation and attitude polarisation," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 114(3), pages 463-478, October.
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